20 February 2011

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about Monsters vs. Aliens

12. When I first watched this two years ago, I wasn't very impressed. When I saw it again last week, I found the Monster parts much funnier, the Alien parts more boring, and the People parts more satirical, although unevenly so.

(Yes, People. This movie consists of three interlocking parts,
and we must consider them all.)

11. Monsters! Of course! It's so simple! -- President Hathaway

You know, I say that a lot, too . . . although monsters are not as straightforward as they used to be back in the 50s and early 60s, which was when the Monster Movies being parodied here had their heyday. Indeed, as an occasional commenter pointed out to me recently, one mark of modern storytelling is its conceit of turning traditionally evil creatures into virtuous characters. Sure enough, none of the monsters in this movie are very monstrous at all.

10. As for the Alien part . . . The title is misleading. It should really be Monsters vs. One Alien.

Or for the most literal accuracy: Monsters vs. One Alien and His Army of Clones.

(Yeah, yeah, I know it doesn't really matter.)

9. So back to the Monsters for a bit, as they're more interesting.

I have only a passing knowledge of the whole 50s Horror ethos which inspired so much of this "Millennial" movie, and I kind of envy those whose bigger cinematic vocabulary gives them a deeper understanding of what is going on here. Would you believe that I've never seen any of the following movies?




Oh, you do believe it? =S
Just when I thought I couldn't feel more pathetic . . .
At least there are remedies for shortcomings such as this.

8. Now forgive me as I interrupt these "Twelve Things" with something that has nothing to do with this movie and everything to do with this blog.

Early last month, I e-mailed a friend in the Horror blogosphere to ask if he was aware of any Horror-themed movie challenges that I could do alongside the reading challenges I had already committed to. He hasn't got back to me yet--possibly because he's still looking. (Don't worry about it, dude! Seriously. We're cool.) Aside from The Final Girl Film Club (which I have yet to join and which doesn't really count), the Horror blogosphere has a culture that doesn't do challenge parties. And I bring this up because . . . I think I've stumbled upon a made-to-order Horror-themed movie challenge, anyway!

There's something about seeing all those (rehosted!) images of vintage posters that makes me want to go all retro. There is more to Horror than my beloved Morality Play Slashers, and it's time I challenged myself to watch more of it.

7. Now, the "threat from outer space" trope has been with us since H.G. Wells started writing, but I think there's room for one retro alien movie in my proposed challenge.


Horror and SF are very close cousins!

As for The Invisible Man: I'm already planning to read the novel for my Extraordinarily Cheddary Postmodern Steampunk Challenge (aka The Victorian Literature Challenge), so I won't include the 1930s adaptation in what I'm now calling my "Monsters and Aliens" Challenge. =P

(Hey, do you suppose I should commission another badge? LOL!!!)

6. Well, enough about the Monsters and the Aliens. Let's get to the People, who take us beyond Parody and into Satire.

No, I don't mean the ironically voiced President Hathaway and his ridiculous "war cabinet"--who are going to be embarrassing in a few decades the way aging Flower Children who still wear tie-dyed Grateful Dead t-shirts are embarrassing now.

I do mean the strong feminist undercurrent in the characterisation of our heroine Susan and her fiance Derek.

5. When the story begins, Susan is a blissful throwback to the "traditional" 50s woman: she is happy to let her own wants take a backseat to her future husband's career and convinced that marriage is all she needs to fulfill her. But all her dreams fall apart after a meteor hits her and turns her into Ginormica.

For it turns out that her darling Derek is a really big jerk who values potential helpmeets only inasmuch as they are assets to his career. It doesn't matter to him that his now-enormous financee is still the same person inside--and it seems to threaten him that she has just freaking saved a whole city from mass destruction. He doesn't want a wife who isn't his physical ideal and who might have a more important career than he does. And after he dumps our Susan, she gives a big speech about never letting anyone "shortchange" her again--which is less of a pun than dated feminist jargon.

4. There are other examples which make the case that this movie delivers its "Girl Power" message at the expense of its male characters, who include a cerebral cockroach, an out of shape swamp monster, a brainless blob, a nervous nerd, a dumbass president, a wimpy jock, and an evil alien who can't bust a move without his trusty (female) computer.

This is actually a worse state of affairs than what we had when women were stuck in benign (if bland) supporting roles and men had all the glory.

