Monsters vs Aliens (2009)

Monsters vs Aliens is the newest Dreamworks Animation movie, directed by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon and with the voices of  Reese Whitherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, Kiefer Sutherland, Stephen Colbert, Rainn Wilson, Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler and Renée Zellweger.
Unfortunately I had to choose between seeing it in English or in 3D and I went for the 3D.

Plot:
On her wedding day, Susan (Reese Whiterspoon) gets hit by a meteor and suddenly starts growing until she’s as tall as a small scyscraper. The government intervenes and Susan gets taken to a secret facility where she lives with some other monsters – B.O.B., a kind of sentient (though not much sentient) jelly (Seth Rogen), Dr. Cockroach, a crazy scientist who turned himself into a man-sized cockroach (Hugh Laurie), The Missing Link, a creature between fish and man (Will Arnett) and Insectosaurus, an oversized caterpillar (and when I say oversized, I mean as big as a scyscraper).
Anyway, when a giant alien robot lands on the earth, it’s the monsters who are called upon for help.

I really liked Monsters vs Aliens. It was full to the brim with references for geeks (starting with dialogue like “CODE NIMOY! CODE NIMOY!” to “Once again, a UFO has landed in America, the only country UFOs ever seem to land in.” and referencing movies from The Day the Earth Stood Still to Close Encounters of the Third Kind). Plus, it’s probably the most feminist kids’ movie in a while. The story was a bit old though, but at least that insured that it worked.
The 3D was really good, but I thought that they could have made more “gags” – things really coming out of the screen etc.  [Yeah, I’m a sucker for the cheap thrills.]

monsters_vs_aliens

As I said before, the 3D was great, especially the scenes in space where the vastness was intensified by the technology. But also in the not so spectacular scenes, the animation looked great.

The characters were really cool. I enjoyed all of them (though I have to admit that the President’s (Stephen Colbert) a bit fecal humour got on my nerves after a bit. [Fortunately, he had other gags as well.]

As for the feminist thing – honestly, I’m thinking and rethinking this movie because I just can’t believe that it really has this entirely positive message of female empowerment. I’m always waiting for something that I didn’t notice before to crop up and show me the sexism that I missed before. But as of now I can only say: WOW!
[Which is not to say that it is entirely sexism-free, but for the most parts it is.]

I mean, it’s already amazing that you actually have a female heroine (I mean, look at the latest animated movies – you can count the female main characters on one hand). But one, who grows from being a push-over to discovering her inner strength, using it and coming to terms with it while sending out the message that the really good people love you when you’re strong and when you’re weak that really made me feel all funny inside.

[Which also makes it kind of sad that the marketing is mostly focussed on B.O.B.]

monsters-vs-aliens-first

But apart from Susan’s story, there’s also the quick scene with Katie (Renée Zellweger) and her boyfriend – a play on the perceived gender roles. Katie and boyfriend are making out in a car, with Katie being the one pushing for more action and the boyfriend (I can’t remember his name) being the hesitant one. This gets more poignant as they see the alien robot land and Katie runs to investigate, her boyfriend pleading with her not to, then running after her and hurting his ankle. Finally, Katie is seen carrying him to the impact area.
While this might not be the most original thing ever, it was a funny scene and was cleverer than it seems at first as we can suspect that both seem very centered in the traditional gender roles to the “world outside”, as the boyfriend’s an athlete of some kind and he’s also still the one behind the steering wheel of the car.

Okay, enough of me overinterpreting things.

I can really recommend it, if only to play Pop Quiz while watching great 3D animation. But I’m seriously considering watching it a second time in the cinema (something I only did once before and then not because I wanted to see the movie again), this time in English.

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5 thoughts on “Monsters vs Aliens (2009)

  1. Sexism: yes. Against men. There wasn’t a single admirable male character. The fiance was a self-centered jerk. The President was a goof. The military man was unethical and trigger-happy. The inspiration point guy was a fragile, simpering coward. Its cool to have female heroes. I liked the Susan character and thought she was great. But do we really have to belittle one sex to empower the other? If you think I’m overreacting… imagine a similar movie with the roles reversed: a self-centered gold-digging bride, a female President who launches nukes while trying to order coffee, and a woman at inspiration point that is belittled because she won’t put out. The firestorm such a movie would have caused would have been intense.

    • It kinda sucks when your gender is underrepresented, pushed to the sidelines and not being taken for full in a film, doesn’t it?
      And that’s not even the case here: everybody around Susan was male, if not necessarily a man. B.O.B., Dr. Cockroach, Missing Link – all of them were also heroes in the story, they just played second fiddle to the heroine for once.
      Plus, reversing gender assignments in sexist scenarios to underscore its sexism is not reverse sexism.
      In short, you’re completely missing the point.

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