Who doesn’t like a good monster? I think monsters can give a movie a certain spark, especially in our era, where we are embracing Fantasy and Sci-Fi with terrific CGI. In many ways, monsters are a good way of showing off how far we have come from the puppets of ‘Clash of the Titans’ and ‘King Kong’. On top of that, they are good fun. I have compiled a list of the top five movie monsters of 2013 and trust me, there were quite a few good ones to choose between.
5 – MUD-DWELLERS – RIDDICK
At the bottom of the list, we get the Mud-Dwellers from the third Riddick movie. They do not get a higher place, because by the end of the movie, they lose a lot of their intimidation factor, something that we never got from ‘Pitch Black’. In fact, they kind of evolve into a disappointment. However, when we see them at the very start of the film, nothing more than a sinister poison stinger poking out of the muddy waters of this abandoned planet, they are a truly terrifying creature straight from our darkest imaginations. I also like the concept of the rain turning the entire landscape into a rampage of the creatures. That was a cool idea and the moment you realised the carnage that was about to be unleashed, it was a truly thrilling moment from the film.
4 – OTACHI – PACIFIC RIM
Pacific Rim had to get onto this list somewhere, as its very concept was bringing the audience some of the greatest monsters it could create. Some of the monsters weren’t actually that memorable, especially the final one which is a pretty disappointing climax in itself, but the mid-film battle with both Otachi and Leatherback was a great one. Otachi is my personal favourite, as there were so many layers to its characters. Knowing that robots fighting monsters might sound like a good idea, but gets old quick on camera, Guillermo Del Toro made Otachi an interesting creature. When the fight began to drag, he would give the monster wings, taking the battle to another level altogether. It was certainly the high point of the entire movie.
3 – DEAN HARDSCRABBLE – MONSTERS UNIVERSITY
With all of these monsters in 2013, it is easy to forget the lighter tone of Monsters University. It definitely deserved a place on the list though, because the entire movie was bursting with imagination and took the idea of monsters to another level, giving them many different shapes and forms. Best of them all was Helen Mirren’s Dean Hardscrabble, mainly because her monster was… well, scary. We had gotten so lost in the playful cuteness of the likes of Sulley and Mike Wazowski, that we forgot that we are dealing with monsters in this story. Hardscrabble brought that back into the foreground though, by looking intimidating and fearsome. A force to be reckoned with.
2 – URSA – AFTER EARTH
While the film was lacking, I thought the Ursa was actually one of the more ingenious ideas in the whole story. It is a monster that sees only through the fear of its victims, so it is attracted to the afraid. They are sent to humanity’s forces by an unseen alien threat (one of the other more sinister touches to After Earth), and make waste to the humans. To fight back, the fighting technique of ‘ghosting’ is created, where the fighter rids themselves of all fear, making the Ursa blind to its attackers. The Ursas do not go down without a fight, however, killing their foes in the most gruesome way possible, instilling fear in all who walk through their carnage. The climax does not disappoint either, really getting across this creature of pure fear and terror.
1 – SMAUG – THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
But in terms of fear factor, stunning CGI and pure tension, Smaug is the winner. It helps that we have spent one and a half movies building up to the reveal of this tyrannical villain. By the time, we enter the Lonely Mountain, we cannot contain our excitement at the prospect of finally laying eyes on the dragon itself. Adding to the thrill, Benedict Cumberbatch provides the voice, booming and sinister, coupled with a script that really shows off the majestic threat of this creature. Of course, being a Peter Jackson movie, the CGI was always going to be amazing. Somehow it still exceeds all expectations. We never quite get over how amazing Smaug the Dragon looks and every new frame is just as stunning as the last.
Maybe my favourite thing about Smaug the Dragon though is the expressions. It is truly remarkable that CGI has come on far enough, so we can see the thoughts running through Smaug’s mind through his eyes. The moment where Thorin fools him with the golden statue is amazing. We can see the greed and wonder in his eyes, as he gazes upon it. It was a breath-taking moment and everything we should be celebrating about both CGI and a good movie monster.