Review: “Monsters vs. Aliens: IMAX 3D”

March 28, 2009 at 10:41 pm Leave a comment

The latest effort from DreamWorks Animation comes to the big screen (and if you watch it on IMAX, the really big screen) and in 3D in the form of Monsters vs. Aliens.  The movie is delightful, funny, and very entertaining, which will please children plus any adult willing to pretend to be a child for an hour and a half.  No, that’s not a slight against the movie.

Monsters vs. Aliens, despite what the previews angle this movie as, is actually about Susan, aka Ginormica (Reese Witherspoon).  Susan, who is roughly 50 feet tall and possesses super strength, was a young bride that, on her wedding day, was struck by a meteorite.  The element that comprised the space rock incidentally transformed her from a brunette woman of average height, to an ice-white-haired 50-foot-tall ‘monster’.  A top-secret U.S. military program then carries her away to an unknown facility.

The facility, run by General W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland), has been capturing and detaining monsters for the past 50 years.  Susan, now dubbed ‘Ginormica’, then meets her fellow inmates/monsters: Dr. Cockroach, PhD. (Hugh Laurie), a former mad scientist-turned-giant-cockroach who can walk on walls and endure ridiculous punishment; The Missing Link (Will Arnett), who is some type of fish-man that likes to scare beach-goers; B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), a blue gelatinous blob that can stretch himself and do other blob-like things; and finally Insectosaurus, a giant (300-something-feet-tall!) fuzzy bug-looking thing that acts a lot like the group’s pet.

Turns out the meteor that struck Susan was wanted by an evil alien named Galaxhar (Rainn Wilson), who needs the element to power a machine that helps him take over planets.  Or something like that.  Basically, the plot becomes unimportant at this point, because the focus of the movie turns to pure entertainment, and a little bit of self-empowering feminism.  The rest of the story really focuses on Susan’s denial of her new life as a super-powered being, then her attempts to reconcile her old and new life.  She’s still in love, or thought she was in love, with her fiance Derek (Paul Rudd).  Derek is your typical ego-driven, career-focused man who is only willing to do anything if he gets something out of it.  Basically, he’s an asshole, and a bit of a chauvinist.

Ah, good old San Fran

Ah, good old San Fran

Now for all the stuff that the kids would appreciate.  The 3D works a lot better here than it did in recent movies like My Bloody Valentine 3D.  I’m not an expert in this new 3D tech, but my eyes adjusted to this way better than in the live-action stuff.  Only a few times did my eyes have to forcefully focus on something, but it could’ve been attributed to my wearing eyeglasses and the 3D glasses at the same time.

On the Filmspotting podcast this week, the hosts had complained about the pacing of the movie.  While they enjoyed it as a whole, they had an issue about the first part basically not meshing well.  I did not find this issue at all.  I thought the movie moved at a nice pace, with the action scenes taking up huge chunks of time without becoming boring.  The first major sequence, an attack on San Francisco, was quite fun to watch.  I also loved the little jabs they did to San Fran, and since I watched it in San Francisco, the audience got a kick out of it, too.

The characters were all great, especially B.O.B.  It’s obvious his character is the real comedy relief of the movie, but I think he was actually very well written.  There’s an ongoing joke involving him/it and Derek that even the kids in the theatre thought was hilarious.  And I loved Keifer Sutherland as General Monger and Stephen Colbert as The President.  The movie also does a great job of referencing other sci-fi/horror films from the past, such as E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Blob, and the list goes on.  Many of these will fly over the heads of almost anyone under that age of, oh say 18, but I think of it as a treat for parents and adults looking for a good time.

Monsters vs. Aliens is another promising step for DreamWorks Animation.  They certainly had their share of misses (Shark Tale, also directed by Rob Letterman, who co-directed this), but this and last year’s Kung Fu Panda can be added to their ‘hits’ list.  While their story development teams still have a ways to go before they reach Pixar-levels of storytelling, they do make some very funny, very entertaining movies.  If you get a chance to see this in 3D, I say, “Go.”  The movie is funny in a way both parents and their kids will get it, the animation and the 3D look great, plus it has a nice message for children.  Pure family fun.


The IMAX Experience

I honestly don’t think it’s necessary to see this movie in an IMAX theatre.  It wouldn’t hurt, but there was nothing about my viewing experience thast told me, “Wow, this looks awesome in IMAX!”  The 3D definitely adds a layer of ‘fun’ to the movie, but I’d say to save your money if you can catch this on a regular screen with 3D.  If the only theatre near you capable of playing 3D films is an IMAX screen, well then, I guess you don’t have  a choice, do you?


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