Godzilla: Minus One (2023) created a ripple against Hollywood’s expected recipe for success. The film goes beyond the standard for monster movies and has resonated with all audiences who had the chance to see it in theaters. It’s received high praise and exposes exactly how stories should be told.
Anatomy of a Fall (2023) provided rich, enticing characters stuck in a homicide trial to determine if a spouse murdered her husband. But the success of the film isn’t derived from uncovering whether she did or didn’t kill him. The film twists, spins and peels back the layers of a complicated marriage to reveal the beauty of how imperfect people are. Within their imperfections and faults, perhaps as the audience we get the chance to see our own. And even more, we can see how this affects others.
Apart from both films telling focused, strong stories, you’ll notice that both are foreign films to American audiences. Recent movies and shows have been met with lukewarm reception. Even within the last 6 months, the last time I remember audiences were excited to see films in theaters was this past July with “Barbie-heimer”. So you have to pause and ask why?
In a recent NBC article, “Rave reviews and box office records: How 'Godzilla Minus One' took the U.S. by storm”, Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore, is quoted saying “[T]he new Godzilla added to a recent spate of surprise successes, including “Barbie,” “Oppenheimer” and even “Sound of Freedom. Lately, it hasn’t been the tried and true. It’s been the outside-of-the-box thinking or movies that have a unique point of view, or not trying to just replicate what was successful before."1
But the movies he listed aren’t surprise successes — at least not to those who know where to look within a story. With the rise of monstrous-sized film studios and box-office shattering superhero films, film studios and their executives finally had a recipe for creating a return on their investment. But with discovering the “recipe for success”, their films reiterate many recent complaints that are now common household phrases. “The characters are one-dimensional. The plot feels formulaic. I’ll wait until it's on a streaming service to see it.”
With the success of films that focus on great storytelling, one thing gives me confidence and hope for movies and stories of the future. Great storytelling is alive and thriving, it's just not in American film right now. As audiences we are demanding better quality stories to hold close to our hearts, but until American films find a foothold on great storytelling again I would suggest looking to the past and looking beyond Hollywood. Great stories still exist, you’ll just have to work a little bit and be more purposeful to find them.