Twenty years ago, following the release of the American adaptation of “Godzilla,” few probably would have guessed that we’d be seeing a film like “King of the Monsters” coming out someday.
Despite being able to look back now at the 1998 “Godzilla” and have a sort of so-bad-it’s-good fondness for the schlocky picture that it is, there’s no doubt that it was a dud when it came out. That movie (along with the forgettable third “Jurassic Park” film), effectively scared Hollywood away from giant monster movies for years.
Aside from a few here and there, the market wasn’t all that populated.
Thankfully, though, Director Matt Reeves partnered with filmmaker JJ Abrams to create the movie “Cloverfield,” released in 2008. Not only did the film breathe new life into the found-footage genre, it also opened the door again to the idea of making giant monster movies.
In a way, one could compare the release of “Cloverfield” and its subsequent impact on the giant monster genre to that of “X-Men” in 2000. Both movie’s had flaws, but each gave credibility to a genre that had its share of struggles gaining traction.
Unlike the 1998 picture, “Cloverfield” showed American audiences that the genre could display some real drama and combine it with classic giant monster thrills. In the years that have followed, the giant monster genre was able to advance with some different types of pictures.
A year later, for example, DreamWorks Animation released “Monsters vs. Aliens,” an action comedy that paid homage to the giant monster B-movies of the 50s and 60s. The film was effective in poking fun at the genre while also advancing the concept that audiences were ready for more movies with these types of monsters.
The box office results backed that information up. “Cloverfield” set an opening weekend record for January (which has since been broken), earning $40 million. “Monsters vs Aliens,” meanwhile, earned $59 million in its first weekend and ended up grossing $381 million worldwide.
A couple of years later, the film “Super 8” hit theaters. Directed by Abrams, “Super 8” was a solid picture that mixed family drama with nostalgia about youth and threw a giant monster into the concept to create some suspense. While the film did receive some criticism for its heavy push at nostalgia, there was no doubt that the film was another good entry for the genre.
Then, visionary director Guillermo del Toro came into the picture. In 2013, his film “Pacific Rim” burst onto the screen, and man, it was a lot of fun. The movie had giant robots fighting giant monsters, and it was just as entertaining as it sounds. As previously stated, the genre had been taken in a few different directions, but it was “Pacific Rim” that really brought it into blockbuster sphere.
The aforementioned films that were released over the course of about six years was enough to really get things rolling, and the next year Hollywood felt audiences were ready for another American version of “Godzilla.”
Reactions to the movie were somewhat mixed, with various critics (including myself) upset that there weren’t enough scenes showcasing the king of monsters. However, for the most part, it was still a very competently made film with some incredible action sequences and wonderful moments of suspense.
A year later, another franchise that had long been dormant returned to the big screen featuring giant creatures with razor sharp teeth. In 2015, “Jurassic World” came into theaters and was largely met with praise from critics and audiences alike.
The movie featured fun characters (especially Chris Pratt’s Owen), impressive visual effects and a fantastic finale that brought everything together very well. And, while dinosaurs aren’t technically in the same league as other giant monsters, the movies they’re in have enough similarities that they are part of the club.
The next blockbuster in the genre to get a release was “Kong: Skull Island,” which is actually set in the same universe as the 2014 “Godzilla.” What made this picture an enjoyable watch is that it took elements of both that 2014 picture and the recent “Jurassic World.”
The film had a good balance, having a fairly serious tone, but not overdoing it like the 2014 film did. The picture also benefited from solid characters portrayed by a good cast, including Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly and John Goodman.
Now, unfortunately, 2018 hasn’t been particularly good for the genre. Both the “Pacific Rim” and “Jurassic World” sequels, as well as the video game adaptation “Rampage” were all fairly poor. Despite these mishaps, though, the giant monster genre remains in pretty good shape, especially considering the trailer “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” that just hit San Diego Comic-Con last weekend.
The trailer makes it appear like it will be one of the most epic movies coming out in 2019. Not only is Godzilla back, but some of the other legendary monsters of film will also appear.
We’re at 2018 now, 20 years after the 98 “Godzilla” film tanked the giant monster genre. However, thanks to the last 10 years of various pictures featuring giant monsters, which crossed into multiple sub-genres, made by a variety of talented filmmakers, we’re at a point where we will see a monster movie on a whole other scale.
In a way, it’s similar to how the comic-book/superhero movie genre built its foundation. In the early 2000s, after “Batman and Robin” had left the genre in ruins, some new films with different visions came along and turned the whole thing around. And, while it took some time to get its footing, and despite some stumbles, it’s one of the biggest genres today.
Now, I don’t think it’s exactly the same, giant monster films probably won’t reach the same level that superhero pictures have obtained. However, the past decade has successfully built a foundation for the genre to grow in the years to come.
ALSO, side note, can the next “Godzilla” please, please feature the Blue Oyster Cult song.