Monsters Blu-ray review
What happens after the disaster? When the blockbusting destruction is done and the end credits roll, how does life carry on? It’s a question that most movies are staggeringly shy of asking – in, say, the apocalypse porno of Roland Emerich’s 2012, the main characters potter off the boat at the end to find a new life after the devastation of their old one, but there’s no inkling of what that existence will be like.
The thing is, any schmuck can imagine a building falling down (look, I’m doing it now: ooh, crumbly). The hard part is figuring out what goes on in the wreckage: that’s where storytelling gets interesting, and it’s where Monsters starts.
Six years ago, aliens arrived on Earth. Now a huge chunk of South America is labelled the ‘Infected Zone’, uninhabitable and out of bounds to humans, while nearby cities take regular batterings from the enormous, tentacled, cephalopod-like space beasts.
It’s no slight against Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able to say that the monster effects are the star here. Created by British director Gareth Edwards using off-the-shelf software, they make big-budget rivals look phony and crass: they’re not just impressive, they’re seamless, and realise a fantastical circumstance without denting the rubble-and-ruin realism of the film.
McNairy and Able are a thrown-together couple trying to make their way back to the USA through the Infected Zone. He’s an opportunistic snapper, on the look-out for the next big bucks shot of an alien-slaughtered kid; she’s the daughter of his paper’s proprietor, travelling in San Jose when the aliens strike the city.
There’s a frank chemistry between the two that keeps the incredible set-up grounded, and the non-professional extras who make up the rest of the cast are similarly convincing. The low-key exposition is another smart move: the backstory is filled out by news packages playing in the background, which help to explain the Earth’s strange new normality of living with aliens.
The sense of danger is acute, and there are some incredibly tense passages, as well as extraordinarily beautiful moments when the camera lingers on the eerie peace of trashed cities. And the climax is so unexpected – in its abruptness and its emotional punch – that it elevates the superior sci-fi even further.
Full of sympathy for its human characters as well as wonder at its alien headliners, this is as bright and surprising as the crashed probe that brought the creatures. Monsters is a minor freak of brilliance.