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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Monsters: Dark Continent movie review: war movie is hell

Monsters Dark Continent red light

Suffers from a terrible case of cinematic aphasia. Clearly thinks it’s saying something important and deep, but makes no damn sense at all.
I’m “biast” (pro): loved the first movie

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Congratulations to Monsters: Dark Continent for making history with perhaps the worst case ever of cinematic aphasia. This is a film that clearly thinks it’s saying something important and deep, but it makes no damn sense at all. The scenes and the dialogue and the plot and the subtext (which bits I can guess at): none of them connect up in any meaningful way, not on a small scale and not in the big picture. None of it communicates anything other than the fact that director and cowriter (with Jay Basu: Fast Girls) Tom Green (British TV director, not the comedian) really really likes him some war porn: between bloody battles hurled with a gleeful whoop-whoop, he throws out plenty of strained metaphors about brotherhood delivered in philosophical voiceovers cobbled together from far better movies about war and brotherhood. (Green may also be unconsciously lamenting the fact that the real world has admitted women into combat situations, because there are no female soldiers in his U.S. military here, even though it’s set in near future.)

Dark Continent barely even seems to exist in the same universe as its wonderful — and unique — predecessor, Gareth Edwards’ Monsters. What are its very large alien animals, some of which are presented with CGI-cool as sleek top predators, eating in the barren deserts of the Middle East? (The Central American jungles of the first movie seemed like a more plausibly supportive environment for the accidental wildlife invaders.) As a new recruit (Sam Keeley) and his definitely reckless, possibly actually insane commander (Johnny Harris: Snow White and the Huntsman, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger) wander the region attempting to finish a rescue mission that’s gone wrong, they have to contend with locals who hate the U.S. military even more than they hate the monsters. I think Green may be sending a message of some sort about the U.S.’s military occupation of certain Middle Eastern countries: somehow a new insurgency and alien spores are connected, perhaps only thematically, but good luck figuring out how. (I suspect it’s all supposed to be about how people are the real monsters, folks. Which is true but hardly a newsflash that required a science fiction metaphor to convey. As 187,873 other similar movies demonstrate.)

If the subtitle leads you to presume that this is set in sub-Saharan Africa, well, that’s just one example of how even the simplest details here get muddled. Favorite line of dialogue: “We’ve been on the ground for 12 weeks and 10 days.” Is Dark Continent happening in an alternate reality where the weeks are longer than 10 days? And if so, why does it all feel like every Earthbound war movie ever with a few swaying tentacles FX’ed into the background?


See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Monsters: Dark Continent for its representation of girls and women.


red light 1 star

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Monsters: Dark Continent (2015)
US/Can release: Apr 17 2015 (VOD Mar 13 2015)
UK/Ire release: May 01 2015

MPAA: rated R for graphic war violence, pervasive language, some strong sexual content/nudity and drug use
BBFC: rated 15 ( strong violence, sex, sex references, strong language)

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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  • bronxbee

    was it written by someone whose first language is not english?

  • I doubt that Tom Green, British TV director, is not a native English-language speaker. :-)

  • LaSargenta

    12 weeks and ten days…

    12 weeks could be considered 3 months if they were all lunar months. Then the 10 days (depending on the year cycle) are intercalary days to make it work out. Maybe in the near future something happens to the earth’s rotation?

  • Danielm80

    There will be eight days a week.

    It’s a stupid joke, but someone had to make it.

  • LaSargenta

    And then Market Day? Nones?

    Et tu, Brute?

  • David

    If they want soldiers fighting alien monsters they should do a sequel to 2007 The Mist. It could be that movie’s version of Aliens.

  • I love The Mist!

  • bronxbee

    well, a sentence like “We’ve been on the ground for 12 weeks and 10 days.” shouldn’t come from a native speaker.

  • RogerBW

    Maybe they’re trying to make it sound like a shorter time, the way Titanic was advertised in some places as “2 hours and 74 minutes” long.

  • Exactly. It’s totally bizarre. I don’t know how no one caught this: not the director, not the actor, not the editor. And it’s in a voiceover! It could have been fixed easily.

  • Danielm80

    And at the end of the movie, you get to see the Egress.

  • Kasper

    It’s an antiwar movie. where the monsters represent the fictional danger (much like wmds in the iraq war).
    As the violence between the soldiers and the insurgents grow, so does the monsters. Culminating with the large monster spawning, maybe a harbinger of a much greater fear..

    The mist was, as i remember it, about the evil within us all.

  • James

    Exactly. The monsters were the idea of the fallout of a war that will never end. The fear of what we don’t understand (terrorists who are ultimately just like us) and the idea that the more fighting we do the more it spreads and evolves. War will never actually stop and the fight is futile.

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