Release Date: 1 May 2015
Running Time: 119 min
Director: Tom Green
Starring: Johnny Harris, Sam Keeley, Joe Dempsie, Kyle Soller, Nicholas Pinnock, Parker Sawyers
With a budget of around $500,000 and visual effects crafted in the director’s bedroom, 2010’s Monsters was a low key romantic drama set in a Mexico infested with huge space creatures. Impressing critics with its realistic, sensitively portrayed romance, it’s an unlikely source for a shared universe. Naturally then this weekend sees the release of Monsters: Dark Continent; the Monsters spin-off set in the same universe as its predecessor and proof that Hollywood’s obsession with franchises is getting out of hand.
Dark Continent takes place ten years after the events of Monsters with the alien creatures spreading to the Middle East; something which complicates America’s military presence there. When four friends from Detroit enlist in the army they have dreams of killing monsters and coming back home with cool stories. Instead they’re thrust into a tense and dangerous country where the main danger is insurgent forces and IEDs rather than hundred foot tall squid monsters.
Like the first installment there aren’t that many monsters in Monsters: Dark Continent. Rarely doing anything more than walking really close to the central characters, they’re largely used as set dressing for a smaller human drama. That’s about all this lunkheaded sequel shares with Gareth Edwards film, however. Whereas Monsters was heartfelt and surprisingly moving, Dark Continent is an unfocused, second-rate war film with a lumbering, inert script. Lacking the tenderness, charm and subtlety of Monsters, this has a lot of close-up, slow-motion emoting instead. Presumably this is for anyone watching who isn’t completely, one hundred percent certain of a how a character might be feeling at any given time.
To make matters worse, Monsters: Dark Continent is plagued with shaky handheld camera work, even in sequences of people crying slowly in close-up. Instead of lending a sense of authenticity to proceedings it just looks like it was shot by a drunk on rollerskates. Much of the footage has also been drained of colour, giving everything a washed out look and making for a dour, unpleasant viewing experience. It’s a pity because when the camera settles down for a moment there some impressively framed desert vistas but these are so few and far between that they act as more of a ‘what if’ than a saving grace.
Ugly to look at and empty of excitement or meaning, the most monstrous thing about Monsters: Dark Continent is its two hour running time. Save yourself the bother.