Friday, 2 August 2013

Monsters vs. Aliens (2009)

After a long line of very average animated films (unless you like 'Shrek') this was the main film that started the comeback for Dreamworks, in my opinion. This was the turn around point...well this and 'Kung Fu Panda'.

The aim of the game here was to emulate the classic horror/sci-fi B-movies of the 50's and have fun with it. The plot is about a regular woman who is struck by a meteorite which makes her grow to enormous proportions ('Attack of the 50 Foot Woman'). She is then carted off by the military to a secret base ('Area 51-ish') where she is imprisoned with some other quirky creatures/monsters. At the same time far away in space an alien detects a precious specialized metal on Earth and begins his plans to invade.

No beating around the bush here, the best thing about this film is the small ragtag team of monsters. This small group of diverse characters is the films saviour and shows some great homaging for all you sci-fi buffs. There is ' B.O.B.', a gelatinous blue blob that is obviously a take on 'The Blob' (1958) and brilliantly voiced by Seth Rogen, probably one of the best/funniest characters. 'Dr. Cockroach, PhD' a half man half cockroach character with insect abilities and a roguish dashing persona, this is mainly down to him being voiced by Huge Laurie. This little fella is a homage to classic horror 'The Fly' (1958).

'The Missing Link', ('Link'), a 20,000 year old fish/ape creature that is presumably a slight play on 'The Creature From the Black Lagoon' (1954). This guy is easily the best looking of the bunch visually, his slippery scaly skin glistens perfectly in ever scene. 'Insectosaurus' which is pretty obviously a homage to Godzilla (1954) and the various gigantic monsters of that specific universe. A massive grub that simply roars a lot and can shoot out silk.

And of course as said already the main female heroine character who has grown to humongous proportions is presumably a homage to 'Attack of the 50 Foot Woman' (1958). The villain in this adventure is a multi-eyed alien called 'Gallaxhar' (sounds like a retro space shooter videogame). He has a big oblong shaped head and lots of tentacles for legs, looks a bit like a squid. This guy I believe is merely a generic combination of ideas gathered from various 50's sci-fi aliens, a classic retro design but unusually his ship isn't the cheesy shape you'd expect.

I must also mention some of the human characters too, this film relies heavily on its characters and it really doesn't disappoint. 'General Warren R. Monger' voiced by Sutherland (see his name, you get it?) is you're stereotypical gruff, buzz cut, war obsessed military leader who trusts no one (especially aliens) and is perfectly happy to let rip with an onslaught of hellfire...ask questions later. I love how Dreamworks are happy to make fun of their own nations well known bad stereotypes...the typical US cigar chomping war happy General for one.

I also loved how they again mocked themselves with the 'President Hathaway' character. A dimwitted leader who is incapable of making decisions, dishes out vague nonsensical commands and easily brainwashed by his aides. Yet at the same time is always trying to come across as a good man, a man of the people, keeping his ratings up and more importantly being an all round cool guy. The sequence where he plays the electronic keyboard to greet the alien visitors is by far the stupidest but funniest thing I've seen for some time. I also think his look is most amusing, kinda like 'Clarke kent' but with a definite John F. Kennedy influence, he looks so American, its spot on.

The film and story on the whole is reasonable, its all based around hokey sci-fi/UFO stuff so of course its gonna be daft as hell, what do you expect. Its all suppose to be very retro, very dated and downright hammy. Its easy to see what they were going for, right down to the Godzilla-like sequence at the Golden Gate Bridge, there had to be some classic giant monster stomping destruction porn come on!. I also loved that giant cycloptic robot probe that lands, loved the design of it, so simple yet so memorable.

It does start off pretty slow I can't deny, the story of 'Susan Murphy' ('Ginormica') is at first rather dull. Plus I gotta say the visuals are kinda bland at first too, its only when she's taken to the secret military base that things get going. From there on it just gets better and better, but admittedly the film is held together by the fantastic characters, without them it could of been nasty.

The only weak link in the film for me was actually the main character voiced by the annoying Reese Witherspoon, couldn't care a less about that character. Take her out and you'd still have a cool working film, but I guess you need a proper human element in that creature squad. Everything else was awesome!.

The idea behind this isn't exactly original of course, we've been getting lots of hokey sci-fi homage flicks recently, ditto fantasy and comic book, realistic and parodies. I guess this is kinda like 'Hotel Transylvania' but with classic sci-fi characters teamed up instead of classic horror characters. I thought it would be crappy but it turned out to be a brilliantly fun animated adventure.