I’m Excited About the Monsterverse, Even if I didn’t Start Out That Way
There is something about a giant monster movie that gets me so excited. When I hear there is a new giant monster movie, I have to see it in theaters. I get especially excited if that monster happens to be Godzilla. The Monsterverse has checked all of those boxes for me. I think this is because my mom exposed me to Godzilla at a very young age. Yes, you read that right — mom, not dad. See, she used to watch the old Godzilla movies in the morning every weekend. They played on one of her local channels. It was a family tradition to watch them with her younger brother and a bowl of cereal.
She loved them so deeply, she thought I should be exposed at a young age, too. My older sister did not take to them, but I became obsessed with suit-wearing men posing as monsters.
The first Godzilla movie I ever watched was Ghidorah, the
I think it’s part of why I have such an appreciation for Godzilla’s
When we went to the Blockbuster (I’m dating myself here), sometimes I wanted Disney, sometimes I wanted My Neighbor Totoro, but most of the time I wanted monster movies. I especially loved anything with Godzilla on the cover.
So imagine my excitement when Godzilla (1999) was coming out. I went to the theater, sat down, knowing my dreams of seeing Godzilla on the big screen were about to come true. You can probably imagine my complete and utter disappointment. It was fortunate that Godzilla 2000 came out shortly after to wash that bad taste out of my mouth, or a young Chelsea may have just given up on Godzilla. This was the first time I was forced to confront the fact that not everyone who makes a Godzilla movie understands Godzilla. Thankfully one of my
In recent years, things have gotten better. With the release of Shin Godzilla, the Godzilla Anime, and even Godzilla (2014), we’ve seen new and amazing takes on the king of monsters. But, let’s face it — and this isn’t the first time I’ve said it — Godzilla (2014) was pretty disappointing. So why am I still excited about Legendary’s Monsterverse? Well, I need to start at the beginning
Godzilla (2014) was a pretty terrible introduction to the Monsterverse for me. It left me tepid to Legendary’s master plan for the franchise. First off, when you name a movie Godzilla, it should probably heavily feature Godzilla. This doesn’t exactly seem like a groundbreaking concept, but here I am, having to say it, again. Secondly, if the advertising says it stars Brian Cranston, maybe (spoiler alert) don’t kill him in the first 30 minutes? This doesn’t seem like a novel concept to me — but I’m not a director, so what do I know?
I do know that a lot of you feel that same pain. We see the trailers with this excellent beefy Godzilla design — nothing like America’s last attempt at the Kaiju. We get all the promotional material, and we think Brian Cranston is going to bring his incredible acting into the picture and make this a movie to remember. And then Legendary throws you a curveball and surprise! It’s his son Ford that is staring — and surprise! Godzilla only makes a cameo. They wanted to tell a human story, I get it. I understand this is supposed to be an introduction to the universe — But I didn’t shell out cash for a ticket to see a human story. I shelled out cash to see a movie about Godzilla. We spent more time on the MUTO than we did with big G.
The thing about Kaiju movies that makes them compelling — that
You don’t feel that hopelessness in Godzilla (2014). Whenever Godzilla or one of the MUTO’s was on screen, the camera wanders off to see what Ford is up to. The answer was always the same: Nothing as exciting as two giant monsters fighting. The whole experience felt very Cloverfield — but unlike Cloverfield, they had already revealed the Kaiju and thus had nothing to hide. Even the final battle between Godzilla and the MUTO pair spent more time following Ford than it did on the monsters. While the final blow was satisfying — I have to say I didn’t find much else to scratch that monster itch.
Okay. I’ll stop ranting. Sorry about that. It’s been 5 years, and I might still be a little bitter. But, Legendary has managed to reignite my curiosity and excitement. They won me back little by little starting with Kong: Skull Island.
A Different Kind of King: Kong
Skull Island spent a lot of time with the survivors, yes, but the Skullcrawlers felt like a genuine threat. They felt massive and unstoppable. They filled me with that unstoppable dread I crave in my Kaiju movies. The giant subterranean lizards are an ever-present force, but that is in part due to the wild nature of the island. It’s hard to hide behind technology when the island you are on is uncharted and thus, unsafe.
