The following contains spoilers for Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken, in theaters now.
DreamWorks Animation's Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken introduces an entire undersea world of titanic figures, teasing a host of entities that live under the sea (and occasionally find themselves at odds with the kraken kingdom). The film keeps DreamWorks' traditional focus on characters and their interplay, showcasing the titanic potential of creatures like the kraken and the mermaids. The result is a fun world that's worth exploring in more than one movie.
The film's set-up of krakens as monarchs of the ocean is similar to the Godzilla franchise, especially the modern version, which has introduced other kaiju as both allies and enemies for the King of the Monsters. Ruby Gillman uses its giant monsters similarly to the Godzilla films, exploring worldly concepts with big visuals -- albeit with different messages. Leaning further in this direction could turn Ruby Gillman into the all-ages version of the Godzilla series.
How Ruby Gillman Follows in Godzilla's Footsteps
Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken focuses on the titular teenager: a high school student in the small town of Oceanside. Having convinced the townsfolk that they are from Canada and not beneath the sea, the Gillmans lead a largely uncomplicated life. But Ruby's true potential has been hidden for years, and contact with the sea unlocks more of her true form and abilities. The film leans heavily into its puberty metaphor in the first act, highlighting the changes that Ruby's body is going through and how it impacts the way she perceives herself.
But the bigger reveal comes after she discovers her grandmother, who's effectively the monarch of the seven seas. This responsibility is a staggering one to Ruby, especially after she learns she'll one day inherit the throne that her mother abandoned years earlier. Ruby Gillman touches on a lot of elements of growing up and finding out who you are, all while setting up other monsters for its title character to confront down the line. It's a clever way to create a kid-friendly version of Godzilla in a couple of ways.
Why Ruby Gillman Could Become DreamWorks' Godzilla Franchise
One of the strengths of the Godzilla series is the way it allows filmmakers to discuss weighty real-world topics, like the impact of nuclear war and the effects of climate change, through the bombastic and fun visuals of giant monster fights. Ruby Gillman is able to accomplish something similar with Ruby's specific family dynamics and growth. In both series, giant monsters serve as visual metaphors. They're massive characters with the ability to reflect big ideas using colorful bursts of energy and explosions. Filmmakers could use Ruby's world to tease out different themes and ideas, similar to the many ways Godzilla has been recontextualized over the years.
As in Godzilla's world, the idea of a ruling monster species sets up plenty of conflict. Ruby is introduced to a trophy room of her grandmother's defeated foes, with the most vicious of them -- the mermaids -- serving as the film's primary antagonist. The scene's hints toward a greater scope of undersea threats allow for all sorts of other stories to play out, whether that's by making the other giant monsters frightening enemies or trying to find unity between differing factions. Ruby's attempts to juggle her responsibilities to the sea and her life on land is fertile ground to play with expectations levied against young people. There's more to explore with her changing body and what having a new form does to Ruby as she grows, even beyond her physical stature.
One of the enduring qualities of Godzilla as a character is that the visually compelling and instantly memorable giant monster never ceases to be timely. The same applies to Ruby Gillman, whose film is full of fun visual beats and plenty of storytelling possibilities. The scope of the movie and the adaptability of its premise make it possible for Ruby to follow in the footsteps of Godzilla -- embracing the massive battles of giant monsters while telling personal stories that younger audiences can relate to.
Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is now in theaters.