Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Review: Monsters by Gareth Edwards

So Gareth Edwards is slated to make the new Godzilla movie. So far he's only made one major movie. Monsters. I've just seen it, so here's my review.

I'll give a review based on the aspects of the film I noticed. Some of this stuff is -kinda- spoiler-ish, but I'm not revealing any major plot devices. Read it if you want.

Cinematography: Wow. If this movie has one thing down pat, it's the look. It looks very pretty. There was a lot of creative use of the camera and experimentation with depth of field. I would hire this guy as a cinematographer any day. If it came out that he was SHOOTING the new Godzilla movie, I'd be very satisfied. Given that he's slated as director, I don't think we're going to have any problems with a poorly shot Godzilla movie. He will make sure that it looks good.

Editing: Here we messed up a little. I'm a bit of a picky bastard when it comes to editing, but I noticed several areas where the pauses were just too damn long. I get that he was trying to create empty space with silence and such between the characters, and the editing for the most part was helpful in that aspect. But there were several instances where I was thrown off by the sheer amount of time in between dialogue. As for the rest of the editing, there were several abrupt cuts and what I like to call indie-jumps. Indie-jumps are those little cuts that have the same character with maybe a little bit different of an angle with the character in a different position to show the passage of time. They seem to only be in indie movies cause they're artsy. These are annoying and should die. He didn't overdo it, so it didn't crawl under my skin, but it was one of those things that jumped out at me and made me go, "Oh he's doing that."

Sound: Anyone ever heard of a sound blanket? The scene in the gas station reeks of air conditioner. But the exterior shots have very good sound for being exterior shots. I know how much of a bitch those can be with production sound. Crickets are evil. Post production sound design was significantly less creative. The environments and backgrounds didn't deliver while they were in the infected zone, and there wasn't much eeriness that wasn't done with music. I would have preferred a much more creative sound design. Also, with the monsters... he went with whales. Good lord. Everyone goes with whales when they want to make some kind of gentle giant. I wish it'd been something else. I'm a little worried about the sound design on Godzilla to be honest. I hope he takes it much more seriously than he did on this film.

Writing: I thought I'd disagree with the general consensus of this forum when people said the writing sucked. Now that I've watched it, I agree and disagree. I like the general premise and the idea. The setup is quite creative. But the dynamics between the characters on the screen felt forced most of the time and the boring little conversations were just stupid. I've seen a lot of indie directors make the decision in their writing to IMPLY EVERYTHING through mundane little comments like, "No, really, I mean what are you doing." to imply some question about life rather than the immediate moment. This, to me, generally comes off as pretentious and lacks the feeling of 'real' that is the goal. This assumes that people are way deeper than we are at every single point of time and we always understand what the other person is saying. Try to pull one of these off in real life, and someone just gets pissed because of miscommunication. And then there's the moments of saying by not saying during which I got the implication but it felt a little fake as well. This film is littered with those kinds of moments and they got tiresome. Much of it felt like a Lost in Translation Ripoff (only LiT did it very very well. This movie did it so-so). However, there were many moments where it worked. The -extra dynamics- of the two characters were interesting, but the female was unsuccessful. The male's extra little issue with his son kept me interested. Also the reference to illegal immigration was... well it was there enough to make me roll my eyes.

Directing: On set, directing has mostly to do with actors. And I don't think that he lived up to the challenge on this one. Like I said earlier, there were times when the moments seemed forced. This was not entirely to do with the writing, a lot of the acting made the writing seem worse when it could have been 'saved'. The fact that it wasn't throws me off a little. As for the rest of his directing ability, I hold him responsible for the issues with the other stuff, as well as the successes. He's very much a visual director, and I think we're going to get a visual film unless someone hires a beast of a post-production sound designer. Also the fact that he did everything himself in this movie makes me wonder if he plays well with others.

OMFG CG: I got very tired at the complete lack of practical effects in this movie. Signs were CG, trucks were CG, every tank or helicopter in the film was CG, wrecked vehicles were CG... even the busted airplane engine on the back of a real cart was CG. it wouldn't have pissed me off if it wasn't so obvious every single time. I was pointing at signs on counters going... well there's another CG sign. That wrecked train is CG. Then I noticed that not only was he the CG guy (i know he did it all on his computer, it's nice for a one-man show but practical effects would have looked much better) but he was also the physical production designer. Which means he didn't even hire an art director to figure out how to make some of these fake-looking CG shots more real. Not a good decision in my opinion. This is another thing that makes me worried.

The Monsters: Well... I couldn't help but think octopus when I saw them. Just... walking octopi. Wewt. He threw in some curious stuff about them in the last scenes to make me curious, but not enough to save the monster aspect from being a side-dish. Also WHALES? Biollante did it, Jurassic Park did it, and Cloverfield JUST did it. Give me a new friendly giant noise. What little monster action there was though was pretty cool.

Godzilla: Given this film, I think the filmmaker is smart enough to know that his approach to Godzilla is going to have to be very very different than his approach to this film. He's going to have to take off his artsy indie director hat and put on a whole new one to deal with this kind of monster. Godzilla isn't a mysterious background character to a light romance, he's center stage. It'll be interesting to see how he handles it. I really don't know if I approve. He has about as many minuses as he has pluses. But he'll be able to be controlled by the producers and that's probably what they want the most. Plus he's cheap. Someone else is probably -really- running the show here.

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