King Kong is returning to our screens this week, in Jordan Vogt-Roberts’s reboot Kong: Skull Island. In doing so, the original movie monster is actually following in the rather large footsteps of his contemporaries, as the monster movie has seen something of a rebirth over the past decade.
Last year’s Japanese Godzilla reboot was the second in only two years, the first of which was Gareth Edwards’s city-stomping American version, a movie that laid the groundwork for an upcoming King Kong vs Godzilla crossover in 2020.
Whether Skull Island will stand the test of time remains to be seen, but in preparation for some more monkey madness, it's worth revisiting some of this century’s monster genre classics.
But which otherworldly beasts or tower-climbing titans can claim dominance in this millennial battle of the creature features? CGI has come a long way since Godzilla first wreaked havoc in the 1950s, but a truly memorable monster flick is about more than just chaos and destruction.
It needs to have a heart, something that can be ripped out and smeared all over the Tokyo skyline.
10. Godzilla (2014)
Godzilla might have marked Gareth Edwards’s first foray into the world of big-budget cinema, but his debut Monsters is by far the better film. Godzilla’s main problem wasn’t a lack of screen time for the Big G, it was a dearth of interesting characters through which we could become invested in the film’s central conceit.
Both Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe’s characters have strong motivations and character arcs that harbour tremendous potential; one is an eccentric, bereaving nuclear engineer who believes that Godzilla killed his wife, while the other is a Japanese scientist and expert in MUTOs (read: legally distinct kaiju).
But both characters eventually get tossed aside in favour of Cranston’s thoroughly boring son, Ford Brody, a dull-as-dishwater soldier with less emotional range than Godzilla himself.
Still, Godzilla narrowly earns its place as one of the 21st Century’s best monster movies through Gareth Edwards’s remarkable set-piece direction. The HALO jump scene is one of the most nail-biting sequences ever depicted in a monster movie, a dark and oppressive masterclass in special effects and blockbuster cinematography.
It shares a lot of the same flaws as the following year’s Jurassic World, but where that film completely lost sight of how to make dinosaurs cool, Godzilla got its monsters absolutely right.