In Monsters Takes Tips from Vintage Villains, USA Today points out that MONSTERS VS. ALIENS directors Conrad Vernon and Rob Letterman drew inspiration from number cult science fiction films. The most important of these many influences was the 1968 kaiju monster fest DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, starring Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah, and many other monsters: “We watched it three or four times,” says Vernon, who was inspired by the plot involving mangy monsters freed from an island prison by galactic invaders. “We even have our villain, Gallaxhar, use the command, ‘Destroy all monsters.’ ”
The BBC takes a look at Cinema’s Third Attempt at 3-D, examining how Hollywood has embraced the new digital technology (which provides a better viewing experience that prevous 3-D processes) because the added visual impact encourages audiences to see films in theatres.
Just wanted to make a brief comment on this review of MONSTERS VS. ALIENS at Columbia’s weekly Free Times. The anonymous reviewer – obviously a fan of ’50 sci-fi films – argues that the new animated movie’s appropriation of monster icons from that earlier era shortchanges younger viewers, who will not understand the references:
What will The Missing Link (Will Arnett) mean to kids who have never seen The Creature From the Black Lagoon? Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie) to kids who have never seen The Fly? B.O.B. (Seth Rogen) to kids who have never seen The Blob? Insectisaurus (no voice, he just bellows) to kids who have never seen either Godzilla or any “giant bug” movie? Or Ginormica (Reese Witherspoon) to kids who have never seen Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman? Not much, because they don’t understand that before Jurassic Park, which inaugurated the modern era of computer-generated monsters, these classic monster archetypes are about all there was.
The review goes on to say that MONSTERS VS. ALIENS misses the underlying humanity of those ’50s movies :
Black Lagoon’s Gillman was an expression of an indignant nature rebelling against man’s incursion; Godzilla signified the implacable wrath of atomic technology loosed upon humankind; the Fly’s poignant “Help me!” was a plea to consider the dangerous new world our postwar knowledge heralded. That plea is no less eloquent 50 years later, but my kids don’t hear it in this film, and that is its tragic failure.
Monsters vs. Aliens appropriates the classic ‘50s forms, but misses the point, never establishing one character that we care about…
While I appreciate the author’s affections for ’50s monster movies (and the advice to parents that they should expose their kids to those earlier movies), the review is not quite fair to MONSTERS VS. ALIENS, which actually does a good job of establishing Susan (who turns into Ginormica) as a likable character. In fact, the whole point of the story is to recognize the underlying humanity of the monsters, who turn out to be the heroes.
Sure, it’s easy to make this point in a cartoon, where the monsters are not really scary, but it is a point worth making, and it doesn’t dishonor the classic and cult films that are referenced in MONSTERS VS. ALIENS. Who knows? This might even inspired younger viewers to seek out those older movies on home video or television.
Regardless of who won the on-screen battle, MONSTERS VS. ALIENS was the clear winner at the box office, easily outdistancing the #2 film THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT and making as much as the next four films combined. Making its debut in 4,104 North American Theatres, the DreamWorks animated film earned an impressive $58.2-million.
Also making its debut this weekend was HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT, although on many fewer screens (2,732), where it earned an okay $23-million. Even with a sharp second, weekend drop-off, the Lionsgate release stands a good chance of surpassing this year’s previous ghost story films, the UNINVITED ($26-million total), though it has a way to go to match THE UNBORN ($42.6-million).
As for holdover science-fiction, fantasy, and horror films… KNOWING dropped from #1 to #3 in its second weekend, earning $14.7-million. The two-week total is $46.2-million. RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN sped from fourth to sixth place, adding $4.6-million to its three-week total of $53.3-million. WATCHMEN saw their position shift from #5 to #8, where it earned $2.8-million. After four weeks the total is $103.3-million. LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT collapsed four places, winding up in tenth place with $2.6-million, yielding a three-week total of $28.5-million.
