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  Monsters: Dark Continent Combat Shock
Year: 2014
Director: Tom Green
Stars: Johnny Harris, Sam Keeley, Joe Dempsie, Kyle Soller, Nicholas Pinnock, Parker Sawyers, Philip Arditti, Sofia Boutella, Michaela Coel, Hassan Sha’er, Uriel Emil, Jesse Nagy, Wael Baghdadi, Jacqueline Hicks, Amanda Kaspar
Genre: Drama, Action, War, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Private Michael Parkes (Sam Keeley) joined the U.S. Army to get away from home, though those who have been posted abroad find themselves yearning for the place as he is about to find out. The huge space creatures that arrived and began to breed in Central America have now spread to the Middle East, making the area fraught with tension as the Americans try to contain the situation with their heavy artillery, causing the locals to feel resentment towards them as invaders, since they do not know who is causing the most damage. And that damage is widespread, destabilising the region as grunts like Parkes wonder what they have let themselves in for…

The first Monsters movie had a problem, according to many of those who saw it, and that problem was the lack of actual monsters. Director Gareth Edwards, who was on board as producer this time around, had concocted a love story against the backdrop of a near future scenario, allying his central couple to an allegory of immigration and the issues that can bring about, distinguished by his insistence on shooting guerrilla style in the actual area he had set the plot, then taking that footage back home to Britain and adding in some homemade computer graphic effects. Apparently reasoning there was no more to be said about the lovers, this semi-sequel kept the occasionally seen monsters and opted to make observations on the war in the Middle East with them.

It was at risk of labouring the obvious, with the residents turning against the Americans (actually mostly played by Brits and Irish since this was a U.K. production) who claimed to be there to restore order and stability, only to do the opposite as not everyone wanted them there, nothing you could not have gleaned from watching the news or a relevant documentary, therefore it was up to those giant creatures – and some not so giant ones – to mark this out as something different from all those sincere Iraq and Afghanistan war dramas which would lament the mess the proceedings had devolved into. Alas, as many were wont to consider, as with the initial instalment they were expecting some kind of Godzilla-esque battles, and while you would get that in Edwards’ actual Godzilla blockbuster made at the same time, you wouldn’t get them here.

Not so much, at any rate, for there were the odd sequences where the troops would take down a behemoth, though perhaps significantly they didn’t do much fighting back to defend themselves, dumbly striding across the landscape and a menace for their unknowing and unknowable path through their existences that would either inadvertently or by design cause destruction. How was this a metaphor for the War on Terror? Difficult to say, for there was a lot going on here that didn’t necessarily mix together with unqualified success, from musings over how poverty will lead to violence to let off steam, or in Parkes’ case as a career, to how if we all tried to understand one another we could make a better world, that sort of hippy-dippy message which didn’t sit entirely well with the mayhem.

Were we supposed to be enjoying the excitement of the action sequences or were we supposed to be thinking, oh dear, what a shame and what a waste of human life? Some audiences would have preferred the first option, but Monsters: Dark Continent was going more for the latter, as Parkes' fellow soldiers are cut down in the prime of their lives, whittling them away until he can only rely on himself. Johnny Harris was top billed as the increasingly unhinged Sergeant Frater, fighting a losing battle against creatures, locals and his sanity, but this was really Parkes' story, and the other actors, of whom there were not many, struggled against some hackneyed characterisation (Parker Sawyers was landed with the soldier who had to leave his baby behind) and dodgy dialogue (Nicholas Pinnock rose above some terrible lines). A bonus were the locations, which offered an authenticity the themes did not always pull off, and at least it was an alternative take on what had fast become a cliché. Music by Neil Davidge.

[Vertigo's Blu-ray has three featurettes as extras, and it sounds VERY LOUD.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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