2010’s “Monsters,” which is available for streaming on Netflix, was the launching pad for director Gareth Edwards’ meteoric career, which brought us “Godzilla” this summer, and will soon extend into a new “Star Wars” film. That’s a heck of an audition.
If you’ve never seen “Monsters,” it delivers a ridiculous amount of spectacle on a tiny budget. Edwards treats his special effects as special, as you could see from the way he teased the Big Guy’s appearance in “Godzilla.” You can tell the director sincerely believes that what he’s showing you is awesome. It counts for a lot.
Perhaps not enough to save the somewhat threadbare script of “Monsters,” which unfortunately runs out of money in the middle – leading to a bit too much wheel-spinning while the finale moves into position – and runs out of plot at the end. But along the way, it’s a clever take on the giant-monster genre, and you can easily see how it got Edwards onto the Godzilla beat. The premise is that several years before the movie begins, a race of huge alien creatures dropped out of the sky and… well, just started kind of milling around. They’re not particularly hostile, at least not at first. They defend themselves and establish their turf, creating no-go “infected zones” patrolled by military forces in an uneasy stalemate, but they generally ignore humans unless provoked. The first movie follows a reporter and his companion on a journey through one of the infected zones, where he begins to see disturbing evidence that the nature of the alien incursion is changing.
There was plenty of room for a sequel, “Monsters: Dark Continent,” which arrives this November. It’s helmed by a different director, Tom Green, now that Gareth Edwards has moved on. Judging from the spectacular trailer, Green has captured the vibe of the original film very well, escalated the tension, and pumped a bit more money into the special effects: