Film Title: Monsters
Dir: Gareth Edwards
Genre: Sci Fi Drama
Godzilla starring Bryan Cranston is one of the most anticipated movies of the year, and is a milestone of a motion picture. For one it's a Godzilla movie, and secondly it's the first Godzilla movie following the epic disaster of 1997's Roland Emmerich film. The trailers have been making a huge buzz, the scale looks massive and it seems to be different and much darker and scarier than any popcorn monster movie Hollywood has ever made. At 300 feet in height, it features the biggest Godzilla to grace the screens, and there are other Kaiju involved as well. It's going to make huge numbers — analysts are projecting a $600+ million gross for the film. But the focal point of the film isn't the monster, it's the director Gareth Edwards, who has made only one film prior to this, at a cost of a few hundred dollars. It was called Monsters.
Why would a Hollywood studio give the keys of one of the biggest movie franchises of all time to Edwards, a filmmaker who has zero experience of working in a big studio film? The answer is simply this:
Monsters was a masterpiece. It was a landmark film not just in visual effects but also in filmmaking. It was a science fiction movie featuring CGI creatures, but was made for a paltry $200,000 by Edwards on his bedroom computer. You'd think that at that kind of budget a film would look worse than an Asylum movie like Sharknado. Edwards was aware of stuff like Sharknado and did the unthinkable — the CGI in Monsters looks as realistic and fluid as a $100 million movie. There were giant squid-like creatures, and they looked pretty incredible to say the least.
But the computer trickery wasn't what made Monsters great. We've seen so many films with great CGI that turned out to be terrible because of the lack of a good story and characters (I'm looking at you, Transformers). Edwards was well aware of this problem. So he made Monsters a road trip love story drama, with the sci-fi elements used only as a backdrop to the story. We follow two characters (played by Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able) who backpack across a war torn, alien infested America to get back home. However, they don't evade aliens blasting laser guns. The film spends time chronicling their chatter, their dramatic beats and eventually the tinge of romantic spark between them. If District 9 made mech suits look cool and brought grittiness back in fashion, Monsters made character development its crowning glory.
The film itself was shot in just three weeks with a crew of seven people including the two actors. Most of the scenes and lines are improvised by the actors and Edwards utilised extremely low-fi means of shooting. One big reason why the film works so well is that it doesn't make its protagonist into a heroic American superman, the pyrrhic ending establishes how rooted to reality the film is. It makes Edwards a gifted filmmaker, joining the pantheon of Duncan Jones and Neil Blomkamp. And that is why I'll be in the front row of Godzilla — to not just relish the eye candy on screen, but to invest myself in characters I care about. And with Cranston, Aaron Taylor, Juliet Binoche and Ken Watanabe cast in the film, I suspect my expectations will be matched.