By DYLAN LEMERT
If you’ve gone out to the theater and seen at least a handful of films this summer as I have, there’s a chance you may have noticed an increased presence of monsters in the movies. Though by no means a new trend in the film industry, monsters seem to be represented a bit more this year than usual. (Though admittedly, the recently released Monsters University helps that statistic a little bit.)
Certainly the other obvious example, as well as one of my favorite movies of the year so far, is Pacific Rim, a bombastic and outlandish nod to classic films like Godzilla. In Pacific Rim, humanity’s existence is at stake when massive, alien creatures enter through the ocean floor via an interstellar rift, attacking earth’s major cities. Consequently, earth’s citizens must work together by building and piloting colossal fighting robots in order to keep the extraterrestrial threat at bay. Yes, the film is as cool as it sounds.
And although plot wise it may sound like the daydreams of an eight year-old boy, Pacific Rim’s childlike enthusiasm for chaos and destruction perfectly sums up Hollywood’s ongoing obsession with the monster genre.
Pacific Rim, however, only scratches the surface of monstrous mayhem this year’s films have attempted to depict onscreen. Another satisfying entry in the genre is the action-thriller World War Z. Based on a novel of the same name, World War Z is, as the title implies, an apocalyptic zombie tale of epic proportions. And while the film never deviates too much from the classic survival story, it effectively couples modern societal tensions with enough zombie thrills to make for a wholly engaging night at the movies.
But as entertaining as they both are, the stories films like Pacific Rim and World War Z are telling are nothing new for the movie business. Realistically, they offer nothing new amidst the grand scheme of human history, either. For millennia, mankind’s fascination with monsters, zombies, ghosts, dragons, werewolves and the Kraken have served to weave some of the grandest, most compelling mythologies.
It’s therefore fairly easy to see why filmmakers would jump at the chance to continue telling these age-old tales. (Though not without updating them for modern audiences by having, say, giant robots duke it out against equally giant monsters in densely populated urban landscapes. Let’s all just take a second to realize how awesome and perfect of a concept that is)
However, I’m inclined to believe there’s a deeper, more profound reason why filmmakers and audiences are hopelessly drawn to watch humans and monsters face off. If I am to assume (which I do) that movies, like most art forms, are symbolic, then I also assume Hollywood’s monsters are meant to symbolize something more, too.
Something more than just teeth and claws and bad attitude.
Maybe the real reason we’re drawn to the monsters we see on a screen in a dark theater is because there’s a part of us, maybe just a tiny part, that can relate to the chaos and carnage that happens when evil rears it head, when the negativity inside of us is let out. And maybe the reason we all want to see the monsters vanquished in the end is because we all long, perhaps even unconsciously, for our own personal demons to be vanquished, too.
Like all the best stories, maybe cheesy monster movies are simply another way to remind us that the greatest hopes are often born from the deepest places of hopelessness.
Sometimes all it takes is some good, old-fashioned movie magic to help us remember that.