A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 235 – Monsters vs Aliens

Monsters vs Aliens – October 21st, 2010

I remember when this came out, seeing the previews and thinking it looked kind of cute but not really being interested in seeing it in the theater. For one, I’m limiting my 3D exposure. I tend to get headaches in movie theaters anyhow, and 3D makes that happen faster. For things like Coraline and Up and that old red/blue 3D thing they used to show at the Boston Museum of Science IMAX theater, I’ve been willing to deal. But unless I’m excited about a movie? Thanks but no thanks. So I skipped this one and figured I could always grab it from work if I was in the mood. That was before this project started. I still wasn’t rushing to see this, but it seemed like a fun little movie to toss in on a late shift night. And I was right. It is a fun little movie.

Now, we did not watch this in 3D. Regular old 2D television. No fancy glasses or anything. But as soon as the first shot came up and it was someone bouncing one of those paddle balls out at the fourth wall? I remarked to Andy “This was in 3D, wasn’t it.” Not because I remembered that it had been released that way, but because that one shot right there made it very obvious. You do not have a character bounce a ball towards the audience unless you’re going for that 3D gasp. I’d forgotten about the 3D until then, but yeah. That’s a dead giveaway. Aside from that, however, the movie didn’t bash me over the head with the THIS WAS MADE FOR 3D! shots. Which is nice. I wanted to just enjoy it without the gimmick.

As it is, gimmick excluded, it’s cute and fun and pretty straightforward. This isn’t a movie that’s trying to trick you or surprise you. It is what it says on the box: Monsters vs aliens. Even though it really starts with just the one alien it’s still accurate, because soon there are lots more. And there are indeed monsters. Taking a cue from Monsters, Inc., the monsters here are the good guys. The folks we want to sympathize with and root for. I’m not saying it’s a rehash of Monsters, Inc.. Far from it. It’s just got that thing a lot of kids and adults enjoy where it takes a trope and stands it on its head. Who doesn’t like seeing the good guys and bad guys reversed? There’s a blob and an intelligent cockroach and a giant grub and a fish man and there’s Susan.

All of the monsters are references to some classic monster movies. B.O.B. (the blue slimy blob) is an easy one, and Insectosaurus hearkens back to every giant insect you’ve ever seen (and he is not a butterfly – my brain seized up there because he so clearly has feathered antennae). Link, the fish man, has a few possible sources, though he immediately brought the creature from the black lagoon to my mind. Dr. Cockroach could be a few things too, but the backstory for him makes me think of The Fly. They reference an invisible man too, in one throwaway bit that I’m sure would have made me scared to sit down in a chair ever again if I’d seen this as a kid. And then there’s Susan. She’s a giant woman, grown huge after exposure to a strange meteorite. Come on, there are how many movies with giant people? So yes, the whole premise of the movie is based on some of the classics, and that’s fantastic. The folks making the movie clearly had a good time setting it all up and it does make for a fun time, especially if you know some of what they’re referencing.

I also really liked Susan. She’s written to be relateable and likable, even when she’s freaking out over suddenly being a giant and losing her family and being locked up in a super secret military base built to house monsters. But she’s not just a normal gal. She is a giant, after all. And though it’s a pretty clear cut message, I liked her character arc of discovering that she has strengths as an individual and can do things on her own if she wants to. It’s not earth shattering, but it’s a nice message. It’s especially nice for me to see a good strong female lead in a movie like this, saving the day and deciding that no, she doesn’t need to have a classic romantic ending. Screw the honeymoon. She’s got butt to kick. And at no point is that made out to be a bad thing or something that she’s settling for or compromising for. That’s pretty cool.

So I liked the message and the references, and I liked the cast too. Especially Hugh Laurie as Dr. Cockroach, Reese Witherspoon as Susan and Stephen Colbert as the President. The plot, on the other hand, was pretty predictable. It wasn’t bad or anything, and in its way it’s homage too. It’s an alien invasion movie, with the evil alien coming to Earth to colonize with an army of evil alien clones and they’ve got tentacles and ray guns and giant robots. And the whole trope-twister here is that the ones who can save Earth are the monsters that humanity is scared of. That’s fine. It’s decently written and set up, and the pacing is fine and all. There’s a minor battle to start with, then everyone gets excited, and then the big battle happens. Good times, right? It just doesn’t feel so special. I get the homage thing. I do. But where the monsters themselves feel like fun little references, the alien(s) and the invasion plot just feel rehashed and fairly predictable.

