Monster Vs Aliens is not the greatest CGI animated film to make it into cinemas but it is the first to blow my mind with 3D, and it is this that brings all the joy to the enjoyment of the film. Much like Mark Kermode, I was unhappy that the cinema charges extra for the glasses required to watch the film (and you have to pay for them each time you see a 3D film in the cinema, even if you use the old ones again – erm, has nobody told cinema about recycling and climate change?); however, it did mean fewer adverts before the film and all the trailers were in 3D, so there’s a balance.
The story sees Susan (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) turned into a 50-foot woman when hit by a meteorite. She is captured by a branch of the US military and kept ‘detained’ with other monsters: B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), The Missing Link (Will Arnett), Dr Cockroach (Hugh Laurie, using his English accent) and Insectosaurus. They are to be kept here forever, until an alien invades (to extract the energy from Susan) and the government runs out of options to save the day …
The film tries to maintain a balance of making a film for both kids and adults but doesn’t succeed – there are silly jokes and the 3D but then there are film geek references which the kids won’t get (all the monsters are from classic 1950s B-movies). The large number of screenwriters suggests there was a lot of polishing to get the jokes funny, and there are comedy actors aplenty to help things along. However, it’s not particularly memorable as a funny or novel film; the reason to see this is 3D.
I once saw a film with 3D in the cinema – Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone – and it put me off seeing 3D films. I have a vague memory of a grungy laboratory and somebody pointing out of the screen, but that’s about it. Not a good experience. So I wasn’t expecting much from this. It’s nice to be proved wrong.
From the start you can see it’s not just about pointing out of the screen (although there is a ball-on-elastic being hit with a table tennis bat straight out of the screen – Kermode says it’s a reference to an old 3D film, but you’ll have to take his word for it) when we start in the middle of space, the camera afloat in the middle of the rings of a planet like Saturn: the depth of vision and effect is beautiful. It is this illusion of immersiveness that is most impressive – a scene where trees are hit and leaves fall, you can see the difference between ones falling close by and those behind the characters on the screen, and it’s quite beautiful.
Of course, there are still the shots of things blowing up out of the screen – there’s a shot at the end when Susan has grabbed the rest of the monsters and is escaping from the exploding ship and is diving straight into the screen that is particularly effective – but there is a balance between the ‘making-the-kids-scream’ shots (it was half-term, so there were enough kids in the audience to be scared by things coming out of the screen) and creating an interesting visual experience. As someone who doesn’t wear glasses, it was a little strange to wear these special glasses for so long (although, thankfully, we have evolved past the cardboard specs with a red filter and a green filter in different eyes), but you don’t mind when you are being entertained so much. It’s a brisk 90 minutes of enjoyable film – nothing epoch-shattering but a lot of fun while you are in your seat. And, after some of the films I’ve seen recently, that’s a good thing.
Rating: VID (but DAVE for the 3D)