I’m gonna move away from videogames this time and talk about something that I think is just as important. So what is this important thing with a purposeful grimace and a terrible sound that pulls spinning high tension wires down? Gamera, sorry, it’s Godzilla! This year Legendary and Warner Bros. are once again adapting the 1954 Kaiju classic. This time with less terrible impersonations of Siskel and Ebert along with silly scientist names.
The movie is set for May 16th 2014, right around the beginning of another summer blockbuster fest. Starring in the movie is Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, and Juliet Binoche. Directing the reboot is Gareth Edwards, who also directed his first feature film, ‘Monsters‘, right before moving on to Godzilla. This is also one of the last remaining studio collaborative projects between Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, who have also produced Pacific Rim.
Boring facts aside, I’m a huge Godzilla fan and have been nervously anticipating as to when we were going to see the US attempt another stab at this. Especially since the last Godzilla movie was Final Wars, and that came out in 2004! So as you can imagine, I’ve been researching as to what this reboot was going to be about and if it had the possibility of being remotely ‘good’. More than likely it will be better than the 98 movie, but to be fair that’s not hard to do. Terror of Mechagodzilla is better than Godzilla 98, and that reused stock footage from previous movies!
However while in some ways I’m looking forward to what Edwards may bring to the table, there’s also just as many factors going against what could make this a great movie. So let’s examine both sides of what could spiral out from the 2014 Godzilla movie. One of which may include Spacegodzilla, but then again everything should have a Spacegodzilla.
The Roaring Positives –
While Pacific Rim did breed a new type of Kaiju fan, the majority of America seemed to not care much for the big ‘robot rumble’ fest that it was. This is sad considering the massive opportunity the movie had to break some new ground, but instead got overshadowed by an Adam Sandler comedy. I would say that’s a crime against humanity itself, but isn’t humanity the culprit in this case?
With Godzilla however, this could become a second chance for America to become more aware of the genre. From what I’ve read, it seems like this won’t be just a simple origin story, but instead will compose of several giant monsters. Despite both Pacific Rim‘s and Godzilla‘s opposite tonal shifts, they both have one thing in common that the Kaiju genre is already known for – men who have lots of straps on their uniforms – actually giant monster fights. Just substitute your average Toho production crew and cast with an American-Hollywood aesthetic and there you go.
What would also benefit more, and maybe this is just me saying this as a huge Godzilla fan, is to feature more iconic Toho monsters. Such as Mothra, King Ghidorah, Rodan, Spacegodzilla (told you), Anguirus, and hell throw in some obscure ones like Varan and Titanosauras just to make the hardcore fans happy. I know while Toho isn’t exactly the most lenient when it comes to lending out their catalog of monsters, but would it be that expensive to have Godzilla fight Rodan, with the budget being excluded here? Must we subdue Rodan into obscurity?
It’s evident that Toho already had an influence with the design for the 2014 Godzilla, but I think it could also benefit Legendary Pictures more if they take the time to listen out to Toho. Not to say that Toho is filled with the greatest ideas, god no. However it could possibly bridge things between the Kaiju fans in Japan, and the general public in North America. Think of it as an opportune strategy to attain not only the North American crowds, and perhaps the Japanese crowds. As I said, it’s something Pacific Rim should have done, but unfortunately hasn’t. Don’t let Guillermo’s notepad of leftover Pacific Rim ideas die in vain!
A way this debacle could also be solved is to adapt a Toho classic, Destroy All Monsters! Despite its problems, which I admit are plenty, Destroy All Monsters still remains as one of my all-time favorite Godzilla movies. It’s perhaps one of the few movies I can recommend to non-fans who love seeing people talk for half an hour in between five minutes of monsters attacking cities. But I digress, it’s a movie that honestly does deserve to be remade mostly for the fact that it not only revolved around the monsters escaping from Monster Island, but also had a large brawl with King Ghidorah at the end. So already you have yourself a badass premise with some iconic monsters, and a villain they can all fight against.
It’s like the Avengers, except the heroes in this case eat and demolish everyone at the end!
Although this was merely something I wanted, and thus it became simply just a dream. Until Gareth Edwards said in an interview that he does indeed want this to build-up toward a Destroy All Monsters sequel. It may seem a bit too soon considering the other opportunities that could be done with this new rebooted Godzilla, but it does show that he does indeed want this to happen.
One other positive aspect about all this is that Edwards does seem to be very eager about the project, and in particular seems to be a fan of Godzilla. Most of his enthusiasm for the movie seems to stem from the original 1954 film, but as was already mentioned with Destroy All Monsters, he is aware of the goofy installments that proceeded after the original. What I like is that he seems to be putting forward ideas that most fans would like to see with a proper treatment of the large scaly bastard.
