Monsters: Dark Continent (Blu-ray) (2014)
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Trailer-Madman Propaganda x 4
|Year Of Production||2014|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Tom Green|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
"Who are the real monsters?"
Monsters was the debut feature of writer / director Gareth Edwards which brought him to the attention of Hollywood: his next film was the blockbuster Godzilla (2014). Monsters was a low budget, independent hit, with a tiny cast and SteveC reviewing the film on this site concluded: “with its small budget and limited resources, Monsters is really quite an achievement. The film sustains an eerie atmosphere throughout and for the most part, it looks amazing. Monsters proves that the production of quality science fiction is possible without massive budgets and the involvement of major Hollywood studios.” Monsters: Dark Continent credits Edwards as executive producer but otherwise has a different writer / director (Tom Green in his feature debut) and cast; it also takes the original apocalyptic road movie and turns it into something quite different.
Ten years after the events of Monsters the infected zones have spread worldwide, including the Middle East where the large scale US bombing of the aliens has also killed numerous innocent civilians, including children. The consequence is that now in the Middle East the US has an insurgency crisis and is fighting both the monsters and the insurgents.
Four friends from Detroit who enlisted together, Michael Parkes (Sam Keeley), Frankie Maguire (Joe Dempsie), Shaun Williams (Parker Sawyers) and Karl Inkelaar (Kyle Soller), on their first tour of duty are posted to an unnamed country in the Middle East where they come under the command of the very experienced Staff Sergeant Frater (Johnny Harris) and Sergeant Forrest (Nicholas Pinnock). Their initial patrols are in city areas amid a wary population, although they do have one encounter with a Monster. But when another small unit goes missing in an area of high insurgent and alien activity they are ordered to locate and rescue the missing men. This turns into a mission full of danger and death, where sometimes it is difficult to know just who is your enemy and where perceptions and understandings can be brutally shattered.
Monsters: Dark Continent did not go down well with critics, a typical comment being that it lacked the fresh approach and thought-provoking subtext of its predecessor and instead settled for tired war movie clichés (Rotten Tomatoes). Part of the problem I think is that it is very different in approach and scale from Monsters and that those expecting something like the earlier film would be disappointed. Yet, in its own right, I thought Monsters: Dark Continent has a lot to offer.
If anything, the main reservation I had with Monsters: Dark Continent is that it loses its way as it attempts to blend too many genres. The whole film is Michael’s coming of age story but, in addition, the first half of the film is about a group of red neck young men from an impoverished Detroit being placed into a hostile (one should say “alien”) environment in a country where they do not understand the language or the culture. The film shows very well their isolation from both the population and their families at home and the tension inherent in volatile situations where the lack of understanding can, and does, result in violence. Then, after about 40 minutes, Monsters: Dark Continent evolves into a war film with full blown action sequences that are as chaotic and intense, and with as good a sound design, as anything in Saving Private Ryan. Then the final third turns into a psychological piece about a shared humanity and the need for some form of co-existence before the climax becomes a comment about the dehumanising effects of prolonged combat.
Monsters: Dark Continent has some excellent parts, although the whole is not quite the sum of the parts. The Jordanian desert landscapes look spectacular courtesy of cinematographer Christopher Ross, the action is exciting and intense and some of the ideas about humanity are worth exploring, but the film tries to do too many things and in the end we do not identify enough with the young men to be saddened by their fates. Still, it deserves a B+ for intent and effort.
Monsters: Dark Continent is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.
Shot digitally using Arri Alexa cameras, Monsters: Dark Continent has had the colours manipulated and reduced resulting in shimmering desert landscapes with some softness and a silver sheen, including for skin tones. Nevertheless, the widescreen locations look fabulous while close up detail is superb showing all the lines, dirt and blood on the faces. Blacks are solid and shadow detail very good. Brightness and contrast are consistent.
There is some motion blur against vertical lines such as containers. There was some noise reduction in one night scene but marks and other artefacts are not present.
There are no subtitles.
Audio is an English DTS-MA HD 5.1.
This audio is loud, aggressive and enveloping. In the “quieter” scenes there always seems to be helicopter, vehicles, wind or creature noise in the rears while the action scenes are a full on assault on the senses with shots, explosions, strikes and ricochets, music and general mayhem in all the speakers. Dialogue is mostly fine but on occasion it gets lost in the music. The subwoofer provides excellent support to the music, the explosions, gunshots and especially the creature effects.
The original score by Neil Davidge is effective and it is augmented by a number of rock songs by the likes of Graveltones and Amazing Snakeheads.
Lip synchronisation was fine.
|Surround Channel Use|
Quite substantial interviews where crew and cast members answer on-screen text questions. The interviewees are:
On location footage in the Jordanian desert as they shot the destroyed bus scene with additional comments from Tom Green and Sam Keeley. Short but worthwhile.
Trailers for Monsters, Nightcrawler, Locke and John Dies at the End.
There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region A US Blu-ray has only a short on-set featurette (2:51) and teaser trailer (1:13) as extras. The Region B UK release is due out 31/8/15. I suspect it would be the same as ours, so a win for Region B in this case. Buy local.
I cannot help thinking that the differences between Monsters and Monsters: Dark Continent are akin to those between Alien and Aliens. The first film in each franchise was a small scale, haunted house / area scenario with a small cast and limited effects while the second is a full on war film. In this case I cannot agree with the critical reaction to Monsters: Dark Continent; I thought it was an intense, powerful and thought-provoking experience and if you don’t expect another Monsters there is plenty to enjoy in Monsters: Dark Continent even if the end result is less than the sum of its parts.
The video is very good, the audio exceptional. The interviews round out a decent Blu-ray package.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|