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New Escapist Video! On the Appealing Meaninglessness of “Godzilla vs. Kong”…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with every second Monday article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film channel – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

This week, following the release of Godzilla vs. Kong, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the film’s appealing meaninglessness, particularly in an era that seems so over-signified with meaning.

New Escapist Column! On the Unknowable Monstrosity at the Heart of “Shin Godzilla”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of Godzilla vs. Kong, it seemed like a good time to take a look back at Japan’s iconic reptilian monster. In particular, the way in which Godzilla evolved from an embodiment of monstrous uncertainty to protector of the planet. In this context, Shin Godzilla is a fascinating piece of work. Building on co-director Hideaki Anno’s work on earlier projects like Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Neon Genesis Evangelion, the monster at the centre of Shin Godzilla is hauntingly unknowable, a grotesque intrusion of something almost beyond human comprehension into the material world. The film is all the more effective for that. You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On the Meaninglessness of “Godzilla vs. Kong”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release and success of Godzilla vs. Kong on HBO Max and in cinemas last week, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the film’s aggressive rejection of meaning. Godzilla vs. Kong is not a movie particularly concerned with subtext or metaphor. It is not a parable for mankind’s confrontation of the unknown, the hunger for war that lurks in every human heart, or even the dangers of how mankind is treating the environment. Instead, it’s a movie about a giant monkey punching a giant lizard until one of them falls down. However, maybe there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, particularly following a year that has – for many people – been over-infused with meaning. You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On How the MonsterVerse Has Forsaken Awe and Wonder…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist yesterday. With the release of Godzilla vs. Kong, it seemed like a good opportunity to look at the film in the context of the larger MonsterVerse – in particular, Godzilla and Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

Godzilla vs. Kong is pure spectacle. The film features a host of impressive and showstopping sequences, including two major bouts between the title characters. However, there is something missing in all of this carnage. Like King of the Monsters before it, and like a lot of other modern blockbusters, there’s a curious lack of awe and wonder to the spectacle on display.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

A smashing success?

Non-Review Review: Godzilla vs. Kong

Godzilla vs. Kong is in some ways an anticlimax, and not just because it’s arriving on HBO Max rather than as a cinematic blockbuster.

Clocking in at under two hours, Godzilla vs. Kong is technically the shortest entry in the Warner Brothers “Monsterverse” series. It comes in a few minutes shy of Kong: Skull Island and well short of both Godzilla and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. This is strange, given that Godzilla vs. Kong is nominally supposed to be the triumphant climax of this shared universe, the event towards which everything has been building. It’s strange that this clash of titans should up feeling so small.

That sinking feeling.

To be fair, there is a strong sense of an attempted course correction about Godzilla vs. Kong, especially in response to the overcrowded cacophony of King of the Monsters. In many ways, Godzilla vs. Kong is a smaller and more contained movie than King of the Monsters, notably hinging on three core monsters rather than an entire menagerie. It’s also to the credit of director Adam Wingard that Godzilla vs. Kong is a tighter, more contained and more focused film with a greater sense of internal coherence.

Unfortunately, though, there’s very littler surprise or wonder to be found in this titanic throwdown.

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New Escapist Column! “Kong: Skull Island” and the Monster in All Human Hearts…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the announcement that all Warner Brothers films are going to HBO Max, I thought I’d take a look at one of the films related to that move, in particular Godzilla vs. Kong and one of the films leading into it, Kong: Skull Island.

Skull Island is easily the best of the films leading into Godzilla vs. Kong. It is appreciably stronger than either Godzilla or Godzilla: King of the Monsters. A large part of that is down to the fact that it actually has themes, using its central monster to construct an exploration of the idea of warfare. Indeed, one of the more interesting aspects of Skull Island is the way that it implicitly positions King Kong in parallel with Godzilla, turning the giant monkey into a metaphor for the American experience of warfare in the twentieth century.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: Godzilla – King of the Monsters

“There has to be another way!” a character pleads at one point in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Another responds, “There is no time for debate!”

This is King of the Monsters in a nutshell. A film where there is never time. There is just a constant bombardment of stuff happening. There is noise. There is shouting. There is shaking. There is exposition. There is spectacle. All thrown at the audience with an intensity that will overwhelm even the strongest flinching reaction. King of the Monsters isn’t just the proverbial ten pounds of sh!t in a five pound bag, it is those ten pounds being constantly fed to a whirling rotating blade. It is almost impressive that the fan lasts as long as it does. Almost.

A monster mash-up.

King of the Monsters is a sequel to both Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla and to Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ Kong: Skull Island, and it somehow finds a way to synthesise the the most incompatible elements of both films into a monstrous mess of a single narrative. King of the Monsters is a movie of single-minded focus on what it is trying to do, and what it is trying to do is to cram as much monster madness and mythology into a two-hour film as possible. That single-minded focus leaves little room for any of the niceties of normal cinematic narratives.

King of the Monsters is frustrating and infuriating at times, but it is mostly just exhausting.

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a Rodamn.

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Non-Review Review: Godzilla (2014)

Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla remake exhumes the classic movie monster for one more epic city-destroying brawl. Appropriately enough, the film feels like something of a relic itself – albeit a relic from an era more recent than the prime of its featured monster. Opening with the excavation of a giant skeleton in the Philippines, and with the revelation that the titular creature was first awakened in 1954, there’s a sense of coy self-awareness to Gareth Edwards’ monster movie tribute.

This wry self-awareness only extends the film so much leeway. At the heart, Godzilla feels like a nineties blockbuster created with modern technology. If the film had a sense of humour, it would look a lot more like Godzilla-by-the-way-of-Roland Emmerich than the 1998 attempt to reintroduce the character to American audiences.

Who says Godzilla is washed up?

Who says Godzilla is washed up?

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The Criterion Criteria: Why Are Criterion Blu Rays Region Coded?

The Criterion Collection is incredible – it really is the ideal back-catalogue for anybody who considers themselves a fan of good cinema well-presented. The company basically releases top-of-the-line DVD and blu ray collections of old and new films, each presented with the greatest of care, and with a wealth of special features, often including director’s cuts, in-depth documentaries, essays and other treasures. Hell, the company’s laser-disc division invented the notion of a “commentary”, producing one over their release of the classic King Kong. I am a fan, as I think that any cinephile is a fan. That said, I was shocked to read of a rather disturbing development: Criterionhave region-coded their blu ray releases. I understand the idea of region-coding, but this really seems like a strange case.

It's a monstrous injustice... (Godzilla, #594)

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