Monsters vs. Aliens

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Monsters vs. Aliens
A woman standing tall with three monsters in front of her and a cityscape behind her.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Rob Letterman
  • Conrad Vernon
Produced byLisa Stewart
Starring
Edited by
  • Joyce Arrastia
  • Eric Dapkewicz
Music byHenry Jackman
Production
company
Distributed byParamount Pictures[2][1]
DreamWorks Animation[1]
Release date
  • March 27, 2009 (2009-03-27) (United States)
Running time
94 minutes[3]
CountryUnited States[1]
LanguageEnglish
Budget$175 million[4]
Box office$381.7 million[4]

Monsters vs. Aliens is a 2009 American animated science fiction action comedy drama film produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by Paramount Pictures.[5] The film was directed by Conrad Vernon and Rob Letterman from a screenplay written by Letterman, Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky, and the writing team of Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger based on a story by Vernon and Letterman. Featuring the voices of Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, Kiefer Sutherland, Rainn Wilson, Paul Rudd, and Stephen Colbert, the film involves a group of misfit monsters hired by the United States Armed Forces to stop the invasion of an extraterrestrial villain and save the world in exchange for freedom.

It was DreamWorks Animation's first feature film to be directly produced in a stereoscopic 3D format instead of being converted into 3D after completion, which added $15 million to the film's budget.[6]

Originally slated for release on May 15, 2009, Monsters vs. Aliens was released on March 27, 2009 in the United States in 2D, RealD 3D, IMAX 3D, and 4DX.[7] The film received generally positive reviews from critics and grossed $381 million worldwide on a $175 million budget. The film was the start to the Monsters vs. Aliens franchise, and was followed by two television specials, Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space and Night of the Living Carrots, and a Nickelodeon television series in 2013, that all take place after the film.

Plot[edit]

In Modesto, California, Susan Murphy is going to be married to weatherman Derek Dietl. Just before the ceremony, a meteorite from a destroyed planet strikes her and its radiation is absorbed into her body. Though she initially appears unharmed, during the ceremony, the energy causes Susan's hair to turn white, and turn her into a 50 foot-tall giantess, accidentally destroying the church in the process. Soon, a U.S. military detachment tranquilizes and captures her. Susan awakens in a top-secret government facility that houses monsters, where she meets General W.R. Monger, the Army officer in charge of the facility and her fellow monster inmates: Dr. Herbert Cockroach Ph.D., a scientist who became half-human, half-cockroach after an experiment gone wrong; B.O.B. (Benzoate Ostylezene Bicarbonate), a brainless and living indestructible mass of blue goo that is a result of a food flavoring mutation; the Missing Link, a prehistoric 20,000-year-old fish-ape hybrid who was thawed from deep ice by scientists; and Insectosaurus, a massive bug mutated by nuclear radiation standing 350 feet in height that attacked Tokyo, Japan. Susan is renamed “Ginormica" by the government and is forbidden any contact with her friends and family.

Meanwhile, on a mysterious spaceship, a squid-like extraterrestrial overlord named Gallaxhar is alerted to the presence of a powerful substance known as "quantonium", and sends a gigantic robotic probe to retrieve it. The probe lands on Earth, where the President of the United States attempts to make first contact with it by playing "Axel F" on a keyboard, but the probe goes on a destructive attack, heading straight for San Francisco, despite unsuccessful attempts by the U.S. Armed Forces to destroy it. Monger convinces the President to grant the monsters their freedom if they can stop the probe. In San Francisco, the robot detects the quantonium within Ginormica's body and targets her. At the Golden Gate Bridge, the monsters manage to destroy the giant robot by using parts of the bridge itself; ergo, the government honours their deal with the monsters and sets them free.

Gallaxhar sets a course for Earth to obtain the quantonium himself while the now-free Ginormica returns home with her new friends and reunites with her family. However, the odds of being shunned catch up with all of them as her companions are alienated at a party due to their blatant inexperience with the real world; and Derek is no different from Ginormica's family. The former coldly breaks off his engagement with the latter, admitting that he wouldn't want someone who would literally overshadow him and his career, and he doesn't even bother to help Ginormica. Although heartbroken at the last-minute revelation, Ginormica soon realizes that her life was better as a monster and she swears to the other monsters to never underestimate herself again. Suddenly, Ginormica is pulled into Gallaxhar's ship by a tractor beam. Insectosaurus tries to save her, but is shot down by the ship and seemingly killed.

