Ten years on from the events of Monsters, and the 'Infected Zones' have now spread worldwide. In the Middle East a new insurgency has begun. At the same time there has also been a proliferation of Monsters in that region. The Army decide to draft in more numbers to help deal with this insurgency.
War films have long provided a solid backdrop for some Man vs Monster cinematic hijinks. Movies like Spielberg's update of 'War of the Worlds,' the most recent 'Godzilla,' heck even 'Independence Day' falls in line with their central premise of man on beast carnage and delivers the goods. It works allegorically providing a context for current or recent military actions and provides plenty of thrills and chills. In 2010, Gareth Edwards showed what he could do with a modest budget and some simple story telling techniques with 'Monsters.' After that movie it was easy to see how he got the 'Godzilla' reboot gig and will be helming 'Star Wars: Rogue One.' Given the popularity of 'Monsters' a sequel was an obvious choice. Unfortunately 'Monsters: Dark Continent' doesn't involve Edwards in any way and ends up being a complete mess.
After the events of 'Monsters,' the world is now overrun by the alien scourge as "infected zones" have cropped up everywhere. Soldiers are stretched thin because of long deployments and their ability to contain the gigantic tentacle-ridden creatures is increasingly becoming ineffective. New recruits Michael (Sam Keely) Frankie (Joe Dempsie) and their squad are put under the command of an eight year veteran of the war called Frater (Johnny Harris) are sent to fight the creatures in the Middle East. On top of being out numbered by the aliens, this squad of soldiers is having to deal with an insurgency from the local population who don't take kindly to the presence of an outside force. Michael and his friends must find it within themselves to face untold dangers and become honorable soldiers as they finish out their tour of duty.
Honestly, 'Monsters: Dark Continent' was a very difficult movie to finish. From the outset, the audience isn't really given anyone genuine that's worth hanging their hat on. Most if not all of the characters are so completely unlikable to the point that by the time they finally ship out and start facing down some gigantic CGI monsters - it's hard to care when one of them doesn't make it home. So much of the beginning of the film is dedicated to seeing these guys at home that we get to know them more than we want to. None of these guys are likable, none of them really have anything to live for so we don't really care about them. The only character that's even remotely fleshed out is Frater, and he's such a secondary character that the film goes long stretches without him on screen.
Then you have the A and B plots to contend with. Is this an Iraq War movie? Is it an Alien Invasion movie? Apparently the producers through it was a good idea to go for broke and make both movies at the same time. Writer and Director Tom Green does his best to manage these two competing story elements, but there just isn't enough movie for that much plot. Why is there an insurgency when the clearly larger enemy - and by larger I mean 200 feet tall - is demolishing cities and killing innocent people?
When the titular monsters are on screen, things are okay. The CGI looks a bit above your average Asylum release and the scenes can be thrilling. When they're not on screen, this movie drags to a screeching dead halt. Part of this again is because of the undercooked characters no one cares about, but then the other problem is the numerous battle sequences. Have you have gone over to a friends place and just watched them play 'Call of Duty' multiplayer for hours on end? That's what the battle scenes feel like here, only not as much fun. So much of the firefights show strictly Michael and his squad that it's hard to know who or what they're fighting. Is it a monster? Is it a group of insurgents? I shrug my shoulders in puzzlement because I can only guess.
The insurgency plot also leads to this film's questionable level of taste. Like I mentioned before, the characters are genuinely unlikable to do less than honorable things before shipping out and after. These aren't guys we want to know in the real world really. And then there's this insurgency. This is a very real world issue that has claimed the lives of numerous servicemen and innocent people caught in the crossfire. If it was just the monsters that were insurgents, that might have been something, but adding in this human element involving people of Middle Eastern decent fighting "our troops" just feels cheap and exploitive. I'm not much of a moralist, I rarely soap box about this or that, but that plot element really got under my skin.
'Monsters: Dark Continent' is a tough movie to recommend. I went in to this thing with only a few trace memories of the first film and was just looking for some man on monster mayhem. This movie is everything but that. Sure there are a few battle sequences and the monsters do make an appearance here and there, but the rest of the movie tries to be more than the sum of its parts in ways that simply do not satisfy. Stick with the first 'Monsters,' it was at least fun.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
If 'Monsters: Dark Continent' has one thing going for it it's found in this rather vivid 2.39:1 1080p HD presentation. Detail levels are absolutely fantastic. From the opening shot through the rest of the film, everything can be seen with crystal clarity and without any kind of unsightly compression artifacts. Black levels are richly inky and offer a great sense of depth to many scenes. There is a little bit of crush here and there in some of the more effects heavy darker scenes - but over all this isn't much of a problem as there is plenty of shadow separation. Colors are also nicely appealing as they don't appear to have been overly desaturated which has become so common for post-apocalyptic movies these days. If there is a gripe to have it is that the video quality is so good that it makes a lot of the CGI work stand out - but that's more of a production problem than an actual fault of this transfer.
With a solid DTS-HD MA 5.1 track 'Monsters: Dark Continent' will give your sound system a lot of action. This is anything but a quiet film as men shouting, guns firing, and monsters destroying buildings rattle all around the channels leading to some fantastic imaging effects. Levels are nice and even ensuring that you can hear dialogue over the blaze of gunfire without having to tweak your volume. Quieter scenes also work well as the surround channels offer just enough ambient side sound effects to offer up a great sense of atmosphere. All around a fantastic audio track.
On The Set Of Monsters: Dark Continent: (HD 2:51) This is a quick behind the scenes video of the shoot during a single scene that doesn't involve any monsters - not much insight into the actual production really.
Teaser Trailer: (HD 1:13) for about the first 55 seconds of this trailer you would naturally assume that it was a straight war film, then the monsters show up.
In the end what 'Monsters: Dark Continent' for me is another case of unmet expectations. I thought I was going to get a man versus monsters war movie and what I got was a straight war movie that randomly has monsters in it. Had the brains involved behind the production picked a plot and stuck with it, this could have either been a solid war drama or an awesome sci-fi adventure. In the end it tried to be both and doesn't succeed at doing either story justice. Even with the solid A/V quality of this disc, I'm incredibly hard pressed to recommend this to anyone. I just didn't find the movie that enjoyable so I'm calling it for fans only.