Giant Monster Playset, a short film written and directed by Greg Pope, enjoyed its world premiere on April 19, 2012 at the Nashville Film Festival. The short was part of Tennessee Film Night, a showcase of short works by filmmakers living and working in Tennessee. Giant Monster Playset is an homage to giant monster films like King Kong, Godzilla, Them!, and Tarantula, to name only a few. More than anything, though, Giant Monster Playset reminds us that what we love most about movies is the opportunity to create imaginative fun. Giant Monster Playset will enjoy a second screening along with the other Tennessee Film Night shorts on Tuesday, April 24 at 6:45 p.m. at the Regal Green Hills 16.
It’s no secret that modern filmmakers have become obsessed with CGI as a means by which to create new cinematic realities and spectacles. The creative minds behind classic science fiction movies such as George Lucas and James Cameron seem to no longer be capable of making a movie that isn’t full of computer-generated backgrounds, characters, and special effects. What Hollywood seems not to notice, however, is that remakes of classics like Godzilla (by Roland Emmerich in 1998) and King Kong (by Peter Jackson in 2005) ring hollow because the computer-generated everything lacks the playful imagination so clearly present in the earlier versions. When CGI aims for excessive realism, it undermines the very reason we go to the movies in the first place.
Giant Monster Playset turns back the clock on filmmaking technique to get back to the real purpose of the movies. Young Collin steps out his front door and finds a package wrapped in tantalizing reptilian paper. He opens it to reveal a board game that, frankly, looks totally awesome. A game where the purpose is to take a giant monster on a path of destruction through an unsuspecting, sleepy town? Yes, please!
What Collin doesn’t realize is that the game he is imagining in his home is being played out on the real streets of his hometown. Martin, Collin’s older brother, wanders past the gigantic monster, but doesn’t notice him because of the blaring tunes from his iPod. Is it a coincidence that the most recent piece of technology in the movie distracts the protagonist from the crazy awesome thing happening right behind him? I think not. When Martin arrives home, he turns on the television and sees the monster causing havoc on the news. He realizes the connection between the game and takes it upon himself to save the town.
It’s telling that Collin is so enraptured by a board game in an era when we might expect him to be playing video games on the television or computer. Similarly, Giant Monster Playset turns back the clock and uses retro monster movie techniques to create the beast that wreaks havoc on the town. The hyper-attention to realism that so often plagues CGI takes away from the creativity of films as filmmakers focus too much on the details of how things look and forget that the movie is supposed to be fun. Pope and his creative team realize that it’s important to play with the movie’s concept and make something new and imaginative. They know that movies take our imagination, creativity, and sense of fun and blow them up to gigantic proportions. And luckily we all get to sit back and enjoy a rollicking good show.