A difficult family dynamic is as vital to a monster or alien summer blockbuster as the actual creature wreaking havoc on the world. Parental issues are common in genre narratives, from Star Wars to Batman. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is more than happy to reinforce this particular trope.
Famous landmarks, buildings, and cities are constantly under threat, but the emotional ties that hold a family together are just as vulnerable as the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge. The monster or alien tends to be a metaphor for something bigger, whether commentating on global anxieties or reflecting a personal trauma (often, it is both). An emotional gulf separating father and child needs as much resolving as the global catastrophe in play.
He refuses to take any BS and wears his disdain on his face for all to see when facing off against shadowy organizations. Chandler in these authoritative roles is the guy you want fighting in your corner, but you might find it hard to have a heart-to-heart with him.
There are a number of similarities in the characters he plays in both J.J. Abrams’ 2011 nostalgia-fest Super 8 and the recently released Godzilla: King of the Monsters. For Father’s Day, we are going to take a look at how Chandler excels as the distant dad with good intentions.
Spoilers for Super 8 and Godzilla: King of the Monsters ahead.
As Deputy Jackson Lamb in Super 8, Chandler’s role is to protect the town from not only the creature wreaking havoc but also the shady military clean-up operation. When the sheriff disappears, Lamb is who the people turn to (and yell at). Amid the chaos caused by this extraterrestrial, his already-imploding relationship with teen son Joe (Joel Courtney) is put the test. The opening of the movie isn’t a world-changing event depicting how the alien came to this small Ohio town; instead, it is the aftermath of the factory accident that kills Lamb’s wife, Elizabeth (Caitriona Balfe). The wake that follows indicates the emotional void that already exists between father and son, which will only continue to grow.
Matters are complicated further when Lamb finds out Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning) is involved in this movie project. Alice’s father is who Lamb blames for his wife’s death, and a classic forbidden friendship follows. Lamb tells his son he can no longer hang out with Alice, but Joe refuses to obey, telling his dad, “You and I aren’t clear about anything." The matter is left unresolved as Lamb has to go back to work, but his duty to the town also means he can temporarily ignore the emotional trauma he and his son are both experiencing.
Ultimately, Lamb doesn’t need to save his son, but another rescue does bring some closure when he breaks Alice's dad out of the military hospital. Chandler is so good at playing stoic authority figures, but he isn’t completely closed off as he makes peace with Louis (Ron Eldard) over the death of his wife. These catastrophic scenarios help re-evaluate and confront past pain.
Again, Chandler plays a father who finds it hard to express himself beyond bottled-up anger. Mark isn’t without empathy; he is incredulous, but there is something in the way he bitterly laughs at the ridiculous nature of these end-of-the-world scenarios. Whether he is a scientist or a sheriff’s deputy, Chandler oozes reliability with his thick head of hero hair. He might be emotionally unavailable, but he will do anything for his kids — including running into a dangerous situation armed only with a handgun facing down men with bigger weapons or a monster with three heads.
The true monster of these movies is the grief that turns into anger threatening to stomp all over the living. As Kyle Chandler proves in both Super 8 and Godzilla: King of the Monsters, a distant dad doesn't need to stay that way.
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