As a number of things have come to my attention this summer re: monsters in China, I think that it's time we have a serious discussion. About monsters, I mean. The first thing that caught my eye was a piece on the blog Rectified.name. As the author, William Moss, says: Why hasn’t there been a Chinese giant-monster film with a Chinese giant monster? While armies, police forces and parliaments have crumbled before Godzilla and his brethren, there is one bureaucracy that is apparently entirely impervious to giant monsters: the State Administration for Radio, Film and Television. SARFT has apparently erected a monster-proof shield around Beijing and indeed around all Chinese cities. This is not because giant monsters are particularly scary, obscene or conducive to social unrest. It is because they are politically unacceptable. (Read more about the lack of monsters in Chinese cinema.)
Well, that may not forever be the case. As thewrote about a few weeks back, may soon make its big screen debut. This Bigfoot with Chinese characteristics haunts the forests of Shennongjia and will no doubt haunt the dreams of many a child if given its proper theatrical due. After all, are you really a legendary mythical creature if you haven't terrorized the subconscious of a generation? No. You are most certainly not, Yeren. Not yet....
Yesterday, the fine fellows at Tech in Asia pointed me in the direction of Shanghai, I was immediately transported to memories of the early 90's when I used to play SimCity on my parent's Compaq Presario. As a certain set will undoubtedly remember, the earliest incarnation of SimCity allowed the user to summon an orange salamander-like monster to the city, where it immediately descended upon the most polluted areas of the map and wrought destruction and promoted chaos. Of course, I—and I can only assume many others—built my cities with only one purpose in mind: to create something that could be completely and utterly destroyed. Such is youth, I suppose. (I also built Lego houses in order to explode them with firecrackers, so it's possible this was just a small part of a more disconcerting trend.)
Anyhow, these Baidu maps were a reminder how entertaining it is to witness chaos and destruction and how much more satisfying this witnessing is when you recognize the structures being dismantled. Given that a Godzilla-type movie set in China no longer seems a complete impossibility, it seems like a good opportunity to point out to the relevant officials a number of Shanghai landmarks that are just begging to be defaced by a scaly monster a number of stories high. Now might also be a good time to point out to the same relevant officials that the end of such a movie would see the monster experiencing a tremendous defeat, thereby reinforcing the fierceness of the Chinese spirit and the might of the Chinese military. So there's that.
In my mind's eye, I can already see the movie's opening scene. Rolling shots of early morning Shanghai. Bicycles. Stalls of baozi and guotie. Elderly folk stretching. A crowded park. Men in suits striding past pajama-clad retirees. Pump-wearing young professionals clip-clopping towards the metro. Jing'an Temple rising in the foreground.
Inside the temple, there is peace, a sense of tranquility. The hustle of the city falls away. Monks performing their ancient and sacred morning rites. Cue a rumbling from beneath. The monster has left the subway tunnels deep below and comes crashing through the floor of Jing'an Temple. He is in the center of Shanghai, and he is pissed. All hell breaks loose.
From there, the monster would head south and terrorize the residents of the former French Concession. Remember, any kind of respectable finale will take place on or amidst skyscrapers, so the winding, low-slung lanes of the former French Concession are the perfect appetizer for Lujiazui's neon hued main course. It would also provide ample opportunities for that classic monster movie move, the one where the shot starts with some really normal thing being performed by really normal people (a group of old Chinese guys playing cards, for example) and then follows their reactions as they slowly realize that something totally ****** is happening (an enormous monster charging down Wulumuqi Lu, for example). Classic move.
[pullquote]Heading east, the monster would completely and totally destroy Xintiandi. Not because the archipelago of overpriced establishments is notable, or because it would make for interesting cinema, but just because that place is the worst, and even monsters know it.[/pullquote]Next up would be Tianzifang, because there is just so much stuff to destroy there. So many tchotchkes! Can you imagine the sound of a billion trinkets shattering simultaneously? I can't, but I bet somebody in the sound effects department at a major motion picture studio could. And I bet it would be awesome. Also, the alleys of Tianzifang would be the perfect venue for some artsy shots where the monster's foot or tail or something would come crashing down onto the camera. Very dramatic stuff.
After the Tianzifang and FFC warmup, the monster would begin facing military opposition. Forces would have been mounted, but at this time would present an insufficient opposition to the monster's rage. Rifle bullets bouncing of reptilian armor and the like. The buildings in the monster's path would also begin to increase in scope. He would head to the Shanghai Culture Square, a turtle-shaped theater that lights up at night and would look great in various stages of destruction. Michael Bay would have a field day with this scene.
Heading east, the monster would completely and totally destroy Xintiandi. Not because the archipelago of overpriced establishments is notable, or because it would make for interesting cinema, but just because that place is the worst, and even monsters know it.
People's Square is where things would really heat up. By this point the leading actor has nabbed his lithesome, beautiful costar, the token funny fat guy has been eaten alive and the Air Force has joined the military forces on the ground (which now includes tanks, long range heavy artillery and the like). Fires abound. The monster rampages across the plaza, displacing scores of pickpockets and bag/watch-hawkers with its tail. As the firepower begins to take its toll on the monster, its terrifying roars echo across the ravaged city. After laying waste to the square he barrels east to the Bund.
Now, I don't want to lay it all out there, so I'll leave the finale unwritten. Obviously, we all know this will reach its crescendo in Lujiazui, what with the Oriental Pearl Tower, the Jin Mao and the World Financial Center just aching to be scaled by a monster in its final throes of madness.
So that concludes my pitch for a Shanghai based Godzilla-style blockbuster. Shoot, I'd go see it. But whether I would go or not isn't really the point. Do it for the children, SARFT. Let them feel the special something that comes from watching your country under fire from an otherworldly beast. Let them watch their people overcome. Let them see the beast cast down into the fires of hell. It is not so much to ask for.
Do it for the children.