Gareth Edwards’ Monsters was a runaway hit and success story, so it was inevitable that a sequel would be made. and, in typical Hollywood fashion, it was bigger, faster, more intense… but who would undertake such a task? Enter television director Tom Green.
We caught up with Tom and spoke to him about the movie, plans for more and undertaking such a big task.
FTN: Tom, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. This was your first time directing a project of this scale. How did this experience differ from your prior TV work?
TG: I think it’s a completely different experience, really, Misfits was an amazing experience, I was only six weeks out of film school when I did that and it was amazing to be thrown into the deep end in such a way and be able to put a cast together and learn on the job.
This was a completely different challenge, trying to make a film in the deserts of the middle east so I think the action, scale and amount of that a feature film takes is a real marathon. TV is much quicker; you have five to six months, while this ended up being nearly three years from the time you come on, through the development, shooting and release. It’s a different process, one I found exhilarating and a rewarding experience in terms of film-making. The misconception about this film is that it’s a big budget, its not, it’s a tiny budget film, the same that Gareth (Edwards) made (with the first movie). We just tried to make the film look huge in scale and like it cost a lot of money. I had a lot more resources on it.
“The misconception about this film is that it’s a big budget, its not, it’s a tiny budget film… we just tried to make the film look huge in scale and like it cost a lot of money.”
FTN: How did you feel working on a sequel to a movie which you had no involvement with the first time around?
TG: Well, it’s only sort of a sequel, the producer said to me ‘Would you like to do something similar to Gareth? We’ve got a small amount of money, we’ve got to do it quickly and shoot it quickly’ and I thought long and hard about whether I could make a movie which used the creatures metaphorically the way Gareth had and I thought I could.
Gareth had no role with the creative development of the film and we had just talked briefly before. So I said to the producer, who felt the same way, that we want to make a standalone film which was a sequel in terms of the film-making principles and the ethos of what you can do. That’s what our little low-fi franchise stands for, it’s saying to young film-makers to take a small amount of money and make an ambitious film with a lot of imagination and be innovative. Make a movie which hasn’t been seen in the British film industry. Narratively and story wise and aesthetically it’s very much a standalone film.
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FTN: As you were saying, this looks to be a much bigger movie than the first one with more action. What led you to make such a different style of movie but still set in the same world as the first film?
TG: The producers said to me that it’s got to have some monsters in it and to fit more squarely in the genre, so we had a couple of ideas and it felt like a natural place for it to continue and something I was interested in making. I know it’s a war sci-fi movie but I didn’t expect to make a War feature. I was interested in making a film in the middle east, I thought that was very relevant and a natural place to pick up where Gareth’s film had ended.
The trailer is maybe misleading, there’s a misconception that its an all out shoot-em-up action movie but it was never designed to be that. I was always trying to make a more experimental film that was about human psychology and trying to put great moments of action sequences on the screen but budget wise we cant always have huge creature sequences it’s always from the perspective of the characters and ultimately that’s what these films are.
Gareth’s movie was a human story, mine was a very much human story too, it needed to have its own identity and personality. I think if you’re making a war movie, you naturally have more kinetic and aggressive elements because that’s the world you’re dealing with.
“Gareth’s movie was a human story, mine was a very much human story too, it needed to have its own identity and personality. I think if you’re making a war movie, you naturally have more kinetic and aggressive elements because that’s the world you’re dealing with.
FTN: The movie has a much more military focused approach, why was it important for you to explore the themes of modern warfare with the alien invasion as a backdrop?
TG: I think it’s something that seems to permeate our culture continuously at the moment and perhaps it was a subconscious thing but we grew up watching the Gulf war and that sort of thing so it’s still a very current and relevant thing to explore. I’ve always been interested in war films and the psychology of people in war and the post-traumatic stress of that. I was interested in exploring a character that was suffering from that in the situation and it just felt like a relevant film to make. I don’t think we could have made a historical film with creatures. We could have, but I didn’t think that was the right thing to do.
In terms of all sci-fi, all the films made in their generation are often exploring something that’s relevant at that point in time and even if you look at Dawn of the Dead, it explores consumerism and HIV and things like that. I think whatever is the most prevalent political issue at the time often makes its way into science fiction, it’s a way of looking at something that’s relatable but nudging it five minutes into the future so I thought that was original and interesting to make a documentary style film about modern warfare and have a creature element within that as I hadn’t seen that before. All of the creature sequences come from truth. I worked undercover in Afghanistan so I worked very closely and carefully to keep it authentic.
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FTN: You really get a sense of hopelessness throughout the film, was this done to subvert the usual action horror cliché of the underdogs winning against impossible odds?
TG: I didn’t set out to make a political film but it challenges every element of warfare I don’t think it’s a gung-ho, pro western foreign policy movie. I think it paints a very bleak view of warfare and the hopelessness of that. That came from interviews with people from refugees to actual troops, which helped me create this sense of hopelessness. But within that there are moments of great humanity and an abstract sort of beauty if you will.
“I think it paints a very bleak view of warfare and the hopelessness of that… but within that there are moments of great humanity and an abstract sort of beauty if you will.”
FTN: Have there been any talks regarding a third movie in the Monsters series? If so would you like to return to direct?
TG: I haven’t spoken about that. For me, I hope there is another, in a way it should be a young film-maker who represents what Gareth and I did who makes the next one. Take it and make a hugely ambitious film and go and explore that. It’s not about how you make it financially, it’s about someone coming in with that drive and tenacity to create something new.
FTN: Gareth went on to direct Godzilla and he’s now working on Star Wars. Is this a path you wish to follow?
TG: The comparison between Gareth Edwards and I isn’t really relevant, I think what’s happened to Gareth is extraordinary; going from a film with a tiny budget to a huge franchise and I’ve always wanted to work on a studio picture at some point and I hope to go on to do that. I think my path will be different but great opportunities will come from the film… but I hope it will emulate Gareth’s path in some way.
FTN: What future projects do you have coming up and where can people go to keep up to date with all of your latest news and announcements?
TG: I’ve got some things in development and I’ve been over to America for some exciting opportunities, nothing I can talk about today but hopefully very soon. I don’t use any social media I’m afraid! I just never engage with it! I have no Twitter, no Facebook, no Instagram, no website – I think I’m a freak!
FTN: Tom, thanks for taking the time and we look forward to seeing your future work.
(Scroll down for your chance to win a copy of the movie on Blu-ray)
We have 3 copies of the Monsters: Dark Continent on Blu-ray to give away to three of our lucky readers…
If you fancy a chance of winning a copy simply answer the following question:
Monsters: Dark Continent is a sequel to Monsters… but who directed the original movie?
Think you know the answer? Then send us your answer, along with your name, address and date of birth.
The competition is open to residents of the UK aged 15 and over.
All judges’ decisions are final, no cash alternative is possible. Normal T&Cs apply.
Competition closes at midnight on August 31st, 2015.
MONSTERS: DARK CONTINENT is available on DVD, Blu-ray & Steelbook on 31st August