Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Guillermo Del Toro: The Modern Harryhausen

So…a while back on a Saturday morning, feeling pretty rough, my husband was subjecting our little girl to his latest bad movie. I should explain from the outset that my husband has a very high tolerance for bad movies…I mean really high. While he is watching a movie, his mind will literally insert a better movie and he will believe that this is the ACTUAL MOVIE. You know how bad a film is if his programming fails to institute this..so far Ghost Rider 2 has been the film where this programming failed….but enough of him. This Saturday in particular he put on Pacific Rim.
Initially, I was hesitant because I had pretty much written this off as Centurions do Clobbering time. I was going to run off back to my hole and then my programming kicked in…the thing about Saturday mornings being the most excellent time to watch anything where entire cities get laid to waste…bloody hell that was my childhood with Tizwazz and Number 73 interludes. So I sit there and I watch. I have to say that it was better than I thought and I didn’t expect much.

This is not a film review but the question I have to ask is when the hell did everyone get so highbrow that we can’t just enjoy a bit of Mechsuit Cavalcade? The reviews for Pacific Rim have been mixed but the main thing that moved me to sit in my corner and tap this out was the monsters.

To my mind, we have fallen out of love with the monster. Horror is overly obsessed these days with the horror being human and the drop in the price of effects mean that we get to see every flipping detail in glorious HD because, why tell a good story with a decent script when you can just show up close torture and gore for 2hours.We get it, humans are awful yadda yadda oh look a deserted asylum/torture dungeon……….fade to red.
Rant aside….I watched and then watched again with friends who jumped on the sofa and swore at the smackdown was laid. I watched these scenes unfold before me and it dawned on me that this film was a strength, the humans are mere backdrop. It’s the creatures we want to see and boy are they beautiful. The Kaiju are great to watch and the Jaeger’s taking them on is great..dare I say it, it’s like how I wished Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was. The monster mash up is not just the set piece, it is what the film is about. The human story pales into insignificance because it is supposed to, we want mech and monsters getting knocked the fuck out.

I watched this film unfold and realised that we are missing a trick with the wonderful Guillermo Del Toro. I have watched a lot of his films, even early stuff like Mimic, and this is the guy who delivered in my opinion the best Blade and that was only achievable because of his unique insight into the world of the monster. It is far too easy to put on a mask and throw a load of synthetics on someone, point a camera, say “action” and have some folks scream and run while the designated monster runs at them.

It is so much harder to stop and infuse that Monster with a heartbeat, a story, something that makes you as the audience take a minute and wonder why the hell we are running and what exactly are we afraid of. Guillermo taking the reins of Hellboy was heaven sent and for me, one of the best scenes is when Hellboy is destroying a creature that is the last of its kind in defence of people who, let’s be honest behave exactly like humans do, judgemental, screaming, anger filled and I wished in that moment that it was wrong, that it was a gross exaggeration as he hands the baby he rescues back. And as we watch this wonderful sight, this amazing fantastical creature die right before us, we are the monsters. We are the ones whom despite appearances were the most base, the most hard to look at. I was embarrassed to be human in that moment.
There is something special in being able to take our idea of the monstrous and turn it completely on its head. From Reaper to Kronen, Sam-i-el the desolate one, Abe and the wonderful markets to the fantastical Kaiju, the creatures that Guillermo presents, move and live. They cling to life.
The world thought it was an amazing thing when James Cameron created Pandora and essentially went all Will Wright to bring Avatar to life.We do not show the same awe to Guillermo and his work reminds me of the great Ray Harryhausen. Ideas that belonged in the pages of the oldest tales brought forth for my Sunday afternoon pleasure. I remember seeing Medusa in Clash of the Titans and literally bricking it which is why I cannot watch the latest version.
In this blog, the first of a fresh new year, I want to take some time to give a huge shout out to the genius that is Guillermo Del Toro. I can only hope that he continues to make us wonder who the Monsters really are out there.

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