Godzilla vs. Hollywood: Why The Latest King of the Monsters Resurrection Will Fail
If anyone wants this film to be both a critical and financial success it’s me. Godzilla sparked my love of film. But regardless of my most optimistic hopes and all this rushing good news that keeps being presented (Frank Darabont rewriting the script, the word rewrite is always a bad sign), to me it’s all as disposable as a used tissue. I don’t believe that anyone in Hollywood today has the ability to make a great Godzilla film (except perhaps Quentin Tarantino, cause he’s the man), but please Hollywood, prove me wrong. Following I’ve let my inner cynic take the keys to type up some reasons why Hollywood isn’t cut out to take Big G out of retirement just yet.
3. It’s Been Attempted Before… and Failed
Back in 98, Columbia and Tristar Pictures were distributing those over seas Kaiju films from Toho Studios. I’m not sure exactly what compelled them to give the genre a shot themselves, but they went ahead and did it anyways. They were jumping without a chute from the get go. What resulted was a messy monster film that had a giant iguana parading around Tokyo dubbed as Godzilla. In all honesty it’s more reminiscent of the last 25 minutes of The Lost World, or Ray Harryhausen’s The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (which is even referenced in the movie). Toho Studies themselves bastardized the film, stating that “Godzilla” was too concerned about laying eggs rather than rampaging through the city. The studio even chastised the monsters name, dubbing him Zilla. In the film Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters all Out Attack, 2 Japanese soldiers make reference to a monster attacking New York, one of them brushing the comment off confidently assuring it wasn’t Godzilla. In the last Godzilla film, Godzilla Final Wars, the titular monster and his American rival battle it out in front of the Sydney Opera House while Sum 41’s “We’re All To Blame” plays in the background. It’s the greatest cinematic moment since the climax of The Good the Bad and the Ugly.
While Godzilla made more than enough of it’s budget back, I highly doubt it resulted from the reviews or word of mouth. It was likely due to its borderline brilliant marketing campaign. Godzilla was one of the first films to take advantage of merchandising and what I like to call creative marketing. Back in 98 Godzilla was everywhere, on your television, on the computer, in the magazines you read, and in your Taco Bell. All images of the partially exposed monster (an extreme close up of his reptilian green cornea, or a gargantuan foot smashing something we know to be large), all sported the tag line “Size Does Matter”. A teaser trailer consisting of a museum tour guide accenting the size and ferocity of a T-Rex to some bored school children, is interrupted by Godzilla’s massive foot smashing the skeleton of the dinosaur. Godzilla had one of the greatest ad campaigns ever. 2014’s Godzilla is no different. The comic con teaser poster and trailer are such sought after glimpses of what’s done on the film so far, that fan boys have already created full mock paintings of what the King of the Monsters will look like based upon a cell phone image of the beasts silhouette.
The Earth shakes as company credits play through a dirty filter, black and white archival footage of a city in ruins and flame flicker while the infamous speech of Robert Oppenheimer plays in the background. As the dialogue closes, the image of a vague Gojira appears, he lets out his trademark roar and the titles fade in. Just imagining these things weaved together is enough to give anyone the hebbie jebbies, but I fear that they’re at it again. When a trailer is put out before a film is even shot, or for that matter even written, I worry. Especially when the trailer is this good. They don’t even know the tone of the film yet, though I’ll gladly soak in the success of the trailer.
2. Gareth Edwards
Who am I to criticize the hard work of another human being? Well I’m Brandon Somma and the wonderful thing about being human is having an opinion. How this guy landed the gig I’ll never know, well I do know, I just don’t understand the thought process on tossing him the project. Mr Edwards has directed only one other feature film, Monsters. We’ll return to that subject in a moment. The dude got his start doing digital effects for low budget productions. He’s got about 8 or 9 effects gigs to his name. His labor of love Monsters was a poor film to begin with. It gained all this recognition because of it’s incredibly low budget and because it looks like a much more expensive film than it actually is, I believe the budget was around $800,000. But the key word there is *looks*, it looks really good. In actuality I find it poorly acted and sloppily written. There is no substance beneath it’s pretty images other than a very obvious and tiring metaphor.
I’m jumping the gun a little bit, this is Gareth Edwards first film, and lots of great directors had awful debuts; James Cameron with Piranha 2: The Spawning, and David Fincher with Alien 3, though Cameron was fired off the set halfway through production, and the latter is up for debate. But in those films were slivers of genius, slivers of genius that made those guys the filmmakers they are today. When I watch Monsters I see pretty sunsets and goofy creature designs. I suppose Edwards believes he can do the series justice because he is a life long fan. While that’s great optimistic thinking and all, just because I’m a guitarist and love Led Zepplin doesn’t mean I can play on their next album. There has to be something more than just chemistry between the art and artist. It has to be your story to tell.
1. Hollywood & America
The original 1954 Gojira is a wonderful film, both a commercial pleasure and a literary satisfaction. In a country ravaged by war and the first hand atrocities of the atomic bomb, artists dealt with their fringed emotions the only way they could. Ishiro Honda expressed both his rage and deep horror with the birthing of a monstrous radioactive beast. The fear and total destruction in Tokyo witnessed in this film could only stem from someone who truly felt the impact of that disaster of Hiroshima. Hollywood and America has had no disaster on the scale of a mass slaughtering that took lives in an instant. While Gareth Edwards may have his own inspirations for the film, and perhaps tragic inspiration, I can assure you it is not on the scale of Hiroshima. The reason that Godzilla is such a powerful and lasting film, is that out of one of Japan’s darkest depths of despair, they reached down into that abyss and found release through expression. Godzilla is Japan’s monster, any attempt to adopt the creature, or borrow his name would nearly be an insult. Possibly the only good thing coming out of this would be that Toho would get more money to make more Godzilla films. He’s a reminder of the horror, grief, and tragedy that the country felt. Japan, now a very proud nation, saw a new Godzilla film pop up every couple of years. One could say the constant output from Toho Studios is due to a decent return from the films. Truth is, these Kaiju films flopped in their home country. Ishiro Honda and successors kept the reminder of WWII in the mind of the public. When they look at Godzilla, they don’t see a radioactive dinosaur, or a man in a giant rubber suit, but a warhead with a pulse.
What do you think? Leave a comment.