Onboard the ship, Ginormica furiously breaks free from her prison cell and chases down Gallaxhar, only to be trapped by a machine that extracts the quantonium from her body, shrinking her back to her original size. Gallaxhar then uses the extracted quantonium to create clones of himself in order to launch a full-scale invasion of Earth. Monger manages to get B.O.B, Link, and Dr. Cockroach on board the ship, where they rescue Ginormica and make their way to the main power core where Dr. Cockroach sets the ship to self-destruct to prevent the invasion. Ginormica personally confronts Gallaxhar on the bridge. With time running out, she sends the ball of stored quantonium down on herself, restoring her monstrous size and strength. After rescuing her friends, they flee the ship and are rescued by Monger and Insectosaurus, who was actually metamorphosing into a giant butterfly the whole time. The ship then self-destructs, killing Gallaxhar and his army.

Returning to Modesto, Ginormica, B.O.B, Dr. Cockroach, Link, and Butterflyosaurus receive a hero's welcome. Derek suddenly appears from the crowd and hoping to take advantage of Ginormica's fame for his own career, tries to get back together with her and gain an interview, but she rejects and also humiliates him live on camera in retaliation for leaving her. Monger then arrives to inform the monsters that a monstrous snail named "Escargantua" is slowly making its way to Paris, France after falling into a nuclear reactor, resulting in the heroes taking off to confront the new menace.

Voice cast[edit]

Reese Witherspoon at the British premiere of the film.[8]
  • Reese Witherspoon as Susan Murphy / Ginormica, a woman from Modesto, California who is hit by a radioactive quantonium meteorite on her wedding day, causing her to change drastically and grow to a height of 50 feet 11.5 inches (15.532 m) and into a giantess. Her exposure to quantonium also makes her hair color change from brown to white and gives her super-strength and physical-imperviousness.
  • Seth Rogen as B.O.B. (Benzoate Ostylezene Bicarbonate), an indestructible gelatinous mass created when a tomato was injected with a genetically-modified ranch-flavored dessert topping. He can devour and digest almost any substance. Despite having consciousness, he literally and figuratively lacks a brain and is thus the comic relief.
  • Hugh Laurie as Dr. Herbert Cockroach Ph.D., a brilliant scientist who attempted to imbue himself with the resilience and abilities of a cockroach, with the side effect of his head becoming that of a human-sized cockroach.
  • Will Arnett as The Missing Link (usually referred to as "Link"), a 20,000-year-old fish-ape humanoid who was found frozen and thawed out by scientists, only to escape and wreak havoc at his old lagoon habitat of Cocoa Beach, Florida.
  • Rainn Wilson as Gallaxhar, an evil alien overlord intent on collecting quantonium – the substance that transformed Susan into Ginormica – to give his cloning machine enough power to generate an army of clones of himself to conquer Earth. He is served by gigantic robotic probes. He claims to have suffered several traumas in his youth (which are left mostly unintelligible to the viewer, due to him telling Ginormica his story while being repeatedly photocopied to create his clones), driving him to destroy his own homeworld, and plans to make a new one on Earth.
  • Amy Poehler as Gallaxhar's computer.
  • Kiefer Sutherland as General W. R. Monger, a military leader who runs a top-secret facility where monsters are kept, it is his plan to fight the invading aliens with the imprisoned monsters in exchange for their freedom. In a scene during the credits, he claims to be 90 years old, in spite of his youthful appearance.
  • Stephen Colbert as President Hathaway, the impulsive and rather dimwitted president of the United States. Not wanting to be remembered as "the President in office when the world came to an end", he agrees with General Monger's "Monsters vs. Aliens" plan when the U.S. Military is unable to defeat the robot probe sent by Gallaxhar.
  • Paul Rudd as Derek Dietl, a megalomaniac local weatherman and Susan's supposed fiancé. He jumps at whatever opportunity he has to boost his career, which causes him to place his job and himself before his relationship with Susan, canceling their plans to have a romantic honeymoon in Paris to land an anchorman job in Fresno, California and eventually ending their engagement.
  • Jeffrey Tambor as Carl Murphy, Susan's overemotional father.
  • Julie White as Wendy Murphy, Susan's loving mother.
  • Renée Zellweger as Katie, a woman whose date with her boyfriend Cuthbert is interrupted by the landing of Gallaxhar's robot.
  • John Krasinski as Cuthbert, Katie's boyfriend.
  • Ed Helms as News Reporter

