Since this is my first blog post, it’s only fitting if I introduced myself first!
My love of movies came from my father. So much so I ended up pursuing film as a career some 14 years later. I think my father tried persuading my elder brother, his firstborn, to like what he liked: cars, fantasy, dinosaurs, space, aliens, books, theatre, orchestra music, and my brother didn’t. But thank my father’s LUCKY stars, because his daughter aka me did.
It all started when Dad brought me to see a movie that quite honestly changed my life: The Lord of The Rings. Oddly enough, it was The Return of The King, and I did not watch any of the two films in the trilogy. But the moment “The Battle of the Pelennor Fields” came on, I was sold. I fell in love with films from then on, (maybe partly due to Orlando Bloom’s handsome elf face as Legolas) and I never looked back. I asked myself ALL the questions: Is there someone behind the camera? How did they come up with Gollum? Is Gollum real? How much time did they spend doing makeup for the Orcs? And most importantly – WHERE DID THEY GET SO MANY HORSES?!
And so after I got my O Level results, I submitted my diploma course “Moving Images” in Temasek Poly to the Singapore education system and never looked back.
Enough of me, let’s talk monsters.
The Host (2006) is a South Korean film that goes against every. single. Hollywood. conventional. formula. This is called the ‘Classical Hollywood Convention’. Don’t believe me?
- Establishment of protagonist: The whole film focuses on the protagonist or ‘hero’, usually male (hero-centered) ✓ (The male lead was lazy and stupid)
- Establishment of antagonist immediately: This is very imminent in Marvel films, where you see the antagonist either being created/formed (eg: The Amazing Spider-man) or plotting an evil plan that will destroy the entire universe (eg: The Avengers) ✓
- The protagonist’s goals ✓ (Gang-doo did not have any goals)
- Waiting until the finale to reveal the monster ✓ (The monster was shown in its full glory at the beginning of the film)
The Hollywood Sci-fi Formula: I’m a huge alien nerd, and most Hollywood alien movies follow the conventional formula very closely. One example is Pacific Rim (2013). A male character “Raleigh”, the hero, overcomes his obstacles to achieve his goal: saving the world.
For point 4, Alien (1979), the sci-fi film that launched a beloved film genre, and also my favourite sci-fi film, had a total of only 3 minutes and 43 seconds of Xenomorph scenes.
However, Alien also broke some of classic Hollywood formula, like having a female lead and not ending in a happy ending (The entire team dies except for Ripley and she puts herself to hypersleep, only relying on hope to stay alive).
In my opinion, I prefer the classic Hollywood convention of revealing the alien in the last second, because it adds to the thrill and keeps the audience on edge.
The Male Gaze: Aside from The Host (2006) breaking all of Hollywood’s rules, I love that the males were basically useless and the female characters were introduced entirely differently, each packed with a skillset relevant to the plot, without sexualising either of the characters. The scene where Nam-Joo set fire to the monster with a single arrow brought chills down my spine. The badassery!
Political satire: This was a film that reflected heavily on depicting Americans as the “monsters”, and the power westerners hold over the South Koreans. The recurring Anti-American team was very imminent, and through research, I found out that the plot of dumping the chemical waste into the Han river was actually based in real life. An American civilian mortician, Albert McFarland, who was based at the Yongsan military base, ordered his staff to pour 120 liters of formaldehyde into the morgue’s plumbing in 2000. This sparked an anti-American uproar as the chemicals eventually reached the Han river, the source of Seoul’s drinking water (source: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-host-2007)
This was one hell of a monster film, and a refreshing one as well!
I’d also be starting a thread of my favourite film from every year I was born in and why, so watch out for it!