Godzilla is back on screens. Can he beat these cinema beasts, though?
Residents of Abu Dhabi, beware: Godzilla is stomping his way back into cinemas this weekend.
Could these giant movie monsters of days gone by take him on?
King Kong (1933) Although 1925’s The Lost World may be the first giant-monster movie, King Kong is perhaps the earliest that continues to be celebrated. When a group of moviemakers travel to the distant Skull Island for an exotic film shoot, they get more than they bargained for after bumping into the colossal primate Kong, who forms a curious interest with leading lady Ann Darrow (Fay Wray). Kong’s capture and eventual escape gave us one of cinema’s most famous images: a giant gorilla hanging off the Empire State Building. But it’s the groundbreaking special effects from the same team behind The Lost World that brought Kong to terrifying life, scaring audiences the world over with his razor-toothed grin.
Godzilla (1954) Yes, it’s clearly a man in a rubber suit pretending to destroy a miniature Tokyo. But the fire-breathing abomination in 1954’s original Godzilla ended up being a massive smash (in more ways than one) – and while skyscrapers crumbled, box-office receipts piled high. Audiences couldn’t get enough: many sequels were spawned over the next 50 years, pitting him against increasingly larger foes (even facing off with King Kong in 1962), totalling a whopping 29 films by the start of the 21st century. While ’Zilla’s mythos was dampened by cartoon series and toy lines, the new remake – his 30th big-screen appearance – will hopefully restore the nuclear fire in his belly.
Tremors (1990) Lacklustre reimaginings of existing franchises dogged most of the 1970s and 1980s; a remake of King Kong in 1976 failed to inspire much monster love, while the making of original films was petering out. Leave it to this cult hit to reignite the flame. Kevin Bacon plays Valentine McKee, whose group of handymen discover a monstrous secret lurking beneath their desert mining town. The giant wormlike beasts burst up through the Earth’s surface, picking off the town’s population one by one, leaving only Bacon and his pals to try to knock them off the top of the food chain. Despite the film’s medium-size budget, its impact was monstrous, and helped kickstart a decade-long trend for giant monster movies – including two Jurassic Parks and even 1998’s dire Godzilla remake.
Cloverfield (2008) When Transformers was released in the summer of 2007, a mysterious trailer was played beforehand, with a release date and no title. It depicted a group of twenty-somethings enjoying a party in a trendy New York apartment, before what seems to be an earthquake shakes the entire floor. The clip ends with the Statue of Liberty’s head barrelling down a panic-stricken street; an earthquake, this most definitely isn’t. Cloverfield’s smartest move was to reveal the monster only at the very end of the film, and despite the fact that the entire film was shot as ‘found footage’, it skillfully maintained the enigma and action promised in the trailer. It certainly succeeded in making you feel utterly insignificant not only next to the monster, but to the city-wide events going on around the central characters.
Monsters (2010) Director Gareth Edwards will be a household name when the new Godzilla is released, but his debut was the low-budget Monsters. Set in Mexico six years after an alien invasion of electrified, multi-tentacled fiends, each the size of a house, a surly journalist (Scoot McNairy) agrees to take a glamorous tourist (Whitney Able) back to the States via one of the ‘infected’ zones. Things get hairy, however, when their convoy of armed escorts is attacked, forcing the pair to escape and make their own way to the American border. Their journey sees them take the scenic route, encountering the beasts – which Edwards created, impressively, on his laptop – only a handful of times. But this is where Monsters truly succeeds: it’s all about the humans.
Pacific Rim (2013) After leaving the director’s chair on The Hobbit movies, Guillermo del Toro eventually decided to make Pacific Rim. It would concern the invasion of Earth by gigantic alien ‘kaiju’ from another dimension; had he lost the plot? Thankfully, given the director’s love for films like the original Godzilla and even Planet of The Apes, his take on the creature feature turned out to be a thrilling slab of popcorn entertainment. What’s most enjoyable about Pacific Rim is how the humans retaliate against the monsters: by building their own. Watching one of the 50-storey robotic ‘jaegers’ swing a tower-size right hook at one of the kaiju is a definite guilty pleasure – but the film still didn’t make that much money. Hopefully we’ll see a sequel someday.