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Article – Godzilla & The Problem with American Monster Movies


Posted May 24, 2014 by

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Godzilla & The Problem with American Monster Movies

When you think of the classic giant monster movies, undoubtedly Godzilla is first on the list. Created as a symbol of the horror of nuclear weapons in post WWII Japan, Godzilla quickly became an iconic creature. Sometimes villain and sometimes hero, the King of the Monsters had many adventures on the silver screen as he became ever popular with a worldwide audience. With the announcement of a new Godzilla film, many individuals found themselves flashing back to the first American attempt at a Godzilla film, the 1999 film Godzilla. To most, this flashback produces an understandable shriek of horror. “No!!”, they scream. “Not again!!” But while Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla blows its American predecessor out of the water with atomic breath, it left me with many questions. The foremost being, “Why are Americans so prudent with their giant monster films?”

Obviously with a franchise like Godzilla, the audience walks into the theatre with certain expectations. Giant monsters and destruction are among those and Godzilla delivers those. However, it also attempts to wrap this battle of titans into a story revolving around Aaron Taylor- Johnson’s character Ford Brody. While this is not a bad thing in and of itself, a balance must be reached. Much of the time, I found myself wondering when the giant monsters would be fighting. They do a fair amount of travelling. The people do a fair amount of talking. But the film seems content to simply tease the audience with what you could be watching rather than giving it to you. Granted, one shouldn’t expect two full hours of monster mortal kombat, but with a storied creature like Godzilla you anticipate a throw down of epic proportions. Eventually, you are rewarded for your patience with the Brody family’s adventures throughout the ordeal. And when Godzilla finally does let fly with the atomic breath, it is insanely gratifying. But it feels as though the movie drags its feet to get to that point, instead assuming that the audience is on the edge of their seat with curiosity about how the humans are going to solve their giant monster dilemma. That being said, it does offer a decent amount of entertainment eventually and many of the moments leading up to the reveal of the creatures, Godzilla included, are pretty intense.

Now, with all of that said about the current Godzilla film, I offer this question: “what’s with American monster movies?” I mentioned their prudish behaviour and I say that in relation to their use of the monster. Two cases come to mind when reflecting on this issue. Cloverfield and yes, Godzilla. Some of you may be saying to yourselves, “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you dare bash Cloverfield.”. And that’s alright. I deeply apologize to those individuals for what I am about to say. There were not enough monsters. I feel the need to reiterate what makes a giant monster movie work so well: GIANT. MONSTERS. Withholding that from the audience is just a slap in the face to those who paid to watch what the movie was supposed to offer.

Granted, Cloverfield attempted a “found footage” approach, which meant that you probably wouldn’t see the monster. But if that’s the case, what is the point of having it at all? Because you want the audience to empathize with the character in how scary their situation would be? Please. I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t go to monster movies to watch the humans. The same can be said of Godzilla. While it definitely delivers more than Cloverfield and has some very exciting moments for the audience to cheer Godzilla on in his battle, I would keep circling back to that same curiosity of why American made monster films decide to tease the audience with the creatures. In the 1950’s, Americans were all about giant creatures born out of nuclear accidents and the movies were blatantly starring things like giant ants or giant spiders. Why, all of a sudden, is it such a taboo thing to show the audience a giant monster? Maybe it’s just that expensive, but I’ll take a rubber suit again if it means I get to see monsters throwing each other through buildings.


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Jimmy Janda
Freelance Contributor



    Nice article. I would just add that most Godzilla films follow the same pattern. Teasing and a final payoff. In this case I think it was the audience who had the wrong expectations. That being sad, the “human story” was badly written and it almost completely ruined the film

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