As the latest vehicle from Godzilla director Gareth Edwards, Monsters: Dark Continent serves as a bland, disjointed sequel to the far superior 2010 effort Monsters. The sequel takes elements of Cloverfield and The Hurt Locker removing all nuance, subtlety and effectiveness to deliver one of the worst films of the year. The film follows an American military squadron in Iraq. The troupe is made up of newly recruited men all of which are childhood friends from Detroit. Once drafted, they are tasked with evacuating a convoy of fellow soldiers while facing the threat of violent insurgents. Oh, and also theirs monsters. This version of Iraq has become an infected area where several alien life forms roam around and serve no purpose in the story at all. The design of the creatures is varied and generally well done. Their visage is reminiscent of creatures found in the works of H.P Lovecraft, and this makes their irrelevance to the story all the more frustrating. Gareth Edwards made his lack of input into this film very clear. He claims that production on Dark Continent coincided with filming Godzilla; his influence was sorely missed.
After a fairly painless introduction, the pacing quickly grinds to a halt and never quite picks up again. The entire second half saw us following the squadron from one set piece to another until the film just ends without any satisfying resolution. It didn’t help that the tone of the second half was depressing and monotonous.
The full range of character development takes place in the opening minutes. We are introduced to the characters followed by drawn out exposition. They enter the military and seem to lose any sense of character after put on the uniform. Death is a common and expected occurrence throughout and after the first 2 casualties, loses all shock value. The entire third act and most of the second could be summed up in three words, anger, depression and shouting; so much shouting!
Dark Continent is a bland war film that tries to explore the horrible effect war has on its victims in a disjointed mess that loses sight of its message. The biggest flaw with this film is the monsters themselves. If you were to remove all the monsters from this film nothing would change. The monsters were designed well but they had no bearing on the plot whatsoever. It’s also never made clear whether we should fear them or revere them. Meanwhile we’re following a squad of soldiers that are nigh impossible to empathize with, as they continually act more and more reprehensible.
Maybe this film is actually a clever homage to Lovecraftian story telling. The characters seem to evoke the same sort of mania common in his stories. Unfortunately the lack of any form of nuance makes Monsters: Dark Continent a dreadful experience, best to avoid.
– Zaid Al-Kazemi