Those lazy grassfuckers in Hollywood frequently
get this wrong. Over the years, they have repeatedly interpreted
"homage" to mean you can steal from the past while acknowledging
your thievery. By admitting to the theft, they think they are
somehow honoring what they stole. That's pretty convenient of
them. It's sure as hell easier than coming up with new ideas,
and if they don't think too hard they can feel good about themselves.
Their idea of homage is sort of like people with Priuses who
drive a half-mile to the convenience store instead of walking,
or riding a bike.
Monsters vs. Aliens, the latest pile
of animated crap from the Dreamworks poopchute, claims to be
an homage to the monsters and sci-fi movies of the fifties.
Where the hell is the homage? It features characters lifted
from the old movies; the Creature From the Black Lagoon; Mothra,
the 50-Foot Woman; the Fly and the Blob. The movie does nothing
loving or endearing with those characters, though. It just rips
the bones out of them and packs new flab on. That flab feels
designed for toy sales and Happy Meals. The story surrounding
the monsters is a stale and recycled chunk of formula crap.
Reese Witherspoon plays Ginormica, a newly fifty-foot
woman captured by the government and imprisoned with other monsters
in an underground military complex. The government has been
hoarding the monsters because it's afraid the public would be
terrified by them. When a giant alien robot lands on earth,
the government unleashes Ginormica, B.O.B, Dr. Cockroach, The
Missing Link and Insectasaurus to destroy it.
The interesting part of Monsters vs. Aliens
is Witherspoon's character evolving from a wimp to an empowered
woman who likes being gigantic and kicking ass. That's really
nice to see. Once she understands her power, she embraces it
and saves the other male monsters. It's a rare and very good
quality for a movie to let a woman beat the shit out of bad
guys as a woman, without screaming for help and without really
being a man with tits. There are also a few decent jokes, mainly
using Seth Rogen's blobular B.O.B., a gelatinous thing with
no brain who can play catch using his eye and is both indestructible
and mostly useless.
What sucks, though, is how fucking formulaic
the rest of the story is. The monsters team up, they are in
peril, they destroy the aliens and they become heroes who can
walk amongst polite society once again. None of the aliens has
much personality. Well, they each play a very broad archetype,
but without any twists that would surprise you. Stephen Colbert
plays the president and the writers tried to write jokes that
are consistent with his TV character. Except the writers sort
of suck, the jokes are awful, and Colbert's role comes off as
The movie's idea of monsters is nothing new.
They are fifties sci-fi creatures in appearance only. They don't
act like 50s sci-fi creatures; they act like Dreamworks characters.
That is, generic plot devices with simple emotional problems
that can be easily resolved. Outside of their looks, they don't
reference those old movies and they don't touch on the old movie
themes of cold war paranoia or fear of science. The alien is
a lame ripoff of Marvin the Martian and every cartoon alien
descendant of him. I don't know why Hollywood always depicts
cartoon aliens as pompous buffoons, but I guess it's easier
than trying to be clever.
The animation is blah. The landscapes have a
lot more interesting detail and beauty than the characters.
They offer nothing fresh or interesting to look at. And it all
has a mechanical feel to it. Monsters vs. Aliens lacks
the artistic grace of a movie like Wall-E or Cars,
as though it were built on an assembly line rather than crafted
by artists. The 3-D sure as hell ain't worth three dollars extra,
especially when they ask you to "recycle" the glasses afterward.
My ass. It has nothing to do with saving the planet and everything
to do with propping up their bottom line. If everyone keeps
the glasses, maybe Hollywood will be a little more judicious
with their application of this stunt. There are a couple of
3-D tricks at the beginning of the story, but most of it would
be exactly the same in 2-D. The characters and plot are only
Monsters vs. Aliens also has the Dreamworks
quota of cheap pop-cultural gags where you're supposed to laugh
just because you get the reference. At one point, the president
plays the Axl Foley theme from Beverly Hills Cop to welcome
the alien robot. Why that song? What's so funny about that?
Why would the adults in the audience laugh? Just because they
recognize it? Similarly, another melody hints at the B-52s Planet
Claire, and all that did was make me wish the movie had
that song's (and band's) way-out-there weirdo sensibility.
It's a damn shame, really, for with the promise
of monsters and aliens fighting each other fail to so meekly.
The title offers a shitload of potential, but it's where Dreamworks
stopped being creative. They put hack writers and boring directors
in charge, and the result is factory-grade mediocrity. Monsters
vs. Aliens is too lazy to pay homage, too lame to be funny,
and too stuck in formula to be fresh. Two Fingers.
to tell Filthy Something?