This is a story about love.
I love giant monsters. Better, I love movies about giant monsters. Can’t say for sure exactly where it started. Could be any combination of factors. A natural affinity for animals, a human instinct to admire vastness of scale. Early encounters with a pair of Great Danes owned by my Uncle Bernie, at a time when it was way too easy for a dog to tower above me.
Frequent childhood visits to the Bronx Zoo, and then to the Museum Of Natural History in Manhattan. The dinosaur skeletons. The mastodon statues. That gigantic blue whale.
This moment, from the first movie I ever saw in my life, THE MUPPET MOVIE.
Winning a storybook in a contest in elementary school about KING KONG ’76, a movie already several years old by that time and maybe not that great, but enough to win the character, along with Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange, my love for life.
A yellowed Crestwood House picturebook from THE BLOB ’56, found in the local public library.
That time my uncle sat me down to watch MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, which in turn led me to go watch the original KING KONG.
Playing all hundred-or-so levels of RAMPAGE with my cousin Charlie, winning the game, and starting all over again.
Catching GODZILLA ’85 in the middle of the night on New York’s Fox-5.
The ending of GHOSTBUSTERS, where Columbus Circle is terrorized by a multi-story Marshmallow Man. Mr. Stay Puft isn’t technically a kaiju, not any more than Kong is, but please try to imagine how much thought I’ve devoted to that technicality over the years. You can’t.
I think about giant monsters all the time, all the time, ALL the time, well into my so-called adulthood. If you want to think about them too, all you have to do is follow me on Twitter and wait. That’s where my imagination most often goes. Most guys have pornography and fantasy football on the brain, I have radioactive mutant lizards and gargantuan apes. This just plain isn’t a concept of which I expect to tire. A female admirer once said to me, “I’d like to visit the inside of your mind.” I warned her to “Be careful. Godzilla’s in there.” There’s one for the internet dating profile. The point is, I’m one of the select group of maniacs who very much wants to see this genre return to prominence in a big way.
2008’s CLOVERFIELD was a fun stomp in the right direction, and we had a mostly-worthy new GODZILLA movie in 2014, a level-up from the director of the smaller-scaled MONSTERS, but maybe the most distinctive attempt to address the topic arrived in 2013, starting with a creative, inventive script by relative newcomer Travis Beacham and directed by the highly-regarded Mexican fabulist, Guillermo Del Toro. Del Toro made MIMIC, PAN’S LABYRINTH, and the HELLBOY movies, and he’s one of the few people on Earth who it’s fair to assume loves this stuff even more than I do. A PACIFIC RIM 2 is due in 2018, from the hugely talented Steve DeKnight and a small army of high-profile writers. Both Jason Coffman and Matt Wedge have had good things to say on this site about the upcoming COLOSSAL, on the indie-kaiju front. Back on the studio front, KONG: SKULL ISLAND is on the way, and GODZILLA will return in 2018, and then those guys are finally fighting again in 2020. Several recent comic-book series from IDW Publishing (most notably THE HALF-CENTURY WAR by Canadian cartoonist James Stokoe) have thrilled my lizard brain. Japan is sending us SHIN GODZILLA — this week! — and by all appearances, with it comes reason to hope again.
The word Kaij? (??) means “strange beast” in Japanese, and while stories about giant monsters predate 1954’s GODZILLA by centuries, it’s fair to say the Japanese have come to dominate and define this genre. With undying respect to my man Kong, Godzilla is far and away the king of kaiju cinema. This week at Daily Grindhouse we’ll be talking about kaiju movies in all sorts of variations and elastic definitions, but hopefully we’ll also provide enough substantial content for the genre purists out there, because we do know you’re out there. So enough of the run-up: Let’s get to wrecking!
Portions of this introduction were expanded from my review of PACIFIC RIM.
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