Production[edit]

The film started as an adaptation of a horror comic book, Rex Havoc,[11] in which a monster hunter Rex and his team of experts called "Ass-Kickers of the Fantastic" fight against ghouls, ghosts and other creatures.[12] The earliest development goes back to 2002, when DreamWorks first filed for a Rex Havoc trademark.[13] In a plot synopsis revealed in 2005, Rex was to assemble a team of monsters, including Ick!, Dr. Cockroach, the 50,000 Pound Woman and Insectosaurus, to fight aliens for disrupting cable TV service.[11] In the following years, the film's story diverged away from the original Rex Havoc, with directors Conrad Vernon and Rob Letterman finally creating the storyline from scratch.[14]

Production designer David James stated that the film is "a return to what made us nerds in the first place," getting classic movie monsters and relaunching them in a contemporary setting. Director Conrad Vernon added that he found it would be a great idea to take hideous monsters and give them personalities and satirize the archetypes.[15] Each of the five monsters has traits traceable to sci-fi/horror B movies from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, although none is a mere copy of an older character.[16] Susan, who grows to be 49 feet 11 inches tall into Ginormica, was inspired by Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. Dr. Cockroach represents The Fly and The Curse of Frankenstein, while B.O.B. is an amalgam of slithering and slimy characters that were featured in the films, including The Blob and The Crawling Eye. Insectosaurus, a 350-foot-tall monster, is a nod to the 1961 Kaiju film Mothra. According to Vernon, the Missing Link has no direct inspiration. He "just represents anything prehistoric that comes back to life and terrorizes people."[16] For the San Francisco sequence, the producers researched many films and photographs for an accurate depiction of the city, and filmed animator Line Andersen, who had a similar body type to Ginormica—tall, thin, and athletic-looking—walking alongside a scale model of San Francisco, to capture better how a person not comfortable with being too big with an environment would walk around it.[15]

Ed Leonard, CTO of DreamWorks Animation, says it took approximately 45.6 million computing hours to make Monsters vs. Aliens, more than eight times as many as the original Shrek. Several hundred Hewlett-Packard xw8600 workstations were used, along with a 'render farm' of HP ProLiant blade servers with over 9,000 server processor cores, to process the animation sequence. Animators used 120 terabytes of data to complete the film. They used 6 TB for an explosion scene.[17]

Starting with Monsters vs. Aliens, all feature films released by DreamWorks Animation were produced in a stereoscopic 3D format, using Intel's InTru3D technology.[18] 2D, RealD 3D, IMAX 3D, and 4DX versions were released.

Release[edit]

Marketing[edit]

To promote the 3D technology that is used in Monsters vs. Aliens, DreamWorks ran a 3D trailer before halftime in the U.S. broadcast of Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009. Due to the limitations of television technology at the time, ColorCode 3-D glasses were distributed at SoBe stands at major national grocers. The Monsters, except Ginormica and Insectosaurus, also appeared in a 3D SoBe commercial airing after the trailer. Bank of America gave away vouchers that covered the cost of an upgrade to a 3D theatrical viewing of the film for its customers.[19]

Home media[edit]

Monsters vs. Aliens was released to DVD and Blu-ray in the United States and Canada on September 29, 2009 and on October 26, 2009, in the United Kingdom. The home release for both the DVD and Blu-ray format only contain the 2D version of the movie. However, the release is packaged with a new short, B.O.B.'s Big Break, which is in the anaglyphic 3D format that requires red and cyan glasses.[20] Also included are four pairs of 3D glasses.[20] On January 6, 2010, it was announced that a 3D version would be released on Blu-ray.[21] On February 24, a tentative March release date was set for the United Kingdom, where anyone who buys a Samsung 3D TV or 3D Blu-ray player will get a copy.[22] On March 8, it was reported that the 3D Blu-ray would be released in the United States, also with Samsung 3D products, on March 21.[23] As of February 2011, 9.0 million home entertainment units were sold worldwide.[24] In July 2014, the film's distribution rights were purchased by DreamWorks Animation from Paramount Pictures and transferred to 20th Century Fox; the rights are now owned by Universal Pictures following its parent company NBCUniversal's acquisition of DreamWorks Animation in 2016, and the expiration of their distribution deal with 20th Century Fox in 2017.[25]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

