Monsters: Don't Compare
Another ill-advised sequel, Dark Continent loses sight of Garth Edwards’ magic and somewhat clumsily attempts to fuse military/political commentary on the Middle East with, erm, monsters.A low budget war commentary probably more intent on looking at the trouble the US cause/get into in the Middle East than in anything to do with Monsters (the film or the creatures), the plot, set 10 years after the first movie, sees trouble in the Middle East, and some fresh new recruits thrown into the deep end. Given a rescue mission behind enemy lines, the team learn the hard way of the impact both men and monsters have had on the country’s landscape. It’s hard to accept the difficulties filmmakers have in attempting to bottle lightning: thinking back, the original movie was a tiny budget affair which was pure magic; the notion that you could simply replicate that is something only ignorant studio execs dream of. And the sequels that we do get are still judged by those lofty, unattainable ideals.Edwards is certainly conspicuous in his absence, with an Executive Producer title, but actually very little input into this sequel because he was too busy with Godzilla. Who knows if he’d been able to save it either. In its own right, many tangential sequels like this would have likely fared better had they been rewritten as independent movies, rather than franchise instalments. That’s not to say that it doesn’t need some work – a more experienced hand behind the scenes, some characters you actually care about, and a less clumsy/in-your-face allegory/commentary on done-to-death Mid-East skirmishes would have all been welcome – but expectations based on the original have a lot to blame in the downfall of a follow-up which isn’t actually a terrible watch – it’s got some tense setpieces and some reasonable use of CG – but is a shadow of its predecessor.
Picture QualityEntertainment One’s UK Region B-locked Blu-ray release boasts comfortably demo-worthy video; a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition rendition framed in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. Tweaked contrasts, bleached-out colours, and a little handheld wobble thrown in for good measure afford this piece the now-benchmark look of modern war films; an almost monochromatic array where even the blood is almost black, and everything else is a shade of dusty, dirty, sandy grey.
Whatever reservations you might have about the film itself, its gritty, sun-bleached, desert-based visuals look undeniably impressive in HD.
The detail doesn’t falter throughout, with skin textures consistently impressive – sweat and facial hair finely beaded and layered – clothing weaves affording some ostensible authenticity, and background building nuances evident in every shot. Black levels are rich and deep and allow for wonderful shadow detail and strong night sequences. Despite the colour grading and heavy stylisation, digital problems and defects are largely absent, and if anything the gritty, bleached style also allows the visual effects to better blend in unnoticed. Overall this is easy demo territory.
Whilst not quite as impressive as the video, the engaging audio provides some welcome heft.
The warzone setting allows for some punchy artillery-based thunder, with shells dropped and guns bursting to life, affording a dynamic srpead across the full array. Explosions further bring the LFE to the fore, whilst a minimalist score affords the rears more continuous fuel.
ExtrasAside from a slew of Preview Trailers on start-up, the extra features are pretty limited, but at least better than the one-note, two-minute offering the US counterpart had, with some VFX breakdowns, background into the location, and snippets into the evolution of the creatures themselves, as well as a look behind the 'dog fight'.
The reality is that DC isn’t a bad watch – it’s got some tense setpieces, and some decent CG. But it fails to live up to the legacy of the first film.
Entertainment One's Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release promotes largely excellent video and very good audio, and fans of the film shouldn't hesitate in picking this up. Those who are considering it on the basis of the strengths of the first film should, however, try to reset their expectations. This is a very different beast entirely.
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