But it was the way they portrayed Kong that sold me on this universe. The fact that the monster, the headlining star of this movie, wasn’t shown as a creature fully bent on destruction — but a protective force on Skull Island. This echoes the old Godzilla movies. Godzilla at times served as a protector, and particularly Mothra was almost always shown as a protector. This moment showed me Legendary’s potential.
They showed us that they understood it’s okay to add complexity to their monsters. The peaceful turn in how they portrayed Kong showed me that they genuinely understand a core concept of the old Godzilla movies. Every monster isn’t a bad guy. It seems so silly and small in the grand scheme of things. But this distinction makes a world of difference in how the monsters are portrayed and received by the audience. If it’s all murder and mayhem all the time — I’m not going to connect with a creature that is a part-time protagonist. Sure, some buildings get knocked down, but that’s what happens when two giant monsters duke it out for the fate of mankind.
Kong: Skull Island continued to establish Monarch Sciences as a group devoted to discovering and studying monsters. We started to see this in Godzilla, and we absolutely saw this in Kong: Skull Island. Monarch gives us an exciting group to follow. Are they good? Are they evil? What are their eventual motives? I’m assuming that Legendary will begin to answer this as their Monsterverse unfolds. And with the conclusion of Skull Island, I began to notice a theme
Why am I Excited about the Monsterverse?
See, at the end of Godzilla, it’s clear could not have taken down the MUTO without Ford distracting them. And at the end of Skull Island, Kong could not have defeated the large Skullcrawler without the survivors’ help. This recurring theme fascinates me. It shows a partnership between man and monster, which could unfold in exciting ways. It forces
This reoccurring theme has potential. It means that humans and monsters have the ability to work together in this universe — even if it’s unintentional and without an actual bond. This takes away some of the ambiguity of monsters in this universe. Even if the communication between the humans and the Kaiju isn’t total (we’ll see how Mothra is handled, though), it makes them more than monsters. It makes them active players in the universe. It means that they aren’t all out to simply destroy. Maybe you noticed that the Monarch Sciences twitter has marked Mothra as a “Protector” in their latest tweets (check out their twitter — it’s full of some cool stuff). This theme shows that humans can to find a way to live alongside these titans.
With Godzilla: King of the Monsters premiering, there is so much potential waiting to be unlocked. For one, the previews made it clear: Legendary learned from their mistakes with Godzilla. This is a monster epic front to back. It’s looking like we should get lots of screen time with all four headlining monsters. And, there is the promise of 17 (and counting) Kaiju in the series to come.
If we conclude that this includes Godzilla, Kong, Mothra, Rodan, Ghidorah, Skullcrawlers, and the MUTO, that means there are a lot of monsters we’ve yet to see. I’m hoping Biollante makes an appearance, and Destroyah. Or Hedorah and maybe Batra. The list goes on, and I’m sure every fan you ask will have a different top five to “must see.” They’ve already hit my favorites, I mean, they were my first Kaiju after all, but I can’t wait for what’s to come.
We also still need to find out more about the Hollow Earth Theory. And if all monsters hail from underground or if they are from elsewhere (perhaps space? If we follow the old lore). So long as we keep going to see the movies, and so long as Legendary keeps making them better, we’ve got years of Godzilla to come. Right now they have only announced Godzilla vs. Kong, but we know there will be more.
The Next Chapter: Godzilla vs. Kong
I have so many questions about Godzilla vs. Kong. How will they engage? With Kong shown as a protector and Godzilla filling a more nebulous but similar role, who is truly the “bad guy”? Is Kong going to the mainland? How does Monarch factor in? What are Monarch’s end goals? There is so much still to learn about this rich interconnected world Legendary is building. And the more films they release, the more I get excited.
Sure, it doesn’t have the campiness of some of the older films, and sure it changes up the lore. But let’s be honest. The backstory for Godzilla has changed so many times it’s hard to keep it all straight. I’m hopeful that Legendary will get it right. Yes, they fumbled the beginning of their universe, but I’m hopeful they will stick the landing. If we’re lucky, and I’m hoping we are, we will have a new
For now, I’ve got my tickets and am off to see Godzilla: King of the Monsters! I hope you’ll be there with me (in your respective theaters) cheering on the king.