On its opening weekend, the film opened at number 1, grossing $59.3 million in 4,104 theaters.[26] Of that total, the film grossed an estimated $5.2 million in IMAX 3D theatres, becoming the fifth-highest-grossing IMAX 3D debut, behind Star Trek, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Dark Knight, and Watchmen.[27] The film grossed $198.4 million in the United States and Canada, making it the second-highest-grossing animated movie of the year in these regions behind Up. Worldwide, it is the third highest-grossing animated film of 2009 with a total of $381.7 million behind Up and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. It was the highest-grossing film worldwide in Witherspoon's career until Sing overtook it in 2017.[28]

Critical response[edit]

Based on 217 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, Monsters vs. Aliens has an overall approval rating from critics of 73% and an average score of 6.5/10. The critical consensus reads: "Though it doesn't approach the depth of the best animated films, Monsters vs. Aliens has enough humor and special effects to entertain moviegoers of all ages."[29] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating from mainstream critics, the film has received a score of 56 out of 100 based on 35 reviews, which indicates "mixed or average reviews".[30] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an A− grade, on an A+ to F scale.[31]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two and a half stars out of four, writing, "I suppose kids will like this movie", though he "didn't find [it] rich with humor".[32] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote that "WALL-E had more charm, more soul, more everything. But there's enough merry mischief here to satisfy, even if you're way past puberty."[33]

Accolades[edit]

In 2009, the film was nominated for four Annie Awards, including Voice Acting in a Feature Production for Hugh Laurie.[34] Reese Witherspoon and Seth Rogen were both nominated for best voice actor and actress at the 2010 Kids' Choice Awards for voicing Ginormica and B.O.B,[35] but lost to Jim Carrey for Disney's A Christmas Carol.[36] Monsters vs. Aliens was also nominated for Best Animated film but lost to Pixar's Up.[36] On June 24, 2009, the film won the Saturn Award for Best Animated Film.[37]

Awards
Award Category Name Result
Annie Awards[38] Annie Award for Best Animated Effects in an Animated Production Scott Cegielski Nominated
Annie Award for Best Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production Tom Owens Won
Annie Award for Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production Hugh Laurie Nominated
Kids' Choice Awards[35] Favorite Voice from an Animated Movie Seth Rogen Nominated
Reese Witherspoon Nominated
Favorite Animated Movie Rob Letterman
Conrad Vernon
Nominated
Saturn Awards[37] Saturn Award for Best Animated Film Rob Letterman
Conrad Vernon
Won
Visual Effects Society[39] Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Terran Boylan
David Burgess
Scott Cegielski
David Weatherly
Nominated
Outstanding Effects Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture David P. Allen
Amaury Aubel
Scott Cegielski
Alain De Hoe
Nominated

Expanded franchise[edit]

Future[edit]

Despite its success in the United States market, DreamWorks Animation's CEO, Jeffrey Katzenberg was quoted in the Los Angeles Times that a sequel would not be made because of the film's weak performance in some key international markets.[40] "There was enough of a consensus from our distribution and marketing folks in certain parts of the world that 'doing a sequel' would be pushing a boulder up a hill." After the release of Megamind, Katzenberg commented about Shark Tale, Monsters vs. Aliens, and Megamind: "All shared an approach and tone and idea of parody, and did not travel well internationally. We don't have anything like that coming on our schedule now."

Television series and specials[edit]

The film was followed by two television specials titled Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space and Night of the Living Carrots, respectively, then a television series which started airing on Nickelodeon on March 23, 2013, and was cancelled after one season due to low ratings and the network's desire to refocus on making the more "Nickish" shows.[41]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]