Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Monsters vs. Aliens

To me the most amusing element of Monsters vs. Aliens (2009; dirs. Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon) is how it references various sci-fi films from the 1950s (and later). One of the characters is taken from The Blob (1958, 1988)—he falls in love with a dish of jello. Another is from Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). A third, a Vincent Price-like mad scientist, is the main character from The Fly (1958, 1986). And a huge moth is, clearly, from Mothra (1961). There are other allusions—the President of the United States performs his greeting to an alien spaceship on an organ (see Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1977). Another scene suggests The War of the Worlds (1953, 2005). And of course the huge spaceship that threatens to destroy the earth reminds us of Independence Day (1996).

The main character, a young woman suddenly transformed into a giant version of herself, suggests Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman (1958, 1993).

All these characters are comic animations. The plot is fairly unremarkable. All the characters band together to defeat an evil alien overlord who creates multiple clones of himself so that he can take over the universe. The suddenly transformed young woman must come to terms with her transformation. The various monsters who have been confined by the government for fifty years in a secret underground facility must adjust to their freedom.

Beyond the intertextuality—an expected component of most animated films these days—there is not much original about this film. But it’s fun to watch, and it’s interesting to see how the filmmakers borrowed key scenes from the films they’re referencing. The one scene I remember from the previews for the 1958 version of The Blob showed moviegoers running in panic out of a theatre, pursued by the huge protoplasmic beast—a comic version of that scene is here.

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