Tuesday, May 22, 2018


Gareth Edwards’s 2010 road-movie Monsters recounts the story of an American journalist and an American tourist on their way to cross the border from Mexico to the United States. While the movie’s main theme focuses on the fictional alien invasion and its consequences in Mexico’s and the U.S. security, this is also a border movie in which it is questioned the ways in which “threats” are taken care of before they can cross the border; in other border movies those threats are drugs or violence (usually carried into American territory by immigrants), in this case, monsters (creatures that act independently from human mobility).

The movie starts with an introduction to the current situation: a NASA probe crashed in Mexican land bringing alien forms of life to at least 50% of the country. The United States government has named those areas the “infected zone” and to protect people from the alien infection everyone is requested to wear masks. To avoid the “infection” spread, the Mexican government has paired up with the United States to allow the guarding and bombing of the most dangerous areas. Under these circumstances, Andrew (US photojournalist) is in charge to take back Sam (tourist) to “safe land”, the United States. Throughout their trip to the coast where they will find ferries to take them back home, Sam, again and again, tells Andrew that what is been said about Mexico in the United States is not the reality, that things are much better. In support of Sam’s comments, Andrew recognizes that the media is indeed sensationalist since photos of violence, the alien creatures or dead people are more valuable than photos that show happiness. This leaves him with no other option than look for images that confirm the misconceptions of the sensationalist media. However, as the couple gets closer to their destination, the contrast between what is being portrayed in the media versus Mexico’s reality becomes even stronger.

Once in the coast, crossing the border represents a real problem. Even though Sam and Andrew are American citizens, they are treated in the same way as the Mexican migrants. Before departing, Sam And Andrew go to a night festival in which all people celebrate without any fear of the monsters, however, they do fear and protest against another kind of monsters. The consequences of military intervention in the small coastal village are death and instability. Walls with messages endorsing the military campaign to bombard infected areas have been crossed over and on top Mexican people has written “Que son los Mountros? NO BOMBING” (What are the monsters? No bombing). The indiscriminate bombing to destroy the creatures has also killed hundreds of people, many of them without identification, the unknown dead.

Sam and Andrew lose their passports and have no other option than crossing the border by feet, through the infected zone. After 6 years since the extra-terrestrials arrived in Mexico, the evacuated infected zone became a jungle. Vegetation is growing covering the abandoned buildings and there only sounds that can be heard are those of animals, the creatures, and American aircraft dropping chemical bombs. Thus, the masks are not to protect people from the aliens, but from the chemicals dropped in the zone. “When American planes come, the creatures like animals get mad and become very dangerous… if you don’t bother them they don’t bother you” says one of the people smugglers about the nature of the conflict arising the question of who the real monsters in the story are. These conversations along the road problematize the dichotomy of what is real and what is fantasy within the plot, or in other words, what is being shown in the news (all American news in English, there is no national news reporting the problems) and what Sam, Andrew and the rest of Mexico experience.

The plot recurrently questions the idea and feelings of separation created by the US-Mexico border wall. Though there is a physical wall dividing both countries, several aspects of their societies make them more similar than diverging. One of them, as I have described, is the media present in Mexico. Getting closer to the border all the news on television are American made. Another contradiction to the division of the two North American countries is language, at the beginning of the movie when the main characters are more distant to the border, the language divisions are more tangible. However, as the plot moves up to the border, most of the people in Mexico speak or at least understand English. The last critique is made to the idea of danger/security on each side of the border. Though the general point of view presented by the media is a Mexico full of mystery and danger, especially in the infected zone, people feel quite safe even within that zone (but when the American military is not present). Also, once Sam and Andrew cross the big wall, they think that they are no longer in danger, but at night again they can see two giant creatures, but since this is happening in a US area the media does not report it.

The sci-fi component of this production might turn out attention away from the other aspects of the plot to focus only on the mystery of a typical monster movie. Nevertheless, what this movie tells us about Mexico goes beyond the fictional story. The monsters are introduced to the plot of this movie to question the efforts of building a wall that keeps danger away from the United States. From the movie, we can see that neither the wall not the bombing could stop the entrance of "danger" to American territory, and parallelly, the infected zone and the wall could not stop people from crossing. Additionally, it is very clear the disagreement with the news that is reported in traditional media. Latin America then is more than mystery and violence, is more than the ratings sensationalist media look for.

Labels: , ,