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.

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