I'm a big fan of monster movies.
I love them. However cheesy they are, however ridiculous. They entertain me no end. Maybe it's the same love I have for old kung fu films - the sheer spectacle of the thing, regardless of plot, standard of script, or anything similar.
My favourite kind? Those Godzilla flicks with the guy in the rubber suit. Doing battle every installment with a new rival of equally ridiculous proportions, sometimes our friend and sometimes our foe, sometimes an affable weird creature that protects children and sometimes a terrifying atomic monstrosity. Those are the Kaiju movies of my dreams - even if they miss the original point of Godzilla, which was a terrifying view of the atomic nightmare wrought on Japan in 1945.
So, what about more modern monster movies?
Well, the 1997 American iteration of Godzilla was laughable. It utterly robbed the franchise of any charm and magic it had previously. It was a farce. It's why a lot of folks call it 'Zilla, rather than Godzilla - or In Name Only.
Cloverfield. An interesting take on the genre. It left qustions unanswered and it was genuinely scary in parts. One of the better examples of Found Footage movies, in that it is totally devoted to the limitation of its medium.
The Peter Jackson adaptation of King Kong. Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. So the entire segment on Skull Island was pretty good, but it...wasn't...very..King Kong. Like it came across as something of a mishmash horror film that they stapled King Kong to. Also the acting in that film was...genuinely vile - the writing, likewise.
The Host is a Korean horror/monster flick that breaks all the rules of the genre. You see the monster, full length and in broad daylight, within five minutes of the title. It's still fantastic, perhaps even because of its genre-smashing nudges and winks.
The more recent US Godzilla was somewhat more respectable, if massively teasing. We came here to watch the big guy rip and tear. Why tease? Why dangle a juicy fight in front of us, and then snatch it away in the moment before impact? Aside from that, not bad. Not bad at all.
Kong: Skull Island promises to be pretty awesome, but then I can see how it may not work out that way. There's a lot of ways to screw up a monster movie. Though with a strong thematic and a Kong that actually looks like a Kong, there's some hope there.
And then, there is Shin Godzilla.
Also known as Godzilla Resurgence, this thing appeared basically out of nowhere, crashed onto my radar, and demanded I pay attention.
It's different. From the very beginning, the monster showing up is intermingled with footage of government doing what government does. The segments of the monster doing its thing are genuinely scary - indiscriminate destruction and swathes of literal ruin torn through the heart of dense neighbourhoods. It's played serious, shot in a clean style, and is...generally...really rather good.
Like, as a movie. The cinematography is impressive. The soundtracking is stark and withdrawn. The scene-cuts are rapid and jarring, leaving you off-balance, awaiting what is going to happen next. The characters are interesting, the acting is on point, and for a giant monster movie, it actually reeks of believability.
Even for the significant parts of the film in which the big guy isn't on screen, you still feel involved. You aren't spending your time waiting for it to show up again. The film engages you in a way that makes you anticipate that reappearance rather than impatient for it.
And they use the original classic music!
...so as dumb as the genre can seem to many - and there's a lot of dumb in it, don't get me wrong - it turns out that you can still make a good movie with a monster in it. You just almost always have to leave it to someone that isn't Hollywood.
And if you only ever watch one monster flick - make it Shin Godzilla.