This week I’m taking a break from my speculative analyses of The Rise of Skywalker to discuss Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Detective Pikachu.
Specifically, why those two movies are the only good movies coming out this year.
Join me under the cut!
Reign of the Monsters
2019 is a banner year for monster movies, with both G:KotM and DP coming out this month.
But what is it about these monster movies that make them so special? What is it about Godzilla that makes him so much better than anything Marvel? Why is Pikachu way more powerful than Thor?
Let’s take a look at just a few of the ways G:KotM and DP outclass their rivals.
More Monsters, Fewer Humans
Okay, so we still have to put up with a few lameass humans in the movies. Justice Smith’s (which I admit is a cool name) Tim Goodman, Ken Watanabe in both movies… yeah, there are a few humans in Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Detective Pikachu.
But they’re not the star of the show. We don’t have to put up with some washed-up pretty boy actor who should have been driven out of movies long ago (seriously, how is Jude Law still working? The dude cannot fucking act), or Brie Larson’s thousand-yard stare. No more pretending Scarlet Johansson is anything other than eye-candy being fed her lines, we get Mothra! Snubbull! Jigglypuff! And, perhaps most importantly, no more fucking Tom Hiddleston or Benedict Cumberbatch.
Oh sure, both DP and G:KotM need humans. Even for a hardcore Pokémon geek like me, watching a feature-length film where the main characters speak in nothing but Pokémon Speak/animal grunts would be a bit hard to follow. Or worse, we could end up with something like the dub version of Godzilla vs. Gigan, where Godzilla himself speaks! Yeah, no. So we need someone to provide reaction shots and exposition, even if their only purpose is to die horribly for our entertainment.
Plus reducing the screentime of the monsters does serve practical purposes. For one, CGI is expensive. Like, hideously expensive. And that’s for bad CGI ala Sonic the Hedgehog. Good CGI? That will eat your budget like a killer whale pod going through a group of great white sharks. Animatronics, puppetry and miniatures (which are absolutely in both films; anybody who thinks modern-day special effects are all CGI are idiots) are not much cheaper and share another problem with CGI: the more you look at them, the faker they’re going to look. Plus practical effects have to deal with everyday wear and tear, too. By having scenes without these special effects, you save yourself time, money, and effort while generally increasing the potency of your effects.
So yeah. We have to put up with a few humans interfering in our monster movie goodness. But only a few!
An Actual Badass Female Character
Mothra is, rightly, being advertised as the Queen of the Monsters in G:KotM. As Mothra has long been Godzilla’s only equal in terms of popularity (for the heroes, anyway; King Ghidorah is far and away Godzilla’s most popular villain), it’s only fitting she gets top billing with Goji himself this time around.
But it gets even better! This time, Mothra has beam powers of her own. Typically in the Toho series Mothra didn’t really have powers. Oh, she could sometimes reflect enemies’ attacks back at them, but not always and that’s not quite the same thing as Godzilla’s atomic breath or King Ghidorah’s gravity beams. Plus as a larva she could use… string shot? Well, at least we know where Pokémon got it from.
But not this time, oh no. This time, she has God Rays! Yeah, match that Carol Danvers! Rays capable of shattering the sky and maybe match Godzilla’s atomic breath or King Ghidorah’s gravity beams?
Heh. Who wants to watch Daisy Ridley’s or ScarJo’s stunt doubles pretend to beat up bad guys when you can have a giant moth shoot laser beams from their wings?
An Actually Threatening Villain!
King Ghidorah versus Kylo Ren? C’mon, that’s not even fair.
Let’s make it a little more even. Palpatine vs. Mewtwo!
Yeah, okay. That’s still unfair. Mewtwo would use Palps like toilet paper, and he’s probably not even the main villain.
One thing I will (begrudgingly) give credit to the MCU is that they played the superhero universe completely straight. It was the real world… but with superheroes. There were no attempts to justify it as an AU or any other kind of meta nonsense.
So it goes with G:KotM. But Detective Pikachu goes when step further. The movie is not only set in the Pokémon world, but is totally inhabited by Pokémon.
I don’t just mean Pokémon hiding in wild grass, either. Oh no. The pocket monsters are everywhere in Ryme City, doing everything from serving coffee to cooking food to acting as crossing guards.
Hints of this kind of world-building have appeared throughout the games for years, along with the anime and manga. But they’ve only ever been hints, not fully fleshed out details. In Detective Pikachu, they’ve take the Pokémon world all the way to it’s logical conclusion. This is the Pokémon world that’s fully lived in compared to some of the emptier worlds we see in cinema.
The Kaiju Destroy Washington
Marvel’s Heroes Are Wimps
We’ve already discussed how Mothra completely outclasses all of her competition, but what about the male monsters? Do we really think Thor can beat Pikachu?
Okay, maybe. But Mewtwo would leave him a wreck. King Ghidorah would mow them all down with his gravity beams. Charizard and Rodan would take teams melting Iron Man into scrap metal and Captain America would get punched into oblivion by Machamp.
As for Godzilla? Big G would just ignore them all, the way he does the American military in 2014.
Superior Special Effects
Let’s not kid ourselves here. Godzilla has suffered from inconsistent effects since his debut. Even the latest Japanese theatrical offering, Shin Godzilla, is… odd, to say the least.
And even five years ago, Detective Pikachu would have been impossible. It’s so special effects heavy it’s not even funny. There’s a reason every other Pokémon movie to date has been animated.
And there’s a reason why the Marvel movies, and even the Star Wars movies, are what they are. It’s cheaper, a lot cheaper, to have actors in costumes running around pretending to be superheroes or Jedi than it is to have, you know, a fully-realized CGI/Live-Action film where both elements blend seamlessly.
But they’ve done it. G:KotM has monsters that look real, like really real. Legendary’s Goji looks like he really could have crawled out of our oceans at some point. Detective Pikachu‘s creations are more stylized and therefore more obviously CGI, but even still they look real. Detective Pikachu‘s version of the Pokémon world looks like people actually live and work with Pokémon. As opposed to, say, Sonic the Hedgehog, who just looks like a guy in a Sonic costume. Dullest design ever guys, thanks.
Robots and Vampires (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NDLMDT4): Two hundred years in the future, a young cyborg stops the richest boy in town from killing a gynoid. Now he must flee from the only home he’s ever known to Fort City, base of the mysterious Standard Technologies, Inc. Can he trust them?
The Standard Tech Case Files-The Black Coats (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VTWMR7W): When there’s a corpse on the street, somebody has to answer for that. When the body in question is the squire of a prominent vampire, the call for blood only gets louder. Follow Joey Bianco and his squire Jen Ryan as they hunt down a killer and try to keep the peace between vampires and humans.
The Standard Tech Case Files-The Dead and The Damned (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MRSBC7I): Tensions between humanity and vampires are heating up. A vampire store has been ransacked. Protestors are being arrested without trial. Can Joey Bianco and Jen Ryan find a peaceful solution? Or will the streets of Fort City run red with blood?