Simply stated, Monsters: Dark Continent is a mess. Before sitting down to view this film I wondered why the producers decided to call the movie ‘Dark Continent.’ Two hours later while the credits rolled down my television I’m still not completely sure but I have a theory.
Monsters: Dark Continent is very different from it’s predecessor. It takes place in the same ‘universe’ as it’s predecessor, 10 years down the line, but in Dark Continent we are thrown into the Middle East as opposed to Central America and the movie is shown through the perspective of the U.S. military rather than civilians. In the film monsters have spread the the Middle East (the explanation so throw away that you could miss it if you blink) and are multiplying. So the U.S. takes it upon itself to bomb monsters wherever they are found. the only problem is the bombs kills civilians which creates more insurgents. See where this is going?
Gareth Edwards, writer/director of the first film, was tied up with commitments to Godzilla and therefore couldn’t come back to direct on this one. He dodged a bullet and he’s probably thanking his lucky stars.
So whats the theory?
I think couple executives sat down early on and had a conversation that went something like this:
“Hey, did you see that Monsters movie? The one the guy wrote and directed on a shoestring.”
“Are you talking about the one with hardly any monsters?”
“Yeah. We need a sequel.”
“Okay, any ideas of what it would be about?”
“Well you’re right, the first movie didn’t have enough monsters in it so we’d need to add a whole shit ton this time.”
“So what, like the monsters are spreading around the world?”
“Yeah…and we need army guys shooting and blowing them up.”
“Definately, the final scene in the first movie with the giant monster and the explosions was the best part of the film. And we had to wait through the entire movie to see it.”
“So military fighting monsters, sounds good.”
“We can show how brutal fighting the monsters are, and we can have the writer incorporate military jargon into the script so it sounds more authentic.”
“That’s still not a story, what should the movie be about?”
“How about a platoon of soldiers who are in the shit, learning it’s not all fun and games?”
“So Platoon with monsters? That’s big budget.”
“A squad then. Or maybe a small special forces unit. But either way, they’re fighting monsters.”
“Maybe…no, oh no I have it! The military isn’t just fighting monsters, they are fighting terrorists.”
“Hmmm…doesn’t sound very original.”
“We can make it just like all the other middle east war movies. Squad of young soldiers sign-up all gung-ho, then find out war sucks. The monsters can be an extra threat that will add some cool sci-fi elements to what is otherwise a war picture.”
“Now that sounds interesting, but we need to get this into production soon so we don’t have a lot of time to be creative.”
“It’s okay, we’ll hire a couple of no-name guys, guys with credits but no major commitments, and we’ll instruct them to write a dark gritty war film with lots of monsters sprinkled throughout.”
“Sounds like a solid plan.”
“If we’re lucky the writers will come back with something like Apocalypse Now, only with monsters.”
“That would be awesome!”
So basically my theory is the title is a semi-ripoff of Apocalypse Now source material Heart of Darkness.
Dark Continent suffers from several major problems but the worst, and one that brought the entire movie down, is the first person narration. One member of the squad (who are all friends from the same town and join to get away from poverty, crime, and numerous cliches) provides a voice over throughout the movie, giving us his feelings, thoughts, and growing disillusionment as reality does what it does. It’s really annoying and not done very well.
Had Dark Continent simply tried to present a military perspective without all the stylistic bullshit it would have been a better film. The monsters are cool as hell and the idea that the U.S is still in the middle east and still fucking shit up works, mainly because it’s not far fetched.
Johnny Harris (Black Death, Snow White and the Huntsman) and Nicholas Pinnock (Eastenders, Fortitude) give great performances as the veteran Sergeants. The rest of the cast are pretty forgettable, including the stereotypical Islamic terrorists.
I really wanted to like this movie and it had/has a lot going for it, but the contrived voice over and unlikeable soldiers serve to undermine the better aspects of the film.
So it’s a war movie with Monsters?
Think of the monsters as a force of nature. In westerns the good guys and bad guys have to fend off a stampede on occasion.
Good date movie?
Naw. Other than the half naked hookers in the opening twenty minutes I’m not sure there is another female role of any substance in the film.
How do the monsters look? Good CGI?
The monsters are cool as hell. They add some new monsters into the mix and show people interacting with them as they would other animals.
So you wouldn’t recommend the movie?
I did not like the movie, although I wanted too badly. I’m all for supporting genre flicks, especially sci-fi, but it’s not anywhere near as good as the first film and not an especially good war movie either. If you’re going to watch it wait till it’s on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
If you’re looking for a good monster movie that captures the darker aspects of human nature/survival check out Stake Land.