Over the past decade or so, the rise of Twilight and Transformers and Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and Marvel film franchises have ensured that moviegoers will see a sprinkling of werewolves, giant robots, giant bugs, dragons, and all the other usual suspects reliably on cue every weekend in the summer, and on many other release dates throughout the year.
But when’s the last time you saw an American movie monster that really lingered in your mind? And what was the last monster to really stick in the pop-cultural consciousness?
As many critics have noted, most recently in response to the release of the tepidly received Amazing Spider-Man 2, miracles come cheap in corporatized American movies these days. Which is why the recent and almost defiantly moody trailers for Gareth Edwards’s forthcoming Godzilla are encouraging. This film promises a monster you’ll actually remember five minutes after the end credits, whose scariness comes from its knack for targeting deep-seated human discomfort, not its overwhelming multitude of ornate CGI features.
As monster marketing goes, the Godzilla trailers’ presentation of the titular creature is unusually cavalier. Rather than playing an elaborate game of hide-and-seek, these trailers show us the monster up front, assuring us that the film’s real star is only a slight modernization of the giant fire-breathing colossus with which we’re all familiar.
Though controversially tubbier than its cinematic Japanese grandpa, this Godzilla is still unmistakably Godzilla; the filmmakers haven’t attempted to render it “realistic” in the forgettable mold of the decidedly T-Rex-esque beastie that charged through Roland Emmerich’s misbegotten 1998 film. No, the new monster is just that: an operatic monster with the wonderfully, irrationally hunched human gait and the recognizable stegosaurus spikes jutting out of its back. The new film’s trailers implicitly promise to restore Godzilla as a terrifying being of majesty, rather than as just another animated creepy-crawly. (And, sure enough, some early reviews confirm it: As the Associated Press's Jessica Herndon writes, "When we finally see Godzilla—just shy of an hour into the film—the anticipation has built to such a degree that we expect to be awe-struck. And we are.")