When monsters master movies
Human stories have always been at the heart of disaster films, but a recent release questions whether humans deserve heroic status next to mighty monsters. Cinemaddict takes a look.
Hollywood likes to play fast and loose with our irrational fears in its big budget blockbusters.
In the 1990s it was asteroids ( Armageddon, Deep Impact) and aliens ( Independence Day). In the noughties, it was machines.
Always at the heart of the films were the human characters standing up to adversity – Bruce Willis blows up that asteroid for his little girl, Will Smith blows up that mothership for his son.
But as audiences demand ever bigger and better threats, what place do cinematic heroes have next to Movieland’s mega monsters?
In Godzilla( 2014, directed by Gareth Edwards), technology and family story play second fiddle to the one about how we are nature’s plaything.
Exchanging the nuclear anxiety of the original 1970s films for modern anxiety about our place in the food-chain, Godzilla spends a lot of time making sure we know just how pointless we actually are.
Starting by irradiating living goddess Juliette Binoche within five minutes of her turning up on screen and ending with Godzilla’s complete indifference to humans, Edwards has no interest in making us feel better about our prospects.
His massive monsters smash, crash, and roll over our cities and lives, swatting planes from the air like flies.
Even our technology – in this case a hefty nuclear bomb – is just the next monster’s dinner. As for the humans? They’re ineffectual, largely plotless, driven only by the megabeast’s destructive trajectory.
The final insult: the most touching romantic scene in the film isn’t even between humans.
Edwards’ Godzilla seems to remind us, bluntly, that humanity is tiny in the face of awesome nature.
A recent report predicted that in 100 years, rising sea levels will render coastlines unrecognisable.
As Godzilla lumbers from the deep, stomping good guys and bad guys without distinction, laying waste to everything in his path, it’s as if Gareth Edwards knows there really is an unstoppable force of nature coming to get us from the briny.
It’s not a
tall prehistoric monster that breaths ice-fire, but like Godzilla it will not care how big our guns are or how much we love our spouses and children.
And it’ll run the show.
Puny people: Human problems make the big guy yawn in Gareth Edward’s disaster movie, Godzilla.