This uber-high-concept piece of computer-generated animation is so good-natured that you want to like it, but it is not nearly so all-fired exciting and funny as it intends to be. Fortunately, if you can forgive the slow start and the occasionally lax pacing, you will be rewarded with enough great moments and old-movie references to justify your time in the theatre, especially if you are a fan of old monster movies. The title may suggest that 20th Century Fox has given up on the PREDATOR VS. ALIENS franchise in favor of pitting the H.R. Giger inspired Aliens against the cute character’s of Pixar’s MONSTERS, INC., but in fact this is a family-friendly spoof that goes for laughs instead of thrills. The tone is a bit less sophisticated than other recent CG films; unlike WALL-E, MONSTERS VS. ALIENS seems deliberately aimed at children.Fortunately, this yields some interesting dividends, as DreamWorks foregoes the contemptuous wisecracks meant to make the SHREK series appeal to “hip” teens and young adults, in favor of approving nods to classic and cult sci-fi films that will fly over the heads of children but engendered laughter in the parents, who grew up watching “Monster Chiller Horror Theatre” on television.
A meteor lands in the U.S. swelling bride-to-be Susan (Reese Witherspoon) to 50-Foot-Woman size. The military locks her up with a handful of other monsters until an evil alien overlord comes looking for the meteor, whose power he wants to harness. This leads to a showdown between Earth’s monsters and the alien invaders. Along the way, Susan adjust to her new identify as “Ginormica” and learns that her new friends are more loyal and worthy than the career-obsessed fiance who abandoned her.
MONSTERS VS. ALIENS is not likely to keep anyone at Pixar and/or Disney up late at night; it is no match for their best efforts. But the premise inevitably yields scenes and situations that will have hard-core sci-fi geeks applauding in delight. The initial battle between the monsters and a colossal alien robot is a memorable set-piece that ranks alongside the best giant-monster action ever presented on the big screen; the computer-generated imagery actually surpasses the overhyped excess of junk like TRANSFORMERS, and the animators deserve credit for perfectly using speed of movement to convey the impression of enormous size – something difficult to do without real humans in the frame.
The sequence is so good that it seems like a mistake to use it midway through, but the filmmakers are smart enough to offer another great sequence for the ending, invovling a battle aboard the alien invader’s spaceship; it’s not quite as visually stunning, but it serves as a satisfying climax.
Both scenes benefit enormously from the 3-D process, which is crisp and pleasing to the eye, almost as good as the work seen in BOLT. The impression of depth is very strong and (unlike old 3-D movies) there are no headaches caused by foreground and background images that refuse to integrate; everything is clear and shapr, not blurry, with no double-images. The attempt to make objects appear to be floating in mid-air is a little less effective – you know they are supposed to look as though they are hoovering in the middle of the theatre, but it does not quite come off.
The computerized animation of MONSTERS VS. ALIENS suffers from the usual problem when it comes to portraying human characters, who seem robotic, their expressions exaggerated and/or artificial, their moving features (eyebrows, lips) somehow seeming to somehow work independently from the face as a whole. the digital animation works much better for the monster and alien characters, especially the enormous Insectasaurus, who manages to look both massive and cute. The alien robot is also quite impressive: although this is the sort of film in which no threat can ever be taken truly seriously, the robot does convey the proper ominously sinister air.
The jokes are a bit hit and miss, but the homages to old monster movies would make for a good drinking game: if you knocked back a shot every time you saw one, you’d pass out long before the closing credits. You’ll see everything from ATTACK OF THE 50-FOOT WOMAN to CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND to E.T. to DESTROY ALL MONSTERS to THE FLY (1958, not 1986), THE BLOB (1957, not 1988), and most approrpiately for a 3-D film HOUSE OF WAX (in the form of a paddle ball that bounces out of the screen at the viewer’s nose).
As a whole, MONSTERS VS. ALIENS is a bit of a trifle, with an obvious message for the kids about not judging solely by appearances. Fortunately, it is less heavy-handed than recent live-action films that have travelled this terrain. MONSTERS VS. ALIENS man not be great, but it is more fun than either HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY or WATCHMEN.
MONSTERS VS. ALIENS (2009). Directed by Rob Letterman & Conrad Vernon. Screenplay by Maya Forbes & Wallace Wolodarsky and Rob LEtterman and Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger; story by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon. Voices: Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, Kiefer Sutherland, Rainn Wilson, Stephen Colbert, Paul Rudd, Julie White, Jeffrey Tambor, Amy Poehler, Ed Helms, Renee Zellweger, John Krasinski.
