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Monsters vs. Aliens

Entry updated 28 June 2021. Tagged: Film.

Film (2009). Paramount Pictures presents a DreamWorks Animation production. Directed by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon. Written by Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Maya Forbes, Rob Letterman and Wallace Wolodarsky, inspired by the Abel Laxamana and Jim Stenstrum's Warren Publishing Comic Rex Havoc: Asskickers of the Fantastic (June 1978-February 1983 in 1984; vt Rex Havoc: Raiders of the Fantastic, November 1981 Warren Presents #14). Cast includes Will Arnett, Stephen Colbert, Hugh Laurie, Amy Poehler, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Kiefer Sutherland, Conrad Vernon, Rainn Wilson and Reece Witherspoon. 94 minutes. Colour.

A woman made enormous by the Nuclear Energy of a meteorite (see Great and Small) teams up with other government-controlled Monsters to prevent the Alien Invasion of the Earth.

"I come in peace: I mean you no harm," intones an image of the disembodied head of four-eyed Pulp Villain Gallaxhar (Wilson) from above Earth as Monsters vs. Aliens moves, somewhat predictably, into its third act. "However, it is important to note that most of you will not survive the next twenty-four hours. Those of you that do will be enslaved and experimented on. You should in no way take any of this personally. It's just business."

Parody is both the weakness and the strength of this affectionate evocation of Clichés from Monster Movies such as The Thing (1951; vt The Thing from Another World) and It Came from Outer Space (1953). The nod-wink recognition and quickfire Humour that pleased domestic audiences in the US did not travel so well to important markets for international Cinema such as France and Japan, and the (expected) sequel did not materialize, despite spin-offs including short film B.O.B.'s Big Break (2009), Halloween television specials Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space (2009) and Night of the Living Carrots (2011), and the tv series Monsters vs. Aliens (2013-2014).

Susan Murphy (Witherspoon), from Modesto, California is struck by a radioactive meteor on the day of her wedding to selfish weatherman Derek Dietl (Rudd) – "As long as we're together Fresno is the most romantic City in the world!" – and immediately grows to a height of 49 feet and eleven and a half inches, summoning up memories of the protagonist of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958), remade for Television as Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman (1993). Murphy is captured by the US Army and renamed "Ginormica" by General W R Monger (Sutherland), head of the top-secret government facility – "Don't think of this as a Prison, think of it as a hotel you never leave because it's locked from the outside" – at which she and four other monstrous inmates are held (see Area 51). Bug-headed Mad Scientist Dr Cockroach (Laurie) – "You wouldn't happen to have any Uranium on you?" – recalls the contaminated Scientist trope from films such as The Fly (1958). Bumptious fish-ape hybrid The Missing Link (Arnett) is a reference to The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). Amorphous blue jelly B.O.B. ("Benzoate Ostylezene Bicarbonate") recollects the gelatinous viscosity of The Blob (1958), while Insectosaurus (Vernon), is an homage to the imagery of Mosura (1961; vt Mothra).

Attempts are made to humanize the interpersonal relationships of the monsters but they function best as bon-mots about the correspondence between their physical essences and behaviours; The Missing Link is an out-of-shape macho-jock, B.O.B. relies on the emotional landscapes of other characters to direct his own Psychology, and so on. Monsters vs. Aliens is funniest when referring to the cultural presence of other films from the SF Megatext, such as the "big board" from Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1963) or the five-note First Contact sequence from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), and then relating these referents to satirical skits (see Satire) about American Sociology and Politics. The character of President Hathaway (Colbert) is the most persuasive of the efforts to address prior criticism of the propensity of DreamWorks films to pander to man-child wish-fulfilment (see Feminism), hogging the limelight, blaming mistakes on subordinates and promoting the use of Weapons. It is when connecting the man-baby antics of minor characters to the female-empowerment of Susan Murphy/Ginormica (see Women in SF) that Monsters vs. Aliens is most thematically-realized. The film ends with the monsters flying off to intercept newly-discovered super-snail Escargantua as it descends, very slowly, on Paris.

Monsters vs. Aliens began life as an adaptation of the Rex Havoc Comics but was eventually rewritten from the ground up to accommodate new commercial imperatives: it nonetheless retains much of Rex Havoc's tongue-in-cheek love for the excesses of Pulp. Asskickers of the Fantastic: A Rex Havoc Novel (2014) is a Tie to the comics by their original writer, Jim Stenstrum. Monsters vs. Aliens: The Junior Novel (2009) is by Susan Korman. Graphic Novel Monsters vs. Aliens: The Official Movie Adaptation is written by Andy Lanning and illustrated by Alex Dalton and S L Gallant. Tie-in Monsters vs. Aliens: Meet the Monsters (2009) is by N T Raymond. [MD]


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