[This contains very MINOR SPOILERS]
SR: Can you talk about how you view sci-fi and what you think it should accomplish?
GE: It’s kind of the job of science fiction to take a concept to the extreme and see if it still works. And so I feel like when you do this sort of film, you push to the most extreme fantastical situation and see if the ideas [about] the ways you and I live our lives still function on that level – or does it just show how absurd [they are]? And so, it’s not a case of sitting at home and going “I want to make a political film, how on Earth do I do this? I know, I’ll make a monster movie!” It’s much more a case of “I want to make a monster movie, but I want to be completely real, if possible. How do I do that?” What you do is look at the real world and borrow a situation and just replace it with aliens. So the bombing campaign that’s in our movie? That’s obviously the war on terror – like the war in Afghanistan – but on monsters instead of Al Qaeda. If you look at the migration path of the creatures – every year they go through and destroy a city – that’s like hurricane season. When you look at [America] building a wall to protect themselves from the bad [the monsters], but also kind of keeping the good out, that’s like, I guess, the border war and Mexico.
With every moment of the creatures in the movie, I was having to find something in the real world that represented that element. And when you keep it vague enough – if it’s very loose and universal – then the viewer is free to pick it up and apply it to a lot of different things. The last thing I want to do is have people think it’s a political film, because then it puts people off. It’s not. Hopefully it’s a love story and a good movie and a fun movie.
My favorite science fiction ever is The Twilight Zone - the black and white original Rod Sterling version. What’s great about that show is that within the science fiction every week, they would make a point about humanity – about the way we live and how we treat people – and it’d be like a little lesson that you would learn as part of this strange science fiction scenario.
So I feel like it’s the job of science fiction to do what normal drama can’t and get under the radar to make points about the world that are very hard to make without losing your target audience.
SR: Fans of the sci-fi genre seems a bit divided right now. Some fans seem to care more about all the alien and/or monster stuff, while other fans care more about the human stories that are contained within those sci-fi premises. Monsters seems to be another movie that sort of divides sci-fi fans along those lines.
GE: We’ve had a little bit of hate from people about our film because it doesn’t deliver Cloverfield 2, rather it delivers this character piece. And it’s a brand new thing for me – this hate – it’s such a shock. It’s really interesting that we (wrongly) get compared to District 9 – which is a great film by Neill Blomkamp. The idea that anybody hated that movie seems impossible, but did they?
SR: Oh yeah! I actually wrote a long op-ed piece about the hate towards D9 (Read that HERE). There are definitely (at least) two camps of sci-fi fans out there right now, I feel: Those who are interested in the “cool looking things” like aliens and such vs. those who want the genre to explore deeper themes and ideas. I think Monsters shows that you don’t need a huge budget and a bunch of splashy effects to make good sci-fi – just a good, pointed, vision.
GE: I think you’re probably right – there are two camps inside the genre right now. And I’m definitely in the camp of thought-provoking or subtle storytelling, not in the camp of ‘everything gets exploded.’ There a lot of modern science fiction things I just don’t like because they’re not about anything. This is a joke, but they’re kind of like LA Law in space, some of them. Just because they’re on spaceships doesn’t make it science fiction – science fiction is about “What If?” You take one piece of reality and you twist it, flip it, and it totally allows you to see the world a bit clearer, or makes it more interesting or [presents] a major dilemma about life, or something. It gets you thinking about what’s right and wrong in the way that you view the world – and I think that’s what science fiction should do. It’s not about a spaceship blowing up, or a monster, it should always be really about something else.
I’m certainly not tuned into science fiction or horror that is literally on one level. I can appreciate it, I can see why people like it – but I don’t think those films will be around forever. All the stuff I love I still love because it works on more than one level; it will never go away because it’s about the human condition, and that [topic] will never go away.
Monsters was recently made available on Video On Demand, Xbox Live, Playstation and iTunes. It was given a limited release in the U.S. on October 29th and will be in wider release on November 12th.