3. But the real kicker is something of substance: Susan's final choice. At the climax of the movie, she has to decide whether to let her body return to normal or to continue in her abnormally gigantic state. It's like those equally retro Choose Your Own Adventure novels, isn't it? Just to make things interesting, let's switch the story to the second person for a bit . . .

If you choose to let your body return to normal, use your Secret Decoder Ring on this first ending:

Your heart is breaking for your valiant friends, but you know that you will not let them die in vain by risking an attempt to go back for them when you are back in a body that doesn't have the upper body strength to bench press anything heavier than a can of Diet Coke. Dashing away the tears that threaten to blind you, you steal another hovercraft and get off Gallaxhar's ship just in time. You reach the ground right before it explodes, your heart broken. It takes you a long time to get over them--much longer than it takes to get over that slimeball Derek, who tries to patch things up with you now that you are an international celebrity with an acceptable dress size. Yet this does not at all mean that you've given up on men. You are still a romantic at heart and hope to find a kind, hardworking, intelligent, and cheerful man who will let you share his life someday. He will be understanding about your past and quietly decide to beat Derek senseless (on principle) should they ever meet. You can't wait for the day when you tell your children about your adventures and the brave friends who were monsters on the outside, but heroes on the inside.

If you choose to continue in your abnormally gigantic state, use your Secret Decoder Ring on this second ending:

You go to find Gallaxhar and shoot his precious ball of quantonium, sending it crashing down on your head. You feel the familiar rush of power through your body, which immediately starts growing again. Until that moment, you had no idea how much you missed being fifty feet tall. Gallaxhar stares up at you, appalled but no match for your super strength. You'd laugh in his face, but you know that if you want to rescue your friends, you have only seconds to find them again. And you do find them, rescue them, and save the rest of the world in the process, which makes all of you instant celebrities. Your slimy ex-fiance tries to slither back into your life, but you make sure to humiliate him on live television. Then you and your friends fly to Paris, a place you've always wanted to see, for your next great adventure.

Anyway, it's kind of obvious why Susan--whose character arc carries the whole movie--makes the choice she does. And I guess it's okay because this is "just a movie," as the saying goes. But just because it works out, that doesn't mean it's the right choice.

2. Okay, I just thought of one male character who is worth admiring: General W.R. Monger.

However, I suspect that he wasn't written that way and that Kiefer Sutherland's voice acting went a long way in making him both three-dimensional and as likable as he has turned out to be.

1. But there is neither rhyme nor reason in my unflagging love for B.O.B., my favourite monster. I really let Monsters vs. Aliens have it in this post, but B.O.B. is in a league beyond the rest of the movie.


If there were a pantheon of fictional characters, B.O.B. would have a well-earned place next to Gonzo. (Yes, that Gonzo.)

Image Sources: a) Monsters vs. Aliens poster, b) Attack of the 50 Foot Woman poster, c) The Blob poster, d) Creature from the Black Lagoon poster, e) The Fly poster, f) Mothra poster, g) The Thing from Another World poster, h) B.O.B.

14 comments:

Lesa said...

I've only seen this once but I remember loving the parody retroness of it all. Yep, I have watched all those sci/fi/horror movies you listed plus tons more.

When I was in late elem/early middle school, the 3:30 movie came on everyday after school. It was great! Each week would have a theme: Shirly Temple, Abbott/Costelle, Laurel Hardy, Audie Murphy Westerns, Elvis, Aliens, Dracula, Wolfman, Godzilla ect ect. I still miss the 3:30 movie...

EegahInc said...

Rather than curse the dark spot in your horror viewing history, I'll try to shed some light on why you should watch the five movies you've missed.

1. Attack of The 50 Foot Woman is ludicrous, but it's hard not to like scenes like the one in which when the titular character picks up a Barbie doll (her romantic rival) and tosses it to its doom. And everybody plays it serious.

2. Even if the whole "why don't grown-ups listen" thing wears thin by the end of the movie, you've always got the theme song.

3. The Creature From The Black Lagoon is my favorite monster. It's STILL one of the best suits ever made. Plus there's the iconic underwater ballet between the monster and Julia Adams.

4. The ending of this movie is much parodied, but if you watch The Fly all the way through, Vincent Price completely sells the finale and you just might feel a bit creeped out.

5. You'll either love or hate The Peanuts, the 6 inch tall priestesses who sing out to their deity Mothra for rescue. Me, I've always been fond of them.

