monsters. [alien invasion/visitation movies – #1.]

First, ‘Movies in Space’ got rolling, now it’s time to get started on the other side of that coin with ‘Alien Invasion/Visitation Movies.’

Movie #1 is a film I really wanted to see last year, but was robbed of that potential when the film never had a run near Seattle. That’s a rare occurrence, what with the Emerald City being such a movie loving town. If you ask me, it’s pure nonsense. Universe, don’t let it happen again!

So, I finally watched it. It was pretty much exactly what I expected, which is a good thing and a bad thing. Good, because I was looking forward to seeing it, and for the most part I wasn’t disappointed. Bad, because I wasn’t surprised once throughout the film, and in a film like this you sort of want to be surprised.

For those who don’t know the film, it goes like this. NASA sends a probe into deep-space after discovering the possibility of alien life. It crashes on the way back, over northern Mexico, and the eventual result is an infestation of giant extraterrestrial creatures against whom the US declares war (which includes building a giant wall along the border). A photojournalist hoping to catch a photograph of a living creature is ordered by the owner of his newspaper to get said boss’s daughter safely back to the States.

Doesn’t that last part sound like either a Cary Grant bedroom comedy, or a terrible romantic comedy (minus the monsters)? The handsome photojournalist has to find a way to get the bosses hot socialite daughter home, who just happens to be unhappily engaged to be married. Adventure ensues! “Wait, there’s only one bed! You wouldn’t make me sleep on the floor, would you?” Along the way, they learn a little about what it means to work together, a lot about themselves, but most of all, they learn about love. It sounds terrible… unless it’s a Cary Grant picture, then it would be awesome.

This movie was worth watching, mostly because the world feels real. The subtlety with which they draw this alien infested North America makes it feel more authentically human. The best scene in the film happens in the final few minutes, when some ‘monsters’ show up at a gas station where our hero and heroine are holed up. The biology of the creatures was so well-crafted that it felt like watching Planet Earth instead of a low-budget sci-fi film from England.

Obviously, in a lot of ways this is the North American version of District 9, with the immigration issue replacing Apartheid. The US walls off Mexico, after we were the ones to cause the problem to begin with, then attempt to bomb the creatures out of existence without much concern for the damage done to the people of Mexico by bombs and agitated monsters. Fortunately, the film never becomes heavy-handed. We never get an eye-rolling moment where they force the whole, ‘but who are the real monsters?’ thing down our throat. It’s subtext, which is much better storytelling.

All in all, it could have been a much better film, but for what it was I think they did a pretty good job.