There are some great laughs in the movie, and like I said, I did very much like the message it ends up giving. The cast does a great job and the animation – even in 2D – is really nice. It’s a little on the cartoony side, with very exaggerated facial expressions and the like, but that works for it, not against it. I just wish it had managed to keep the feel it had for the beginning and the monsters once the alien(s) were introduced. I hate to say it, but it could have used a bit of a Mars Attacks flavor. Or perhaps the video game Destroy All Humans. The alien part wasn’t tongue in cheek enough. But even with that, and the butterfly thing, it was still a fun little movie. Just like I thought it would be.

October 21, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Monsters vs. Aliens

October 21, 2010

Monsters vs. Aliens

A nice quick movie for a Thursday afternoon. As a long time fan of cheesy monster movies of all sorts and kinds I am pretty much the target audience for this fun animated spoof. Right from the Dreamworks logo with its fifties alien saucer abduction this movie sets out to make reference to every movie ever featured on the old “Creature Double Feature” – a favorite part of my every Saturday morning on channel 56 as I was growing up. My years of devotion to MST3K have also filled my head with even more monster movie cheese, so it felt at times as if this movie was tailor made for me.

The movie follows a young woman named Susan as she is struck on her wedding day by a mysterious extra-planetory asteroid. She grows to enormous proportions and causes general panic amongst the wedding guests before being restrained and captured by a secret government organization that specializes in capturing and containing monsters. There’s a maniacal evil scientist who has mutated himself into a cockroach, an amphibious fish-man called The Missing Link, a brainless blue blob called Bob, and a colossal caterpillar mutated by an atomic blast. When the Earth is threatened by a rather irritating alien bend on galactic domination the only hope humanity has are these five oddball monsters. Mayhem and hilarity ensue.

It’s clear that the makers of this movie are fans of all the same films I enjoyed growing up. Insectasaurus is so clearly based on the larval stage of Mothra that General Warren Monger (the warden of the top secret prison for monsters) makes reference to it going on a destructive rampage in Japan. Link is a take off on the Creature from the Black Lagoon with a touch of Horror of Party Beach thrown in. Dr. Cockroach seems to be inspired by the Fly (the original Vincent Price one.) And Bob is the Blob. All the way through the movie Amanda and I were chuckling and cracking jokes. When the military goons start to capture Susan using teathers and tow ropes we couldn’t help quoting from the MST3K callbacks in Village of the Giants. “That was stupid. Should have seen it coming.”

It’s not just the classics that get spoofed though. There are references to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Independence Day, and even a joke about Spaceballs. There are quips about Leonard Nimoy and Stephen Hawking. There’s a Wilhelm scream. It’s a movie made by nerds for nerds, just disguised as a kid’s film.

I had fun watching this. I enjoy the character arc for Susan as she discovers in herself a kind of pride in being who she is (even when who she is is a sixty foot tall monster.) There’s a lot of silliness and cartoon humor – particularly with Bob the blob. I had some laughs and enjoyed myself. At times (such as with the couple parked on lover’s lane) I felt like the movie was trying a little too hard or was more self-conscious than necessary, but there was so much to enjoy that I didn’t particularly mind. I was somewhat irritated at times with the choice to make the evil alien Gallaxhar more youth friendly – “lame.” There were several moments clearly intended to be pop-out-of-the-screen 3-D which were half-heartedly wedged into the movie. But then you’d have a scene with the president, played hilariously by Stephen Colbert, or Bob would eat something or something would explode spectacularly and everything would be fun again.

The big question now is what MST3K to fall asleep to tonight. Maybe I can find our copy of Revenge of the Creature. Or Village of the Giants. Or maybe just Godzilla vs. Megalon again. Such hard choices we have to make.

October 21, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment