We here at Screen Rant occasionally like to use our platform in order to help support films that we enjoy – films that could more exposure to a wider audience. You might remember that a couple of weeks ago (after a bit of prodding from other Screen Rant staff members) I watched and reviewed a film called Monsters, which was made on a micro-budget by newcomer director, Gareth Edwards.
In my official Monsters review, I praised Edwards for making a sci-fi movie that took the genre back to its roots: where real life and experience is explored by juxtaposing what is fundamentally human against circumstances or organisms that are extraordinarily inhuman.
Well, we’ve been holding on to a clip from Monsters that will better give you an idea what this movie is all about. It was also exactly a month ago today that I was lucky enough to sit down with Gareth Edwards at the New York Comic Con for an interview. What started out as a routine chat quickly became a passionate discussion about the wide range of possibility that is currently open to filmmakers working in the digital era, as well as the wide divide amongst sci-fi fans over what they expect from the genre today.
Check out the Monsters clip below, followed by a few bits of background info about the film and snippets from my interview with Edwards.
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Fun Facts About Monsters
- Edwards and the film’s two leads – Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able – filmed on location in several South American countries with only loose ideas about the story they wanted to tell. Edwards later manipulated that footage to make it feel cohesive. Guerrilla filmmaking at its best.
- Edwards shot 4.5 hours of film and spent months cutting that down to a 90 minute story.
- He wanted a monster movie that was “10 minutes of nuts and 80 minutes of therapy.”
- He believes that many monster movies have great effects but lame characters; his movie wanted to avoid that.
- One possible theme for Monsters is that “You can’t fight nature.” It’s a theme that runs parallel between the aliens’ maturation on Earth and the main characters, their attraction and the issues in their respective lives.
- Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able eventually got married after shooting Monsters. The chemistry you see onscreen is real.
- The Monsters themselves originated from theories about a Jupiter moon, Uropa, which has a deep-sea ocean. They are ocean creatures.
- The film cost more than the rumored 15k, but was still relatively inexpensive to make and is already in the black.
- Edwards is cool with both the positive and negative Internet attention – anything to gain exposure.
- Edwards filmed Mexico’s famed “Día de los Muertos” festival and twisted that footage into a protest against the aliens for the film.
Interview With Gareth Edwards [Minor Spoilers]
Screen Rant: Good science fiction (to me) usually functions as allegory, reflecting real-world issues or experiences. Can you talk about the allegory at work in Monsters?
Gareth Edwards: The allegory that was there on purpose I guess was more about the war on terror. Like, of course in the world there are things that are bad, but at what price is it worth getting rid of them? Like, if you kill more people to get rid of them than they killed, is that worth it? Is it worth it if tons of foreigners die to save one Westerner? So those are the sort of questions I was interested in – inside amongst the movie – they’re the allegorical things I’m happy with.
There’s a lot of other [allegories] – like immigration – that weren’t there by design, but I totally get the fact that since we chose Mexico and the boarder with America that it was going to be a major talking point for some. And it became a major talking point as we were filming – like when you were explaining to the non-actors, the Mexican people, etc., what our film was about – when we’d talk about the wall and things like that – they would respond quite heavily because they live with that [sort of stuff] all the time.
[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.