We go to the movies for lots of reasons: to experience emotions we don’t normally face on a day to day basis; to interact, if indirectly, with characters who are usually outside or just barely within our frame of personal reference; to laugh; to cry; to be frightened; to be pushed to the edge of our seat. But one of the main reasons we park our behinds in the often uncomfortable confines of the local Cineplex is to see something we’d never see in real life: zombies amassing against the last holdouts of humanity; boy wizards working out their destiny among the magic they are supposed to master; the end of the world as envisioned via earthquake, flood, alien invasion, or any combination of natural and unnatural disasters; and, of course, monsters. Those mythical, made up creatures that only the skilled hand of a talented F/X artist can bring to the fore without much effort (but via a boatload of imagination and innovation).
With the release of Luc Besson’s latest live action extravaganza, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, on DVD and Blu-ray 13th August, the appearance of a similarly styled fantastical being got us thinking about our favorite onscreen beasties. Some of the choices are fairly obvious, as they come from history, mythology, or legend. Others are a little more obtuse and obscure. All represent the main purpose behind a motion picture - that is, to provide the audience with an experience they won’t soon forget. Indeed, all ten choices here (including a couple relatively new ones) argue for a vision that few filmmakers are capable of capturing. Clearly, all the directors here have a way with spectacle and scope. The way these monsters make their presence known is just confirmation of their overall skill and talent. Oh, and by the way, we tried to stay within certain four legged limitations here. No King Kongs. No Godzillas (though we should have included Mothra, perhaps). Anyway, on to number 10:
In this latest film from French director (among other things) Luc Besson, we are introduced to a female adventurer who is in Egypt trying to gain access to a mummy. When she returns to France, she is then faced with dealing with the aforementioned creature, hatched from an egg before quickly causing chaos. As unusual as it is to have a woman protagonist in the Indiana Jones roles, Besson makes the most of modern technology, turning Adele’s labors into the stuff of legend. As weird cinematic hybrids go, this one is definitely unusual, and highly enjoyable.
They are the light penetrating the darkness, the only hope for humans in a realm overflowing with fairies, goblins, and evil demons. Before Ridley Scott went all overcranked action sequence on us, he was a visionary filmmaker who overloaded his cinematic canvases with as much amazing imagery as possible. When Mia Sara is battling a bedeviled Tim Curry for the fate of her world, the threatened unicorn adds a heartbreaking element that explains why people love Scott’s scenarios. It’s just too bad that the director moved away from such mesmerizing work. This remains the real Ridley for many of us.
Talk about your sobering last act denouements. Our hero, having saved his son and a few others from the grocery store prison overrun by insane people and oversized bug creatures, heads down the road, looking for help. All he finds is his dead wife, a landscape riddled with cobwebs, and a monster the size of a mountain slowly lumbering its way toward a date with the rest of humanity - all of which makes our lead’s final act completely understandable. When faced with a beast like that, what hope does he or anyone have? Well, now that you mention it…
Among the many amazing moments in Steven Spielberg’s quintessential post-modern blockbuster is our initial introduction to this ferocious killing machine. As he did with Jaws, the director teases us at first before unleashing a combination of practical effects and CG dinosaur on a group of stranded visitors. The second we see the beast, we are terrified. The next, as it is moving around in ways we’d never seen before in a standard Summer popcorn movie guaranteed that we’d remember this monster love after the credits rolled and the lights came up. She remains the star in a franchise starter full of them.
The mythical creatures in Frank Herbert’s epic saga are both sacred and profane. They live within Arrakis’ rich spice reserves and are worshipped by the indigenous Freman as direct manifestations of God. So it makes sense that Paul Atreides, the Messianic ‘Kwisatz Haderach,’ would be able to control them. Laugh all you want at David Lynch’s interpretation of the source, but the moment the sandworms make their appearance in the film, it’s beyond memorable. Besides, just the notion of giant sightless slugs being ridden by human beings across an enigmatic desert vista is the stuff of pure sci-fi.
// Notes from the Road
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