Film Club Review – Monsters
In the spirit of Cloverfield, Monsters sees a movie monster situation through the eyes of the innocent bystanders. In Monsters, an accidental alien invasion has created an infected zone in Mexico in which alien creatures are contained. A journalist must try to get his bosses daughter to safety by leading her through this infected zone.
This is a pretty cool movie. The director manages to balance what we see with what we don’t see to make this a tense yet enjoyable experience. We catch glimpses of the monsters now and again to know that they are there and they are dangerous. I also love the locations of this film. The Mexican rainforest is a great place to set this story and you get a real sense of being there.
I also like the deeper theme behind this story which is the idea of exploitation, specifically in the wake of disaster. We get this through the character of the journalist who makes a living documenting tragedy and through the profiteering and price gauging by the locals who control transportation. This is all highlighted by the parasitic nature of the alien creatures.
The acting of the two leads was pretty weak, but it was enough to build a chemistry between the characters that you could latch onto. I also found the ending to be a letdown when I was really hoping for something cool to happen. These were my major quibbles in what is otherwise and impressive-looking monster story with a unique twist to the genre.
Review by “MadeaRules”
“Another Earth” is remarkable in that it is a science-fiction movie in which the science-fiction elements supplement the very real, very human story underneath. The movie could easily stand on its own without those elements as a standard drama, but the near future components elevate the story by giving it a sense of possibility and a sense of optimism.
17 year old Rhoda (Brit Marling) has been accepted to MIT with a promising future in science. On the same night that an inhabitable planet has been discovered very near to our own, Rhoda celebrates with friends, gets drunk, and drives home. Simultaneously, Yale professor and composer John (William Mapother) sits at an intersection with his wife and young son. Rhoda’s car collides with John’s, killing John’s wife and son. John slips into a coma, and Rhoda is sentenced to four years in prison for vehicular manslaughter.
Four years later, As Rhoda is released from prison, we learn that the nearby planet is identical to our own from a geographical standpoint (and perhaps in many more ways). It is given the monicker “Earth 2”. Rhoda, meanwhile, returns to live at her parents’ house, while working a mundane maintenance job at her old high school. Rhoda learns that John is no longer in a coma and decides to seek him out under the guise of providing a “free trial” of a cleaning service that doesn’t exist. As she was a minor when the accident occurred (therefore meaning the court records were sealed), John has no idea that she is responsible for the death of his wife and son. The rest of the film is about the relationship that develops between them as a result of their mutually unexpressed senses of loss and stifled potentials. I won’t reveal anymore of the plot to avoid any spoilers.
The idea of “Earth 2” develops in the background. It unfolds via press conference, news story, and radio chatter. The concept is powerful and plays into humans’ deeply subconscious (sometimes not so subconscious) feelings of regret, of longing, and of the desire for second chances. Rhoda’s life, changed forever at such an early age, is tragic, and her silently expressed self-loathing, depression, and numbness are contrasted with the infinite possibilities offered by Earth 2. Until those possibilities can (or can’t) be realized, life on Earth 1 continues.
Director Mike Cahill shoots in the handheld format that is a favorite of Indie directors. The color palate is muted, the acting natural and real, and the only real effects are an ever growing facsimile of Earth in the sky. The characters are obviously the focus here, and as previously stated, the sci-fi elements only serve to expand upon the themes of the film: regret, loss, and the potential for redemption, or at least a second chance.
There is an ending that is open to interpretation, though I won’t spoil that here. Suffice it to say I thoroughly enjoyed “Another Earth”. It treated both myself and the subject matter with respect, something I can’t say for many films these days.