Friday, May 9, 2014
More Thoughts On "Godzilla" (2014)
At the time of this post, we are one week away from the release of the newest Godzilla film. Much to my surprise, the anticipation for this film is not only building for fans of the long-running franchise, but the general audience as well.
Godzilla has not been on the big screen since 2004 in his 50th-anniversary film, "Godzilla: Final Wars." The reason we haven't seen him since then is due to that film being a complete disaster, both with audiences and critics. At this time, "Godzilla: Final Wars" is the third highest budgeted film that Toho Co. has ever made, and it failed to make back even half of its budget at the box office. Not to mention the giant marketing campagin the film had.
Needless to say, it proved to both Toho and the world that we did not want to see Godzilla anymore. Thus, the ten-year hiatus.
I've previously mentioned this, but I was initially skeptical when news came out about this new Godzilla film. Part of the reason is because Hollywood does not exactly have a good track record with turning Japanese products into an American film, as demonstrated by the 1998 "Godzilla."
The way in which Godzilla moved and acted was more akin to a Velociraptor from "Jurassic Park" than the King of the Monsters. The problem was not that they changed Godzilla, but that they changed him so much that the inspiration was completely unrecognizable. This particular monster did not breath radioactive fire, and was taken down fairly easily by a couple of missles. That's not Godzilla but a weak immitator.
So you can imagine why I would hold my breath when a new American Godzilla gets announced. Yet, this new film does seem to be heading more in the direction of the older films and still keeping Godzilla true to his roots, though we will see in a week.
So why do I think this new film is getting so many people excited? Why is it that non-fans, who are the ones that call Godzilla cheesy, want to see his return so badly?
I believe this is for a few reasons. One is that the old image of Godzilla being cheesy and campy mostly comes from his old films, like "Godzilla vs. Megalon" and "Godzilla vs. Hedorah." Scenes of Godzilla flying by using his atomic breath and drop kicking a monster from a mile away stick with most audiences, and not much else.
But those films are old news now. Most people haven't watched those movies in years. To some people, this is the first time they'll be seeing Godzilla since he was in theaters last time, with "Godzilla 2000." Their minds are fresh and ready to be impressed.
Another reason is because this new film seems to be diverting very much from the old campy Godzilla films and returning to the roots of the original 1954 film. This Godzilla has returned to being a city destroying behemoth that can't be stopped and is more massive than anything we could possibly imagine. Whether he remains as an allegory for the atomic bomb or if they'll be updating that image has yet to be seen, but it makes for a grittier and harsher tone than what people have come to expect from Godzilla.
So really, people are excited for this film because it is bringing them something they haven't seen before from Godzilla while still keeping the excitment and scale of his previous films.
Oh, and Bryan Cranston. Because everybody loves Bryan Cranston right now.
You know, that's something that is getting on my nerves about this film. It seems like people are talking more about Bryan Cranston than they are anything else in the movie. I remember hearing the reactions to the trailer on talk shows and the only thing discussed was how intense Bryan looked.
I have no problem with Bryan Cranston. He is a wonderful actor and I'm glad they're bringing in some great talent into this film. But he is not the reason people should go see this film. This movie is not called "Walter White vs. Godzilla" or "Bryan Cranston's adventures, co-starring Godzilla."
Bryan Cranston is not the biggest star in this movie. Nor is Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen or Ken Watanabe. It is Godzilla. Not just because the movie is named after him, but because of his legacy and staying power. He has been in over twenty-eight movies since 1954 and helped create an entire subgenre of monster movies. He is a pop culture icon and a name and face that everyone in the world can recognize.
My hope is that the movie does not forget this. That they don't rely solely on the star power of actors like Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe, and remember all the joy that Godzilla has given people over the years.
Initial reviews have stated that the biggest complaint about the film is that there isn't much of Godzilla in the film. That the on-screen time for the King is minimal and this has some fans upset already.
But, I'm not one of them.
In the first Godzilla film, 1954's "Godzilla," we didn't actually get to see a full shot of him until the movie was already over a third of the way in. Godzilla was kept in the shadows, lurking but still having an impact on the world around him. We see the destruction he caused and little clues about what he might be, but that's it. It is why I say "Jaws" took a queue from "Godzilla" since they did the same thing with the shark, only they did it in Japan 21 years earlier.
For all we know, the 2014 movie will do something similar to that. You can have a character play a huge part in the film without actually showing that character. Especially with a creature like Godzilla, who can destroy a major city without even hesitating, could kill millions of people in an instant, and could be hiding anywhere in the ocean, ready to strike again.
Just his presence alone changes the entire course of the movie.
Which is exactly why I am extremely excited to see where "Godzilla" goes. There is so much potential for great story telling with giant monsters, especially when there are so many good actors in the film. Top it off with a Hollywood-sized budget and you got something that has the potential to be the blockbuster hit of the summer.