It was foolish of me, I suppose, when I reviewed The Jaws Of Death last April, to assume that I had seen the worst that exploitation film had to offer in terms of real killing of the elasmobranchic kind. Perhaps it was more of a hope than an assumption. After all, if exposure to exploitation cinema teaches anything, it is that no matter what you’ve seen, somewhere out there, there’s something bigger, darker, uglier, weirder, sicker, funnier. Not for nothing is the theme song of the germinal mondo film, Mondo Carne, entitled simply, “More”. […] But this is not the most bizarre thing about Tintorera; not by a long shot. This is, in all sincerity, one of the most peculiar films I have ever seen, thanks to its meandering pace and its haphazard melding of irreconcilable story elements, and to the mid-film emergence of a subplot that even most exploitation films wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. And this, finally, is the most exasperating thing of all about Tintorera: much as I want to hate this film with an unqualified hate, I am forced to admit that in those merciful periods when random marine life isn’t being massacred right and left, it’s rather, well, interesting. Not good; not well-structured; not well-paced; not well-written, or directed, or acted; but….interesting.
…before anyone balks at the idea of it not being a horror movie – correct, it’s NOT a horror movie in the traditional sense (i.e. scares/violence/gore), but it DOES gain most of its mileage out of referencing horror movies, particularly those from the 1950s. So it is horror fans, not 8 year old kids, that will be enjoying the myriad references to The Fly, The Blob, Them!, etc., and thus in turn enjoying the film as a whole.
Like the other [DreamWorks animated] films, it doesn’t hold a candle to Pixar’s best, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Like Igor, it’s nice to see these movies finding a new way to appeal to multiple generations and tastes (i.e. genre fans), and the lack of “timely” jokes will ensure that it will remain a favorite for future generations, while the Shark Tales of the world become irrelevant due to their reliance on jokes that won’t mean anything to anyone born after their release date.
For the last few years, Hollywood has been expressing optimism that Digital 3D will revive flagging ticket sales. The problem is getting theatres to upgrade to the necessary projection equipment. (As anyone who has seen films from the brief 3D crazes in the ’50 and the ’80s can tell you, old-fashioned dimensional techniques could be cheezy – and hard on the eyes.) One of the biggest proponents of 3D cinema is DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg, who predicted that there will be 2,500 screens ready to show the company’s animated film MONSTERS VS. ALIENS, when it is released on March 27 next year. Katzenberg also told listeners at the 3-D Entertainment Summit that there will be 7,500 venues available for SHREK GOES FOURTH in 2010.
There are only about 1,500 3D-ready theatres now, but Katzenberg says the format is an “economic game-changer for movie theatres.” From Hollywood Reporter:
I expect a $5 premium will be paid for the 3-D experience,” he said. “Fifty% of the admissions of ‘Bolt’ — which was 3-D on only 1,300 of its 4,000 screens — is 3-D. The customers have spoken time and time again. If you offer them a premium-quality experience, they will for the most part trade up.”
Commenting on “Monsters,” Katzenberg suggested that there will be “more than enough screens to give us our investment back of $15 million. We spent $150 million making a movie like this, with a $15 million incremental cost for 3-D.”
MONSTERS VS. ALIENS is apparently afraid of facing AVATAR. DreamWorks Animation’s moved the released date of their 3-D cartoon up from May 2009 to March 27, 2009, in order to avoid a confrontation with James Cameron’s 3-D action film (his first narrative feature since the Oscar-winning TITANIC in 1997).
DreamWorks typically releases their animated blockbusters during the lucrative summer market, but the March release date offers a chance to capitalize on Easter vacation. Studio exec Jeffrey Katzenberg joked that summer would begin on March 29 in 2009.
The reason given for the shift in release date was the limited number of screens available to show 3-D films, which would make it difficult for two 3-D films to reach an audience simultaneously:
“These movies really were going to divide the marketplace,” Katzenberg said. “The issue wasn’t the content of ‘Avatar.'”