In the left corner, weighing in at 70 on the Metacritic scale as a biopic about a world-renowned music star, we have Rocketman!
And, in the right corner, weighing in just below 50 as a monster movie about a legendary monster, we have Godzilla: King of the Monsters!
Let’s have a clean fight, touch gloves, and go back to your corners…
(Ding! Ding! Ding!)
Now, I realize I’m comparing apples to oranges, but I’m also trying to make a point – Both of these summer blockbusters are very good and worth exactly what you pay for them. Yet, in a way, “genre” ends up being the true winner in this match.
If a monster movie is “a disaster film that focuses on a group of characters struggling to survive attacks by one or more antagonistic monsters” (generic Wiki descriptor), then Godzilla: King of the Monsters is up the right ally. It’s brainless, loud, and thrilling. When Godzilla’s menacing face emerges from the murky deep waters, and his screechy roar shudders your spine, you remember why good ole popcorn Hollywood entertainment was created in the first place. (Just forget about the “embrace every creature, even-the-ones-that-can-demolish-your-San Francisco-duplex-with-its-big-toe” philosophy and enjoy the frightening battles between the monsters!)
If you want a film that “dramatizes the life of a non-fictional or historically-based person” (another generic Wiki descriptor), then Rocketman gets a big check of approval. Actor Taron Egerton embodies everything Elton John, including his quintessential singing voice (side note: the Oscars gave Rami Malek the award for lip-syncing). Egerton’s performance is visually and audibly stunning, and the movie properly dives into rated-R territory when it portrays the sex, booze, drugs, and hardships of Elton’s rock ‘n rolling life (“I haven’t led a PG-13 life,” he recently told The Guardian).
Where Rocketman has the edge in the ring with Godzilla and wins by technical knockout is in its ability to transcend the biopic genre. Like a musical, the song and dance numbers narrate as much as entertain, filling Rocketman with the energy and grandiosity of the very man it depicts.
My final scorecard ratings:
Godzilla: King of the Monsters ***
Overall, nothing is essentially “groundbreaking” in these two movies, but they represent their genres very well. I think the official loser of this match is found in our online national critic ratings system, and this meme says it all:
Unfortunately, too much emphasis is placed on the point evaluations of movie critics on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. Where Rotten Tomatoes puts well written reviews, cash-grab synopses, and 1,000+ blogger reviews in one box and simplifies them all into “Fresh” or “Rotten,” it simultaneously does not allow movies to be “so-so” or successfully definitive of their genre. Metacritic pretty much does the same thing but only selects reviews from a short list of so-called “highly respected critics, like those from the New York Times” (https://qz.com/quartzy/1518240/rotten-tomatoes-is-based-on-bad-statistics-use-metacritic-instead/).
I’ve seen enough movies (maybe too many) to know what I’m getting into when I watch “Godzilla,” “Pokémon,” or anything “Avengers.” Everything is personal and subjective, but I’m not going to critically tear apart Godzilla: King of the Monsters for “not enough human drama and too much mindless action.” This very description keeps the pretentious movie critic stigma alive while also defying the moviegoer of his or her intentions when viewing a specific genre of film.
I had a great time watching a promising summer start in these two movies, and I hope you do too!
And, if I had to list three of what I call “groundbreaking” monster movies (not “horror,” mind you), I would say:
Jurassic Park (1993) – Spielberg is a cinematic genius
The Host (2006) – The South Korean gem no one saw but is still the highest grossing film in South Korea
Cloverfield (2008) – A clever take on the “found footage” lineage
My “groundbreaking” biopics with a musician subject would be:
Sid and Nancy (1986) – Gary Oldman and the 70s London punk scene transform you
Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980) – “The platonic ideal of the musical biopic” (Esquire)
Amadeus (1984) – Probably my second favorite movie of all time
Please share yours!