Monday, December 14, 2009

Movie Review - Monsters Vs Aliens

I downloaded this off Foxtel the other day, and was quite disappointed with it. I knew Miss S had already seen it, she said she liked it, so I thought I'd watch it with her. After the first 20 minutes I really wanted to just switch it off, but was fascinated to see how worse it could actually get.

Here's the summary of what I saw.
One of the opening scenes has the bride being told by husband-to-be that he won't be taking her to Paris as promised, but they would be going to Fresno instead, because his job is more important. She reluctantly accepts this and I pick up on how her passivity hasn't even attempted to be disguised.

During her wedding ceremony she grows into a giant and nobody shows real concern for her. Everyone runs away including those who are supposed to love her, such as her fiance and her mother.

She is captured and taken to a facility where she is imprisoned. The head prison keeper arrives through a trapdoor on a personal flying contraption. She's trapped, upset, afraid, and confused. He laughs at her while he's circling around her head, making fun of her while she sobs. With full control over where he flies, he is free to come and go at will. She is curled up in the corner. So, I'm thinking, hmmm....woman=imprisoned, man=freedom of movement. We learn that the Government has captured her, that this is where she will live for the rest of her life and that she is a "monster". To confirm her monstrous status, although she actually looks picture-perfect-sexy, her prison companions are a giant insect, a slimy newt type creature, a wise-cracking man-come-cockroach and a ball of slime. I have trouble equating how a giant-sized sexy-looking young woman fits in with the other creatures. The connection eludes me.

However, an alien has come to take over Earth and our "monstrous" woman and her monster companions are freed with the job of getting rid of the alien. They are dumped in front of the large metallic alien. The giant woman has not been told of her mission, BTW, but she comes to the party and starts to fight the alien, but her companions do next to nothing. She has super strength, becomes angry, uses resources, is assertive, gives directions/orders to others and eventually saves some people. So, I'm thinking, right, the producers had to equate her to being monstrous before they could put strength into her character. I remembered how passive she was when she was a "normal" woman.

The President tries to seduce the alien with some music. His level of authority and power is demonstrated by how he brings with him hoardes of admirers - all men. The usual red carpet is put out and he is cheered on. In this scene the President actually fails at doing winning over the alien so he resorts to violence. He'd brought the army with him anyway, and they had all the right equipment to shoot and bomb the alien. Even though they do not succeed the scene is full of men all doing what men appear to do best in movies - shoot at things (or people), with the intent to kill.

Then there's the scenes where the President and all his advisers are in conference. In these scenes there are 2 women, one is used to make some sort of inane comment that is not given any credibility, and the other woman, continues to scream hysterically and is in fact, ordered out of the room, by the man in charge.

At this stage, about 45 mins into the movie, I'm intensely aware that all characters who have power are ALL men, and that the one woman who does display any sort of power has been aligned with, and portrayed as a monster. This type of thing is what fairytales are made up of. Men who use resources, show assertiveness, display anger and get upset are given positions of activity, movement and power, while any woman who does the same is aligned with evil and wickedness. In fairytales, and as with this movie, the one and only woman who has movement, and the power to save the earth, is told she is disgusting, unrecognisable and nobody wants to associate with her - even her family. Yeah, her fiance turned out to be a "stupid jerk". Something which our heroine recognises at the end of the movie. In the meantime, nobody seems to care about her at all. Her family has abandoned her and her mother and father show her minimal concern over her predicament.

At one stage, her giant-ness is removed from her and she once again becomes an ineffective, passive woman. But in order to save her fellow monsters, she voluntarily turns herself back into a "monster".

When the closing credits came up on the screen, I had an overwhelming feeling that the creators had not put much thought into the movie at all. The storyline was weak, and the stereotypes were strong. I was surprised to learn it was brought to us by those who made Shrek. Since Shrek challenges a number of stereotypes with creativity, I wonder what has changed in the Shrek team.

This type of movie, made for our kids, leaves me with no doubts that our children are inculcated with gender stereotypes and expectations from a young age.

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