This was one of my most anticipated films of 2015. The original Monsters film from 2010 was a surprise, low budget, hit movie. It raised the profile of its director Gareth Edwards to such heights that he got the Godzilla movie off the back of it. It seemed a little strange to wait five years for the next film but the prospect of re-entering the world overcame the doubts. How wrong I was.
Set a decade after the initial events of Monsters, spores that came from the meteor that hit the earth were found in the Middle East and the original infected zone that comprised Central America was drastically expanded. Into this new war zone are dropped American peacekeepers who have to fight on two fronts. On one hand, they are battling the monsters that are sweeping across the expanse of desert. On the other, they are fighting the local insurgents who blame the Americans for the predicament they are in. Three young recruits arrive from the U.S. city of Detroit and are almost immediately caught up in the two wars.
This was a real disappointment. The first film used the Alien beings as a backdrop to give a new slant on a road movie. It worked very well as there were good performances from characters that you immediately connected with. With Dark Continent, there is nothing like that. The lead characters are so sketchily drawn that you neither engage or care about their fates. Due to this there is no real enjoyment to be found in the film. Without giving too much away, bad stuff happens but you don’t really feel anything as they are essentially strangers. This is not the fault of the cast, but of the writing. There was little for the actors to use to make their mark on the proceedings.
I could see the point of changing the genre of the film from a road movie to war movie as it gives the writers a chance to expand the world and look at other aspects of the problems facing the population of Earth. Unfortunately it doesn’t work. Using Detroit as the initial location is lazy and obvious when trying to show the characters moving from one war zone to another. Also using the conflict in the Middle East isn’t the most original idea either. It has been the setting for a number of films recently and Dark Continent does not gain a favourable comparison with any of them. We’ve seen it done much better and with more imagination. Having a Sergeant shouting at the rookie recruits doesn’t create drama and tension.
The film does have its good points. The monsters are impressive in both their size and detail. There are a number of variations on the design of the aliens and there is a good deal of thought put into why there would be different types of the creatures out there in the desert. You just don’t see enough of them on screen.
Overall, a bit of a wasted opportunity. A film that looks like two story ideas were tacked together to try to capitalise on the previous film. Not recommended.