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Good Monsters with pretty bad sense of geography

I first heard about this film in The Culture Show in the BBC. It  was good to see how the director of “Monsters”, Gareth Edwards showed Mark Kermode how he made the monsters in his own bedroom using some 3D computer generated tentacles. You can catch the clip here.

The plot is quite promising: We are presented with a futuristic world where NASA has definitely found extraterrestrial life, and no, we are not talking about arsenic-based lifeforms. A probe containing samples crash lands in Mexico, where the aliens spread throughout the U.S.–Mexico border region leading to the quarantine of half of Mexico. The film then becomes some sort of Sci-Fi road film, where we follow the story of Sam and Andrew, two Americans who are trying to make it back to their home country.

Surely the film is worth talking about in terms of the special effects, which considering they were done is Edwards’ bedroom, are quite impressive. The film is indeed an independent film with a low-budget and although the Monsters are brilliant, I was not impressed by other bits and pieces.

On the one hand, they paid a lot of attention in creating road signs and maps of Mexico where the “infected zone” was marked. On the other hand, the combination of English and Spanish in a lot of them was quite shocking and some of the Spanish was actually what I would call “Spanglish”. I guess they wanted their English speaking audience to understand what was written, but it just looked quite fake among the rest of the carefully conjured sets. Not only that, but at the beginning of the film we are explicitly told that the action takes place in Mexico, then they put some subtitles mentioning “Central America”… Indeed they were in Central America, as they filmed in Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica. But they explicitly mention Mexico and USA. I am sure that they could have taken better care of following their own plot.

I still do not understand what a Mayan pyramid from “El Ceibal” archeological zone in Guatemala is doing overlooking the border of Mexico with the US. I would like to think that people with a bit of geographical knowledge would know that there is a desert in that part of the world, and that the Mayan civilisation was never present in that region. I fail to see why there is a thick jungle in the supposed Mexican side, whereas on the other side of the border they faithfully reproduce the barren desert landscape. Finally, I could not understand why the Mexican population in the North of the country were listening to Jaranas or Sones Huastecos, which are from a completely different part of the country… And as for the dialogue, well, do not even start me up…

By far the best part of the film was when the Monsters appeared, glowing along and destroying things. I wish they had shown more about the monsters and researched their depiction of Mexico a bit better.

All in all, do go and watch the film but bear in mind that you won’t be able to glance at the US border from the top of a Mayan pyramid in the middle of the jungle.