Directed by: Tom Green
Distributed by: Vertigo Films
Written by Nick McCann
“Monsters” was a little movie that could, leaving a big impression with its restrained approach to alien creature cinema. Gareth Edwards became a director to watch out for and studios were taking notice. As he was gearing up to reboot Godzilla in 2014, a sequel to his debut also went into production with his noticeably limited involvement.
“Dark Continent” trades the lush jungles of Central America for the harsh deserts of the Middle East (also Detroit because why not). A road trip with somber beauty to a crass, unrelenting military tour. This shift in genre and tone could’ve made for its own intriguing identity between the movies, almost like a sci-fi “World War Z” styled anthology. However, what you get is as generic of a war story as it comes. Pretentious narration strings along a story that’s gritty just because it can be. Only toward the last half does it even bother to replicate the first movie’s quiet progression. Certainly better than the barrage of “edginess” that proceeds it.
The biggest flaw that the film commits is the cardinal monster movie sin, relegating its creatures to background dressing. This makes them so much less threatening and unimportant. Even with their limited screen time in the first movie, you still felt their presence and saw what they were capable of. The sequel leans too much into its war movie narrative with shaky-camera firefights and Iraq War parallels that lack subtlety. A shame too because the visual effects are decent and the creature designs are pretty neat looking, despite some borderline deviation.
Because of this direction, it’s extra annoying that you’re stuck with a roster of characters that are instantly disposable. A recent father, grizzled leader, white trash punk, smack-talking sergeant, the list goes on. Their performances wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t have such juvenile dialog to deliver. As an example, it’s hard to take a character seriously that actively uses the phrase “tig ol’ bitties”. Not to mention swearing that comes off as unnatural and many of the film’s performers overacting, to the point of them breaking their accents. Keep an eye out as well for Sofia Boutella and how the filmmakers waste her talents.
What could’ve been an interesting deviation stumbles dramatically with such a try-hard execution. “Monsters: Dark Continent” is barely worth referencing its namesake. Too much time is spent watching flat characters say stupid jumbles of words as they hardly acknowledge something that should VERY MUCH be the center of attention. A missed opportunity in every sense of the notion.
“Monsters: Dark Continent” Trailer