Get thee to a movie rental right now.

Syrin said...

So how do I sign up for this challenge? Because I would love to have an extra reason for me to finally watch all those movies. :)

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Lesa -- Lucky you! I wish I had had a 3:30 movie or something like it, too. (Well, I have a decent working knowledge of MGM musicals. If Dreamworks ever decides to parody those, I'll be all set!)

Eegahlnc -- I always love your input, but you don't need to worry because I will be watching them soon, starting next month!

1. Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is up first, actually. Since it's on YouTube as well, I might pull off another retro live blog, too! =)

2. Honestly, I've heard nothing but good stuff about The Blob.

3. Any monsters or mutated creatures that skulk about underwater immediately have my heart. Although that might not be the best description of the monster in The Creature from the Black Lagoon, he already has an advantage.

4. I watched some clips of The Fly and was already creeped out, so I'm looking forward to seeing the whole thing!

5. I hadn't even known about The Peanuts! Thanks for the tip!

6. What? No words of encouragement about The Thing from Outer Space???

Syrin -- So we're in the same boat? Awesome! I was beginning to think I was the only one. =P

Since I didn't think anyone else would want to join the challenge, I didn't think up any rules. =P But I do have Attack of the 50 Foot Woman set for March and The Blob set for April. For these two, I'll probably do a Friday Night Movie live blog, so you can sign up on the Wednesday Night Trailer post. I'll link to you on the coming Friday. =)

I know that writing reviews takes time, though, so I'll let you know in advance on the week I reserve a Wednesday and a Friday. =)

Syrin said...

Awesome! One a month is definitely doable. I'll start tracking down 50 Ft Woman.. :)

lisa :) said...

Love how you wrote the Choose Your Own Adventure endings!

Can't wait to hear your thoughts on some of the "classics". I've seen bits and pieces of plenty of them but have only watched a few straight through.

EegahInc said...

"What? No words of encouragement about The Thing from Outer Space???"

Sorry, didn't realize that was part of the watch-a-thon. So, yeah, if I had to limit myself to one thing (so to speak) about The Thing, it would be the dialog. Even though the entire movie is confined to about 5 or 6 rooms, the rapid fire delivery of the lines keeps the whole movie chugging along so you never really notice.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Lisa -- Thanks! I'm really glad you enjoyed them. =) They were my favourite part of this review to write, but hitherto they've been upstaged by the classic Horror movies I have yet to see.

Eegalnc -- I'm calling it the "Monsters and Alien" challenge, so it has to have at least one alien movie. =P The "satellites" in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman could cover the necessary nod to aliens, but I want to be nice to the movie that inspired Gallaxhar as well.

love the girls said...

"Indeed, as an occasional commenter pointed out to me recently . . ."

OK, now I have to eat my words.

If our 1.5 year old daughter saw a huge grizzly bear roaming our back yard she would gleefully call out 'Kitty'. As she similarly does in reference to any living creature.

In fact I was wondering the other day if the writer didn't likewise have a daughter to whom all things are Kitty.

Monsters is ordered towards children, its gentle and innocent just as our little ones are. The references are fun for the adults, but the movies are pure innocence.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Eat your words all you like. =P The concept has its teeth in me now, despite my general opinion of O'Brien being that he overreacts to too many things. I'm going to let this take me where it will and see what I think at the end of it.

And it's not all your doing, either. ;-) I had a problem with the choice Susan makes to stay a monster at the end of the movie ever since I first saw it.

Peep said...

I've only seen this once. I'm thinking I need to to rewatch it so that I can appreciate it again? I felt the same way when watching Cars. I didn't really care for it the first time, but we watched a few years later and really liked it. Somehow we caught all the little jokes that we missed the first time around. Hmmmm, maybe I should just blame my attention span!

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

It's definitely worth watching again, if you liked it a little the first time. =) I might see it for a third time after I'm done with my "Monsters and Alien" Movie Challenge, just to see what new things I pick up.

Thanks for visiting, Peep!

Michael said...

Would you believe that I've never seen any of the following movies?

Sure would, since I have only seen snippets of each one, but now you have inspired me to watch each one. I think I will see what I can find on youtube since NetFlix won't allow me to stream these movies while I'm overseas.

Of course I could "cheat" and use a web proxy. :P

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I know Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and The Blob are on YouTube. =)

Web proxies are my sneaky friends, too!