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Wednesday, November 3, 2021

How Existential Horrors and New Villains Could Shape the Future of Godzilla Movies

For nearly 70 years, Godzilla has reigned supreme as a primal force of destruction. Though the mighty King Kong made his debut a couple decades prior to the nuclear dinosaur, Kong’s compassion for humankind is what has kept him at bay from being the top titan. Alongside his size and incredible power, it is Godzilla’s indifference that allows him to be so terrifying; he is not so much an aid to humankind, extending help only when it benefits his goals, not even acknowledging the small human below him.

Which is why over these decades Godzilla has been confronted by an array of extraterrestrial threats – beings matching his mass and threat level, those able to go toe-to-toe with him. These villains come from a variety of different backgrounds and origins, providing intriguing spins and reflections of Godzilla’s own origin. For as much as the great titan is an unstoppable, existential creature – he is also a being of our own creation. Birthed from the horrors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, Godzilla represents humankind’s cold indifference in destruction; the violence we do to one another and the violence we commit to ourselves and the planet.

With Godzilla vs. Kong making for one of the biggest blockbusters of this year, it really feels that a new age of Kaiju mayhem is before us. The MonsterVerse finally taking shape. With that in mind, I ask myself, “What would a rebooted Godzilla film series need to do to shake things up from past films?” I immediately thought of the many villains Godzilla has gone up against and could go up against in the modern MonsterVerse. Then I started thinking about about new threats he could face. The new kinds of dangers, stories, and characters that could challenge him and tap into the socio-political roots of his creation.

What follows are my ideas of where new Godzilla films could go, providing insightful thoughts based off the thematic source material and fun concepts for other big monsters.

In many cases a hero/protagonist is only as good as their villain/antagonist counterpart – though the former doesn’t always fit appropriately with that of Godzilla. He is a creature of chaos; whether in control or stomping about in pure rage, this is a monster that requires competition on a great scale. For all intents and purposes, the Godzilla narrative tends to be split in one of two ways – humans vs. Godzilla or Godzilla vs. “insert big monster bad guy.”

With the exception of militaristic firepower to fight back, the human-driven approach in Godzilla movies lends itself to more of a socio-political focus, such as Shin Godzilla’s greater attention to how governments react in times of great upheaval. There’s this excellent YouTube video from CineFix – IGN Movies and TV that covers how Shin predicted the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, and that immediately got me thinking about how government action/inaction could be used to elevate the themes of Godzilla.

Going beyond that of debates about how to handle the monster’s attacks – what if Godzilla’s actions reflected that of political action? What if, instead, Godzilla’s actions were more so a reaction to socio-political anger, cruelty, and harm? Say you have a global conflict taking place and that’s how Godzilla is introduced – as politicians push back on progression, enact transgressive policies, or peddle bigoted ideals, the monster becomes greater in its destruction. A Godzilla film presented through this lens sort of plays off what Shin did but provides another layer of ominous exploration; how a country can become a monster in how it treats its people. In a way, this concept also plays off 2016’s Colossal and the 2018’s Netflix anime Devilman Crybaby, given how the former portrays a greater embodiment of a particular theme, and how the latter explores that of political dynamics and global conflict.

With the majority of Godzilla’s villains are extraterrestrial beings, several represent greater themes. Monsters such as Hedorah are a stand-in for humankind’s self-destructive acts towards the planet, with other creatures like Biollante serving as further extensions on ecological horrors. Suffice to say, the Godzilla franchise has already covered a solid ground of thematic exploration – however, that doesn’t mean there’s no room for fun twists on such concepts.

