GenreList V: Massive Monsters!

Photo by: Marxchivist, Flickr
Source: Marxchivist, Flickr

This time, on GenreList: Gather your families and run for your lives! From the depths of the sea, the hollows of the earth and the blackness between the stars come mountainous menacing monsters, bent on carnage and destruction!

Once a staple of drive-in theaters and Sunday matinees, giant monster movies are making a resurgence as big-budget blockbusters that are much smarter than they look on the tin. That said, the genre has always been semi-metaphorical, exploring mighty forces (cultural, technological and biological) that humans seem powerless to stand against.

The original Godzilla is a classic example of the genre, a movie as much about the perils of the atomic age and science unconstrained by morality, as it is about a giant monster that time forgot. The 1954 Toho production is part soap opera, part disaster flick, with a dash of mad science for taste. While the acting is stilted and the melodrama contrived, the film succeeds at presenting Godzilla as a semi-mystical, elemental force. The first full shot of Godzilla dwarfing a hillside is more than worth the price of admission, and even modern audiences will be impressed by the trail of destruction left by the titan king of monsters.

For a more reflective look at the genre, Monsters explores issues of migration, assimilation and simple human complexity, set against the backdrop of giant alien jellyfish crabs stomping across the U.S./Mexico border. While an impulsive romance is nominally the focus of the film, director Gareth Edwards creates a borderland that evokes modern tensions over the subject of immigration and blends it with half-glimpsed creatures and landscapes that really steal the show. An interesting (and possibly polarizing) film, Monsters is better for the spirited discussion it is sure to generate!

Missing Ghidorah, Gamera or Clover? Add your favorite monster in the comments and introduce Chicago to a new species of terror!