Opening today is Monsters vs. Aliens, the latest digitally animated movie from Dreamworks. While you can see it in regular cinemas, Dreamworks is really hoping that people will flock to IMAX theaters to watch MvA in 3D. The movie was produced with the goal of riding the current 3D cinema wave in mind from the beginning.
In many previous “Made For 3D” efforts, this has resulted in a lot of gratuitous and self-conscious “Look Ma – Depth!” activity, with characters carefully moving to face the screen so they can throw an object or thrust a hand at the audience. Mercifully, there’s only one or two such incidents in MvA. For most of the movie, the 3D is in the service of the storytelling, not the other way around. In particular, the 3D is often used as way to easily establish scale—handy in a movie where giant alien robots square off against puny (and not so puny) Earthlings. The movie also has a lushness about its virtual sets, something which I think Dreamwork’s rival, Pixar, has had an edge on, at least until now.
The movie itself merrily rolls along, drawing energetic inspiration from the classic science fiction B-movies of the 1950’s. The lead character in MvA is Susan Murphy (voiced by Reese Witherspoon), a bride-to-be who is struck by a meteor on her wedding day and transformed in the 49 foot, 11 inch-tall Ginormica. She is rounded up and kept in a secret government facility along with fellow monsters, B.O.B. (a gelatious blob voiced by Seth Rogan), Dr. Cockroach (a mad scientist who hybridized himself with a cockroach, played by Hugh Laurie), The Missing Link (a Creature From the Black Lagoon type, voiced by Will Arnett), and Insectosaurus (a giant bug that makes Susan look tiny, but doesn’t really do much in the talking department.) Things perk up for the monster crew when the military finds itself powerless to stop a rampaging alien robot. There’s an off-the-rack message thing of “be true to yourself” in here with Susan’s character arc, but it’s never allowed to bog down the adventure or the humor, which has enough slapstick to keep small children happy, while being laden with enough sly movie references to keep adults engaged.