At this point in 2021, the damage brought on by climate change is undeniable; the great anxieties that future generations will have to endure due to the lack of efforts to prevent it. One can draw lots of parallels between Godzilla and climate change – but I’d love to see him go up against a monster that embodied that terror. Not just another version of Hedorah to be clear, but a new creature that captures the existential dread of climate change. Where rather than just portray a being who can shoot out acid and embodies pollution, the monster’s abilities have a devastating impact on the planet over the course of a film. Perhaps a monster that has the power to erode the planet, thus hurting Godzilla’s habit in some manner, requiring the two to clash. Its powers would have the means to destroy plant life, plague the atmosphere, and cause other devastating destruction that would not immediately destroy Earth, but make existence sufferable, eventually leading to its demise. Godzilla films don’t need to be dry-cut artsy flicks about heavy themes, but in conveying something of this subject matter, filmmakers have themselves a great bridge between entertainment and insightful dialogue.

Now to be fair, this idea was sort of tackled in 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and it wasn’t the most effective dialogue around. I personally think there is still potential in this idea, but it’s going to have to take a story that gets people to feel. Having a monster that reflects that horror may be what is missing in the equation.

Whether a monster is meant to reflect something on a thematic scale or not, such a threat needs to be bad ass. In specifically focusing on alien-like beings, Godzilla already has the door to imagination wide open; there is no limit to the types of monsters audiences could see on screens. Particularly though, I see two ways the Godzilla franchise could further expand its villain palette. One is through mechs – I’m talking something along the lines of Pacific Rim (or even a slightly toned down Gundam). Granted, it would be a hell of a rush to see a fully optimized Gundam going up against a new form of speedy, ferocious Godzilla.

Mechs aren’t anything new to Godzilla; Mechagodzilla (to a degree) and Jet Jaguar are a couple examples of mechs in the franchise. Here there lies potential though to not only present a new spin on a previously established character archetype, but also to convey something on a human level. The human stories in Kaiju flicks are typically the weak points of a given film; many point to the human stories as speed bumps along the way to the awesome fight scenes. What would the drive be to create something that could stand up to Godzilla? Who the hell would have the courage to take on such a menacing beast? What would you even need to create to have a chance? Where something like this sets itself apart from the likes of Mechagodzilla (and its portrayal in Godzilla vs. Kong) is in how the story is told. If a filmmaker can create a character that isn’t just some mad billionaire, but someone who is driven by revenge or something of the ilk, that offers something a lot more intimate to connect with. An angle to consider when blending substance with style.

My second consideration is somewhat of a large leap, so bear with me – Lovecraft. No, I’m not saying have Godzilla fight Cthulhu (personally would love to see that), but pull visual and thematic concepts from that of Lovecraft (e.g. Bloodbourne style). This approach offers Godzilla’s trademark alien direction in a whole new light. What if Godzilla went up against an armada of Lovecraftian-esque beings; horrors beyond his own imagination that challenge his might. While Godzilla’s list of iconic villains is extensive, what if the lens of Lovecraft were used to introduce a whole new variety of creatures into this new MonsterVerse? What would it be like to see Godzilla go up against a titan that was not only physically powerful, but also capable of psychic attacks? Many of Godzilla’s fights involve hand to hand combat (so to speak), so providing an added layer of combat throws a unique spin into battles. Without psychic abilities of his own, how would Godzilla use his radioactive energy to fight back? Perhaps we could even see powers that play off that of the Shin version.

As far as the other great titans that exist within Toho’s cannon – there are so many possibilities for who Godzilla could come up against next. Godzilla vs. Destroyah. Godzilla vs. Gigan. You name it.

This year’s Godzilla vs. Kong was my most anticipated movie of the year – the original 1962 film being my major introduction to both titans and kicking off my lifelong love for Kaiju. I had an amazing time watching the 2021 film and see the potential for a great series ahead. I want Kaiju movies to set off a new cinematic world that shock and thrill audiences; where they are more present in theatres and we see the storytelling medium expand.

Godzilla has several eras of cinema under his scales – the MonsterVerse of today is an extension of that legacy and the chance to build upon it. While the King of the Monsters deserves all the attention when it comes to his flick, I think the path forward will also be determined by the foes he faces.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3690309/existential-horrors-new-villains-shape-future-godzilla-movies/

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