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Monster Movies: The State of the Genre

by Tom Herles

My first exposure to monster movies came from watching the 1964 film, “Mothra vs. Godzilla” as a child with my dad. The main thing I remember from that experience was my dad trying to convince me that it was actually filmed in color, but everything back then was black and white. Good one dad. But the monster movie that got me hooked on the sub-genre is the much-maligned “Godzilla” reboot directed by Roland Emmerich. I will still fight with anyone to this day about why that movie is good. If you bring it up you better have your debate points ready because I sure do. But beyond “Godzilla,” we’ve seen a slow but steady stream of monster movies being made in recent years. Here is a look at the current state of monster movies.

Pacific rim

Monsters vs. Robots

In a few short weeks, Guillermo Del Toro’s epic “Pacific Rim” will hit theaters. The story has monsters escaping from a different dimension through a portal in the Pacific Ocean. Determined to fight back, the humans build giant robots piloted by two humans to subdue the creatures. In terms of “Pacific Rim’s” contribution to monster lore, this is the film where humans do something more than scream and run away while our military is proven useless. Moviegoers are a fickle bunch so I don’t know how the film will do in terms of box-office receipts, but it is a highly anticipated film in my book.

JJ Abrams has shown his love for the big, mysterious creatures in recent years with 2011’s “Super 8,” which he directed, and 2008’s “Cloverfield,” which he produced. Both added unique twists to the typical monster stomps, we run formula. (SPOILER ALERT) “Super 8” turned out to be an alien, but it fits the bill. Told from the perspective of children, it’s like “ET” if ET was a giant scary alien. “Cloverfield,” which happens to be one of my favorite movies ever made, hits the streets with a group of twenty-somethings trying to survive a monster attacking New York. Presented in a first person format with a handheld camera, it’s (hopefully) the closest we’ll ever be to experiencing such events.

Godzilla2014

In 2005, Peter Jackson made a modern “King Kong” that did well at the box office and was acclaimed by critics. However its legacy is virtually non-existent because the movie is so freaking long. With a running time over three hours, there aren’t many who just throw it on to watch on a Friday night. So Kong has a remake less than a decade old, but Godzilla hasn’t been seen in a major US release for 15 years. Well we better remake that now. In 2014, “Godzilla” will return with Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olson attached to star. Director Gareth Edwards promises a “realistic” take, so color me intrigued. Looking through the cast list it looks like Hank Azaria won’t be in this one. What a bummer for us fans of the 90s film. A teaser trailer was played at comic-con last summer, but good luck finding it online.

So it would seem giant monster movies are alive and well. It’s a genre that doesn’t need two or three releases a year like some others are getting. We’re looking at you comic book movies! But with an occasional fresh take like “Cloverfield” or “Pacific Rim” combined with remakes of classics like “King Kong” and “Godzilla,” we get a nice reminder of what the world would be like if a modern day dinosaur/ big gorilla/ giant alien were to get all angry with humans.

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