Gigantic monsters show up and destroy things. That’s all I need to know. I am all in for the spectacle. Don’t need plot or character development.
– disgruntled Godzilla internet fan
Peruse the comments of any YouTube review or critical Tweet of Godzilla: King of the Monsters and you’ll find the same sentiment parroted by countless dismissive internet people: “I want giant monster fights, not character development.” What is to be achieved from such antagonism towards a very much valid critique of a work that you haven’t had a chance to consider for yourself? Why the strong pathological defensiveness in response to someone’s negative experience with a film?
There’s been a troubling trend in pop culture discourse (e.g. among fandoms and between fandoms and critic bodies); the increasingly tribalistic attitude among fans of specific IP, film studios, and filmmakers has made for an intimately hostile online environment for official film critics, with many fans even vilifying critics as if they were waging some kind of dialectic war. It’s not surprising that with the effective dreamwork of Capitalist realism, livable reality has been reduced down to the products (e.g. films) we “choose” to spend our money on. Tentpole blockbusters are extravagantly marketed to us as the answer to our existential woes, at least until we notice the next Spider-Man remake coming down the pike. Deprived of virtually all meaningful agency (the cost of living in Capitalism), we’re left with commodities that stand to define us.
Having seen Godzilla: King of the Monsters, I have to admit critics aren’t wrong or baseless in their assessments of the hotly anticipated sequel. The theatricality and gravitas of the 2014 Gareth Edwards Godzilla is sadly missing from new director Michael Dougherty’s take, so much so that the uptick in monster mayhem doesn’t even come close to compensating for the frivolity plaguing the latest end product. There’s no issue with moviegoers enjoying Kings of the Monsters despite its flaws, but vocal “fans” are doing more than just enjoying a film critics have panned; they’re taking pride in their lack of intellectual expectation. We’ve reached a point where film fans do not intuitively engage a film on its terms, but instead insist the film engage with them on their terms. And anyone who dares challenge those terms better watch out, no matter how rational the words; the lines have been drawn long before anyone has even had a chance to see the damn thing.
As insignificant as all this may seem, the anti-intellectual sentiment (as well as nostalgia fetishism) festering in fandom today is indicative of a much more catastrophic happening: an international culture stemmed in disdain for intellectual enrichment in favor of individual indulgence. With the guarantee of global climate collapse if the perpetual inaction of neoliberalism isn’t thwarted in twelve years time hectically knocking on humanity’s door, we should be deathly concerned of our propensity to dismiss critical thought under Capitalism.