“Why am I here? What am I doing here?”
Gareth Edward’s low-budget feature debut, Monsters, made some noise with critics as well as with Hollywood producers who decided to hire him for the latest Godzilla remake, which I happened to enjoy quite a bit. Since then he has become a household name and is already working on a Star Wars anthology film and on the Godzilla sequel. Edwards managed to direct an entertaining sci-fi film using alien monsters as the background to tell the story of a journalist trying to escort an American tourist through an infected zone in Mexico back to the US. The film created a wonderful atmosphere and in a lesser way served as an allegory on the US immigration system.
Five years later, we get a sequel to Monsters and a new director. This is Tom Green’s first feature film and he had a bigger budget to work with than Edwards did, but unfortunately the sequel is a mess and a bore. It was by far the longest two hours I’ve had to sit through in a movie all year. It tries to follow a similar premise as the original film by being an allegory of sorts, this time about American intervention in the Middle East and it too leaves the monsters as an afterthought. The soldiers are sent overseas to fight the monsters (which could easily represent the terrorists in our world) who have spread all the way to the Middle East, but in a way these soldiers become the real monsters. The allegory is heavy on this one and it doesn’t quite work as well because it is too lazy and simple. The characters aren’t interesting at all and no one stands out here. They even have to resort to using voiceover narration to introduce each character because there was no interest in character development whatsoever.
The sequel takes place several years after the original and now the monsters have spread through different parts of the world. At the same time, an insurgency has broke out in the Middle East and soldiers are being deployed to fight off the insurgents and destroy the monsters in that deeply infested area. Michael Parkes (Sam Keeley) grew up in Detroit and has been training in the military for the past two years along with his native friends: Frankie (Joe Dempsie), Karl (Kyle Soller), and Shaun (Parker Sawyers). They are all being deployed to the Middle East together and are ready to make a difference. After a few weeks of light fighting the recruits are sent on a mission with Sergeant Frater (Johnny Harris) to rescue some soldiers in the Infected Zone. This is where the real fight begins for the new recruits.
I can’t complain about the aliens being simply a background for this cliched anti-war film because it was the same thing in the first movie, but Dark Continent doesn’t even take its time to develop interesting characters. The story is incredibly lazy and all the characters are unsympathetic. I felt the extremely slow pacing take its toll on me and I understood that it was trying to explore the human behavior in extreme conditions, but it did so in a very lazy way. The subtext here isn’t nearly as provoking as it was in the original. I get it that Green is trying to show the irony of the world crumbling around us as we ignore it and still continue to destroy each other, but it simply didn’t do anything for me.