Fantasia 2022: What to Do With the Dead Kaiju? — A Lifeless Kaiju Re-tread

Though it contains such potential, the kaiju genre is usually one of repetition. Countless films follow the same basic format, often with diminishing results. In this repetition can be joy, though, as specific films concentrate on the constituent parts that make up what can be a pleasing familiarity, and deliver something truly satisfying. Initially, What to Do With the Dead Kaiju feels like an interesting new spin on the genre. It sets itself out as a film about aftermath, one that takes place after the credits roll on your usual kaiju feature: yes, we killed the monster, but now we have to dispose of the corpse? This should be the springboard into something else but is, instead, an underutilised premise. In fact, like too many of its genre contemporaries, this supposedly new thing just falls backwards into the expected structure.

In the end, What to Do With the Dead Kaiju feels like yet another kaiju picture (and not a very good one). Our kaiju threat is established at the start (only this time it is dead); different groups have different plans to counter this threat; an initial plan not only does not succeed but unveils the true horror of the situation (all is more dangerous than it seems, what a surprise), and we build to a final sequence where we have to take the kaiju (only this time it is dead) down once and for all (well, for the second time). This climactic sequence also introduces new weapons and contains classic kaiju clichés: a noble sacrifice, the culmination of a love triangle (of sorts) and a military vs. something else dichotomy (to take the thing down). I could go on. As mentioned, though, these tropes are not inherently bad. This film just deploys them with a real inelegance and none of them feel earned or interesting. It is a work at that is at its best when it diverges, and the majority of the film is a forced convergence.

The ultimate issue is that dealing with the dead kaiju is a better thematic premise than it is a dramatic one. Admittedly, it does make sense that disposing of a hazardous thing would have similar hazards to defeating it in the first place. Therefore, if the narrative is entirely focused on kaiju corpse disposal, things are going to become familiar fast. At this point then, we just have a kaiju movie but the kaiju is dead. And, let’s be honest, kaiju movies are more interesting when the kaijus are alive (at least until right near the end). The initial moments of this film, though, are interesting. We get an overview of a post-kaiju Japan, a sense of paranoia and fear dominating. The kaiju still haunts the nation, its death merely creates caution: it wrought so much destruction that nobody can quite believe it is dead. This is compounded by a narrative beat that it died via some kind of Deus Ex Machina (referred to literally as this). The resulting uncertainty is a to fertile ground for narrative, allowing the film to actually deal with the impact of its premise. Of course, it does no such thing. We instead tie ourselves to several characters and the narrative barrels forwards.

No character really interests and the film does not do a good job of making its evidently small budget into a feature. Though, perhaps this is merely highlighted by the poor script. This is a film full of crude humour and lifeless gags. It wants to be a bit random and silly, doing this in ways that frequently undercut scenes that have some dramatic potential. This grating tone is coupled with too broad a focus, the film just doesn’t manage to carve out an interesting narrative path despite a promising premise. We are left with an assortment of directions and none of them are truly interesting. At some points, there is a focus on procedure that is quite involving. When the film concerns itself with the bureaucratic it becomes an engaging piece of speculative fiction that lives up to the promise of the premise. But here is where the writing really gets in the way, the crudeness undercuts the pre-existing interest and then the film gets lost diving into another direction.

A solid premise is not enough, in the end. Though, there is enough inherent cleverness in the core conceit to merit a tepid recommendation. This is an interesting direction for the kaiju film that could make for a great film. What to Do With the Dead Kaiju is not that film. It touches on some fun points, like how the government want to preserve the giant, bloated corpse of a once tyrannical monster for tourism (sounds awfully like the UK’s strategy with the monarchy), but the film doesn’t do enough with this. At every point, the execution really gets in the way, as does distracting filmmaking. The direction and editing feels haphazard, with far too many cuts and a plethora of unconducive camera angles. This is of a piece with everything, though, in a film that doesn’t get much past the ideas stage. A solid premise is not enough, you need to do something equally solid with it.


Leave a Reply