From the perspective of a classic sci-fi fan, Monsters vs. Aliens nails it. From the opening Dreamworks logo which references Earth vs. the Flying Saucers to the Mothra-loaded finale, it’s obvious the group who worked on this animated feature studied the needed reference material.
The first half hour of MvsA is by far the highlight. The laughs are numerous, the story flows well as the audience is brought up to speed, and the incredible accuracy of the homages to classic sci-fi films is truly spectacular. The story, based on the concept that the government has been hiding monsters of the small and giant varieties from the public for over 50 years, works well. Luckily, they’re also available to stop an impending alien invasion from destroying us all after being released from their prison.
Unfortunately, even with the rather unique set-up, the film devolves into a series of action sequences that lack the charm or the fun the dialogue provides. It all feels very familiar in terms of animation, and a possible alternate take, one in which the monsters try to adjust to a normal life, had potential.
That said, the laughs never fully stop, and consistently keep coming. Seth Rogen plays a blob without a brain (B.O.B.), and as expected for CG movies these days, the goofy sidekick becomes the funniest part of the film. He salvages the third act thanks to the one-liners.
There’s also a logistical question as to why even inept government featured in this movie would send man-sized monsters to fight a giant alien robot in California. This sequence, despite delivering the best of the action sequences, leaves most of the characters with almost nothing to do other than sit on the sidelines. A subplot involving the Missing Link feeling depressed for failing to help seems dropped and forgotten by the end.
Overall, there’s nothing to stop Dreamwork’s latest from being thoroughly entertaining, although only a small portion of the potential audience will “get” everything crammed into Monsters vs. Aliens. Kids will be mildly entertained, while much will be beyond their growing film knowledge. It’s fun, looks great, and is the homage that ‘50s sci-fi fans deserve.
Dreamworks delivers an AVC encode that is up to the expectation. This is a colorful, bright, and all-around fantastic transfer. Detail is simply outstanding, from the superb facial detailing (with credit also going to the animation team), stitching on clothing, the reflections on B.O.B., to the individual hairs on Susan’s head, are all phenomenal.
Contrast and black levels are flawless. Color saturation is perfect, and sharpness never wavers. However, the latter comes at a small cost, that of regular ringing around objects. The minor edging is at its worst in the first half during the brightly lit outdoor segments, and is less of a problem in the darker third act. Most won’t notice the problem, typically contained to background objects such as plants or buildings.
Deep and powerful bass highlights this astounding TrueHD track from the opening credits. As the camera swerves around the galaxy, planets flying by resonate in the low end. Action scenes, dominated by massive robots, insects, and people, rock the room with powerful low-end jolts.
Likewise, the soundfield as a whole is put to use, consistently filling with debris, or moving objects. The Golden Gate Bridge destruction is an early highlight, later taken over by the finale inside the alien mother ship. Here machines slam into platforms to create more extraterrestrial clones, and a constant stream of activity brings the film to life in each channel. Surrounds are aggressive, and never let up.
There is something funny about the extras… they constantly refer to (or promote) the 3-D used in the film for its theatrical release, which is not available at home in any form. This is strictly a 2-D presentation. The only 3-D available is used on the short B.O.B.’s Big Break and a terrible Blu-ray game.
That makes nearly everything here somewhat pointless. A commentary from co-directors Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon along with producer Lisa Stewart is rudimentary. They admit to being tired, and gush about the chance to do the 3-D… which no one at home can see.
Two pop-up trivia tracks, one called the Animator’s Corner (which also discusses the 3-D) and a trivia track are available. Three deleted scenes are comprised of early sketches, while the featurette called The Tech of MvA is blatantly an advertisement for two computer companies… and 3-D.
A making-of called Modern Monster Movie-Making again dives into (what else?) the 3-D effects and how the team chose to utilize it, along with the usual cast rundown amongst other things. Karaoke and Dreamwork’s usual video jukebox, with clips from other animated features, remain.