Cards on the table: it’s an Asylum production, and is both directed and written by Mark Atkins, who brought us Sand Sharks, Planet Of The Sharks, 6 Headed Shark Attack, and Knight Of The Dead, just to lay off the sharks (poor things).
The UK DVD cover art is actually decent, and promises a mindless monster melee between giant squid, werewolf thingies, reptilian monstrousities and one that seems like an Orga rip-off… I love these covers, i do, but often than not they end up being better than the movies themselves, when we talk mockbuster and D-movies powerhouses as Asylum, and like the bottom feeders they are, this time they released Monster Island to steal the breadcrumbs of Godzilla II: King Of The Monsters, which came out on the 30th of May 2019 in US theathers, and this one on the 1st of June, 2 days later.
Which isn’t particularly of note, since even in this regard Roger Corman did it “better”, actually rushing out its knock-off of Jurassic Park (the first Carnosaur) just so it could be released in theathers BEFORE the movie it’s knocking off. Gotta hack fast. But you probably already know this tidbit, so let’s move on, and discuss the plot, or the closest approximation we can fish out of it..
And like you could imagine, the plot is nothing like Godzilla II: it’s about a mining company that inadvertly discovers an octopus-starfish monster while searching for materials in the seabeds, and has to stop it’s advance to the shore (and its nearby volcano) by calling upon another monster, with the help of a retired professor specialized in old myths and legends, who may know where this “kaiju killer” may be.
Yeah, they use the term “kaiju” (a lot), but just because Pacific Rim did it first, i thought because of Toshi Toda (and i was fully expecting them to rip-off the lighter scene from Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla), but he isn’t the monster expert, he’s just a navy lieutenant or something, delivers his few lines with a thick japanese accent, and i don’t think it’s played for laughs. I feel it’s intended to be humorous, but it’s just embarassing, you would never guess why he’s topbilled alongside Eric Roberts by watching this performance. Either way, here he sounds like he has the same grasp on spoken english as Tak Fuji did in that infamous E3 2011 Konami conference.
It’s not the only one with comedic or silly accents, like the ship captain, who i thinks it’s supposed to be russo-japanese (despite being played by Jonathan Pieenar)? I dunno, but of course it isn’t an Asylum movie without a celebrity actor past its prime, so we have the aforementioned Eric Roberts as a navy captain, and he’s easily the best actor in the movie, despite clearly doing it because he has already signed.
Even odder than Eric Roberts’ career not ending with this, is the rest of the cast actually trying with this script, good intentions that sadly translate to kinda laughable dramatic moments of overacting, and some performances that are better than expected.
Getting back to the plot, yeah, it’s more like Pacific Rim than Godzilla (whatever version you want), which is even more desperate because The Asylum already mockbustered Del Toro’s film with Atlantic Rim back in 2013. But then again many plot points are so typical they can be traced back years, like them having a summon another monster to fight the one attacking like Godzilla VS King Ghidorah, and other movies made decades earlier but still better put together than this one.
It’s an odd conondrum, because despite there being more effort than usual for an Asylum production, i kinda liked it better when they didn’t try hard as much and achieved more, like in Sharkenado. Here yes, they try harder than expected, but they still don’t try hard enough to make it work as the marketing implies, and it compromises, with a more serious tone, less filler scenes that exist just to have boobs and bikini, but still having a character who earned a degree in “geomythology”, just there to provide exposition on some ancient lore talking about a starfish-octopus that has magma for blood and an one-eyed living mountain monster. As you do.
At the very least, you don’t have to wait 40 minutes to even see a shadow of the monsters, the narrative moves at a reasonable pace, there are no plot holes or bullshit that is brought up and never explained, and it’s actually watchable without wishing for the sun to finally die and take us with it. Unless you just watch these for the monster action, and somehow find yourself shocked that an Asylum produced film about monsters has very little screentime for them until the ending. This is no exception, but i agree, it’s a tease to have the monsters fight at the very end, and it being over in a quick (VERY quick), anti-climactic finale.
You do have the starfish-magma octopus shoot eggs that hatch into dragon-pterodactyls with an insect-like head (random, but passable), and those are a bit fun, but they are short lived as well. Sadly the Orga rip-off, werewolf and lizardmen/crocodile monsters pictured on the cover are NOT in the movie, but i knew, i just knew that was too good to be true. Especially with the usual budget and the CG that looks borrowed from early PS2 era cutscenes, not the low,low budget PS2 game CG you expect from an Asylum affair, but still cheap, very cheap.
To conclude, it’s not as bad as you think it’s gonna be, but that actually might come as a disappointment, if you wanted a so bad it’s good experience from the exploitation masters, this isn’t exactly Sharkenado. I mean, it’s a mockbuster of Godzilla II: King Of The Monsters, so of course the plot takes many detours in order to avoid surface level accusations of leeching from a more popular movie that just came out, and ultimately feels more they scraped ideas from Pacific Rim, changing enough to not accidentally rip-off their own Pacific Rim mockbuster they did in 2013.
The acting is mostly decent, the script doesn’t have glaring plot holes or endless filler scenes, the narrative isn’t as slow as molasses, and they clearly tried harder than their usual fair. But still, not hard enough to actually make it better, disguise more effectively the cheap as hell sets, have better CG than PS2 era games, or bother to have more than 2-3 minutes (total) of monster action, with an extremely brief struggle between the giant monsters at the very end that is cut short by an anticlimactic finale.
It’s not good by any extent of the imagination, it’s dumb and not particularly fun, but especially given the usual flaws found in Asylum productions (somehow amplified by the fact it’s trying harder than usual and being less silly), it’s not that bad, it’s not excruciantly horrible and senseless, it doesn’t makes you feel dumber or depressed after watching it. There are FAR worse wastes of 90 minutes, even in this realm of cheap CG monsters and juvenile enthusiastic fights between giant sushi stuffers or mutated garden dwellers, this is inoffensive. And sadly one of the better films from The Asylum.