Gareth Edwards’s 2010 debut, Monsters, was set in Mexico and drew parallels between its heroes’ efforts to keep the gigantic lifeforms in the “infected zones” and real-life U.S. border policy.
This 2015 follow-up, helmed by Tom Green, moves the action to the Middle East, where sometime in the future our latest war against insurgents is now complicated by gargantuan arthropods (rendered with impressive and convincing CGI).
Monsters: Dark Continent spins its wheels in Detroit and the early days of a squad’s tour of duty before the glimmer of a plot arrives in the form of a rescue mission, and even that is only thin connective tissue between episodes of danger and despair. It’s taxing to watch, and Green moves between scenes with Malick-inspired ellipses, frustrating momentum.
Patient viewers will be rewarded with a dazzling night funeral visited by an alien giant with its own agenda, which reads to us as grief. Beyond that, the film defies any audience desire for satisfaction or closure: The creatures remain, the war remains, and all anyone’s efforts amount to is death. Green seems to be asking: In the face of beasts whose scale and life cycles we can’t begin to grasp, how can we allow our fellow human beings to be so unknowable?