I was reading an article today about the new IDW Godzilla comic book, and the article mentioned that basically instead of a primary plot, the book just throws the monsters out there and lets us see how humanity deals with it. I suddenly realized that this, above all else, is what’s been missing for so long from giant stompy monster movies.
Cloverfield tried, but it hacked in the love story instead of focusing on just how badly people would lose their shit if a giant monster suddenly appeared. However, remove the sappy love story and Cloverfield was perfect – you don’t know where the hell the monster came from, how it functions, what its vulnerabilities might be, nothing. And it works. It works well (though I could do without the vomit inducing shaky-cam).
Monster stories have gotten too wrapped up in their own backstories lately. Look at Friday the 13th or the original Nightmare on Elm Street. How much of the story centered on the creation of the monster and how much on the monster making peoples’ days really bad? Freddy gets one quick death scene at the beginning and a two minute explanation later on. The rest of the time is all him slicing and dicing, and the girl trying to escape him.
Even when the origin of the monster is explored, it doesn’t have to become the focal point of the story. Again, with Freddy, his mother’s rape is an important issue in the fourth film, but it’s certainly not the end-all, be-all. He’s still a teenager slicing maniac.
Let’s get back to Godzilla here. I think the Japanese have had this messed up the whole time. I think back to all the Godzilla movies I’ve watched over the years, and I’ve seen pretty much all of them. And I realize, the parts with the humans, the parts where they try to stick some non-Godzilla related plot points in, are the parts I didn’t give two shits about afterward and could not tell you what they were about. I can tell you about how Godzilla fought Mothra, or how Ghidra was sucker-punched by Mechagodzilla, but if you want me to fill you in on the human story? Forget it.
And honestly, it’s worthless anyway. I don’t care about these people, and neither do you. We care about the big monsters. They are the ones who will be back in more movies. They are the ones around whom the story should be centered. They are giant goddamned monsters, for crying out loud. I’m sure reconnecting with your long lost girlfriend is important to you, but hey, let’s watch some more atomic fire breath, or see Godzilla smash a train full of people. That’s what the story is. Focusing on anything else is just bad writing.