WARNING: SPOILER ALERT
I love movies. Since early childhood movies have been a major part of my life. As a latchkey kid, and especially in-between soccer and softball seasons, movies kept me company. I remember during my pre-teens spending Saturdays with back to back movie blocks on KSTW TV channel 11’s Tarzan movies on “Jungle Theater” for breakfast, Godzilla and the like on “Monster Theater” after lunch, old-corny Sci-fis and Westerns were on other channels as supplements. All the basic food groups.
So fast forward to 2021. While sleeping through most of Godzilla v Kong I asked myself “What the frick is happening to movies?” Special effects are amazing, yet storytelling is at its all time low in my opinion. Horrible. Truly horrible. Too many movies are given BIG budgets to produce BIG piles of doo-doo.
DISASTER PORN: The Collapse of Compassion
By 2007 watching the first Transformers movie, the whole CGI city being destroyed by large objects became exhausting to watch. It was the first noticeable moment of disaster movie burnout. A few times I found myself in the dark theater sleeping through the BIG finale battles of The Lord of the Rings, Avengers, heck even the mono/mono 20 minute fight scene at the end of Mission Impossible II was better than an Ambien! So, enormous aliens destroying a city full of perhaps 3.967 million, the population of Los Angeles, didn’t tickle my fancy anymore. (By the way, I had to look it up, since 1953 Los Angeles has been fake-destroyed in 33 movies, See “The Complete List of Los Angeles Destruction movies” link below.)
When I see a whole high-rise fall on the screen, I think about the people that are in it. It hurts me. It hurts me to watch large creatures or armies destroy a city. I don’t believe as many buildings in real-London were destroyed during WWII as in the fictional “Battle of New York” –the major battle between the Avengers and Loki, along with his borrowed Chitauri army, in Manhattan, New York City. It is recorded that by the end of WWII, just under 30,000 Londoners had been killed by the bombing, and over 50,000 seriously injured, tens of thousands of buildings were destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless. Marvel was kind enough to give us the death count for the “Battle of New York”. They place it at 74. Yes, that’s right, 74. Although the population of Manhattan is 1.632 million and roughly a third of the island was destroyed, if not half. Perhaps Marvel is thinking of only the important lives lost. Common’ man!
Inverse.com and other sites are calling this decades new CGI bad ass big fight movies Disaster Porn.
“For so long, Hollywood movies even outside the superhero genre have used mass destruction to raise the stakes for its bigger than life protagonists, but have avoided the details. Though buildings blew up on celluloid before 9/11, after that day (along with improving SFX technology) our appetite for destruction has reached pornographic intensity. But what allows us to revel in the spectacle guilt free, besides the happy endings drenched in magic-hour sunsets, is that we never know the damage beyond the rubble. The movies keep us ignorant on the true fallout, letting us in on the primal thrill without the consequences.”
They go on to share this quote from the Huffington Post. Erwann Michel-Kerjan and Paul Slovic explored the concept of the “collapse of compassion,” where our empathy and sympathy wear out as the numbers get higher.”
“[T]he problem is that action on our part depends upon feelings of compassion that may be hard to arouse and sustain over time, for large numbers of victims,” they write. “We cannot ‘feel the meaning’ associated with threats to 20 million people.”
Symbolism in American cinema was something discussed in a Film History class I took years ago. Some examples I remember– the mid-century big bug movies were about the fear of communism invading America, the early King Kong movies were about the black man’s rise of power and the fear that they would take all the white women. So I can’t help but try to dissect Godzilla v Kong.
The final battle is interesting to me—WHY in Hong Kong and not Tokyo? Hong Kong—the place where in 2019-20 there was the protest,(Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement), in the streets SO fierce only a pandemic could end it! Mechagodzilla with its robotic red lights, A.I. woke and self aware, crashing into a fight it wasn’t invited to, thinking it was helping, was a little bit like Communist China.
Honestly, after coming full circle, I changed my mind. Godzilla v Kong and other movies like it are perfect for this time in history. Think about it… Large titans fighting each other without a care for the lives, jobs and homes of the citizens, the little people running between their toes, clinging to anything they can get a hold of to survive. What does that sound like to you? Real life maybe? These movies are perfect metaphors for the way corporations and our out-of-touch government is operating. How wonderful to be SO BIG and strong that you no longer care about those smaller than you. Shame.
Here is a photo that illustrates fairly well how I am feeling today. Do what you can wherever you are. Love your neighbor today and everyday. -Shannon