“Imagine that, in 1954 when the first Godzilla movie was made, this creature really existed and someone saw him, tried to draw him and tried to make a suit, and they did a very good job with it, but when you then saw the real creature, you’d go, “Okay, I totally understand how you got that suit from that creature, but now I see the real thing. I totally believe it. It’s completely real.” That was the brief we gave for all of the designs. We did hundreds of designs, and never stopped playing with it, until the last minute. It got to a point where it was like, “Is there anything else you want to change about this design.” Personally, I was really happy with it.”
Edwards vision for the movie seems to be one of bleakness, authenticity, realism, and surprisingly a sense of horror that hasn’t really been done with Godzilla for quite a while. At least if you don’t consider the 98 version to be a horror movie, I know I do. Perhaps it’s this type of unique and different thinking that could push this movie to greatness, or in other ways maybe a disaster.
The Nuclear Melting Negatives –
The problem that most Godzilla movies, hell Kaiju movies in general, face is that the human parts are not as enticing as the monster parts. Either the characters are one-dimensional, have annoying sidekicks, are ex-scientists, or are all of the above. However just like with dance or kung-fu movies, you don’t go for the acting, you come for the spectacle and choreography. That’s why the Kaiju genre exists, because of the strong emphasis on the monsters and shocking reactions rather than the elements around it.
Now Japan has been doing this for quite a while with Godzilla, America on the other hand, not much luck. The 98 version of Godzilla also followed a scientist who was part of a military operation to take down Godzilla before he annihilated New York. Doesn’t sound as different from the Toho movies, until you take into account the terrible dialogue, the annoying romantic interest, the cliché military general, the caricatures, and the residents of New York with the most over-the-top accents I’ve probably ever heard. These characters were so terrible, it brought down the movie with it, well, along with several other things I could name of.
While the 2014 Godzilla isn’t in the same situation as 98 Godzilla, it could very easily fall into the same trap with human characters that aren’t that interesting. Even worse, they make the human characters boring and stilted because what if Gareth Edwards isn’t too good on directing actors? Would make sense considering that this is the second movie he’s worked on and Monsters, personally saying here, did not have the best human characters. I’d like to be proven wrong, but even I admit that perhaps the movie could suffer too much from not enough Godzilla and too much sappy human drama. Thick sappy human melodrama!
However we’re also living in a post Dark Knight age because, well, Dark Knight made a lot of bank. The Dark Knight was an astounding success that elevated Batman into becoming one of the most grounded out superheroes of all time. Approaching this property with such a realistic and gritty intention has not only worked so well for Batman, but it also worked great for Superman, and everything else in the goddamn world. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Dark Knight and I think Nolan is a talented director, but what people have to realize is that the reason why the realism factor works for The Dark Knight is because it makes sense within the context of that character.
Godzilla on the other hand, um, it’s a giant radioactive dinosaur that shoots lasers from its mouth (and yes, the atomic breath has been confirmed for this movie). Judging from what I’ve seen with the trailers and the promotional material as well, there seems to be a lot of dark clouds, highly equipped soldiers, dead bodies, sad faces, and a very serious tone set in place here. All I have to say is, where the fuck are my ice-beam tanks and the giant Ultraman rip-offs to fight against Godzilla? Kidding, but it does bring up an interesting idea thought that I became curious about. Could the movies themes and message hinder the movie?
It’s already noted that Edwards appreciation for Godzilla originated from the 1954 classic, but I’m worried as to how much inspiration he’s taken from that movie. What worked about the 1954 movie was that its message was brought about during a time when the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombing was still on people’s minds, and nuclear weaponry was a hot topic. Cloverfield also had a similar message, except tweaked so that it fit within the context of a post 9/11 society. I’d arguably say that’s probably what the reboot for Godzilla should have been. Instead here we are with a reboot to a popular franchise wanting to maintain the same spirit as that original movie, but will it still work now that we have Cloverfield, and will people be able to buy the message that this movie seems to be going, which is nature rebelling against the oppression of man?
I do acknowledge Edwards enthusiasm, but I think inputting an analogical point to today’s society in a movie like this could easily backfire. Especially if he keeps banging us over the head just to remind us about it. Yes, humans are terrible, their upbringing is the cause of natures downfall and blah, blah, blah! I just want to see Godzilla beat the crap out of some monsters, is that too hard to ask for?
There’s a lot of bases to cover here, and a lot of appeasement to reestablish this franchise again, however for Gareth Edwards it’s about proving why he should be in charge of Godzilla. Regardless of how awesome that concept trailer looked, or how much you probably enjoyed that teaser trailer, those are only mere glimpses as to what we can only expect. And then again, we’re shown very little as to what this movie will be about exactly. For some, that’s a great thing because that means there’s a lot more to uncover once the movie comes out. For me that’s more of a reason to be excited and worried at the same time.
I’m just dreading the day where we see a wacky cartoon spin-off of this movie. Or anticipating it…hm.