It’s possible that Pixar is becoming a blight on the world of animation. Yes, they do some really great work (The Incredibles, Ratatouille), but they’ve also done some clunkers (Cars, Wall-E). Their greatest sin, though, is that they apparently radiate a variation of the Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field, so that any other animated film – especially if done with CG – is automatically judged inferior.
There is some justification to this, but you don’t see every live action film being compared to, say, the films of Ingmar Bergman (well, except by brooding people wearing dark glasses sitting in dim coffee shops smoking clove cigarettes discussing cinema, damn you). In the traditional film world, it’s accepted that different artists turn out different products. In the animated world, everyone is supposed to match or surpass Pixar, or so it seems.
Needless to say, that’s just a crock.
Monsters vs Aliens is to your typical Pixar production as Spielberg is to Scorsese. And I have to stress “typical” because MVA exceeds several Pixar films that I can think of, just as Spielberg’s Jaws or Raiders of the Lost Ark clobber, oh, Kundun or The Departed. And if you don’t think those films should be compared to each other, then you get my point about comparing all animated films to Pixar, thank you very much.
This is the first modern 3-D film I’ve seen. I was impressed. Initially the glasses were a little disturbing, but within minutes of the film beginning I forgot about the glasses and enjoyed the effect. With few exceptions, MVA avoids all the old-school gags of having something thrown out at the audience. Instead, it was content with letting us view a world of depth, in addition to traditional height and width.
As to MVA itself, I liked it. It’s a light-hearted romp through the simple concept of doing a mash-up of B-movie monsters. We have Ginormica (The Fifty Foot Woman), The Missing Link (The Creature), Dr. Cockaroach (The Fly), Insectasaurus (Mothra), and B.O.B. (The Blob). It’s not quite as awesome as a film with those actual creatures might have been, but blame copyright for the near-miss. The film is light on its feet, a little light in the head, and just a light confection of enjoyment. I laughed out loud and had a good time.
What’s to complain about? Well, it could have been a little smarter, some of the humor gets repetitious, and the villain is just this side of “meh.” The film comes dangerously close to grinding to a halt when the villain’s on-screen. Indeed, once his giant robot is defeated, he doesn’t seem quite so threatening. And yet, somehow, he still must be. This is where the writing gets weak. They came up with this absolutely awesome alien probe that you see in the trailers, and then couldn’t come up with any sort of follow-up that could match it.
Oh well, there’s still B.O.B., who for obvious reason is My Hero. He’s an indestructible gelatinous mass that has no brain (“Turns out, you don’t need one!”). He’s a trifle on-note and I don’t care. He kept me entertained and made me laugh. I especially loved how he handled aliens, and appreciate his love for a good Jello mold.
I was surprised by General W.R. Monger. At first glance, such a character – on name alone – could give offense. But in reality, he turns out to be a man of principle and honor. He is the monsters’ jailer. He promises them freedom in exchange for defeating the enormous alien robot probe. When they succeed, he lives up to his word and releases them. Further, at the climatic battle he comes to the rescue, just in the nick of time. In the end, far from being an insult to the men and women of the military, he’s a shining example of what they truly are. I was amazed.
So MVA wins me over on good will and heart. Loved the 3-D (even if I don’t get what the big deal is), loved the animation (the battle on the Golden Gate Bridge is a stand-out), loved most of the characters (thank you, General Monger, and long live B.O.B.!).
See it, enjoy it, and forget the endless comparisons to Pixar. If people continue to compare everyone’s animation to Pixar, I’m going to be forced to compare their work to Satoshi Kon’s, and in that fight they have already lost.