Back in 1998, just prior to the release of Roland Emmerich’s “Godzilla,” my local Zellers had a massive sale on VHS tapes chronicling the big green guy’s destructive adventures. For about a month straight, I gleefully submerged myself into his colorful, camp-tastic world, reveling in the cheese-ball glory of titles such as “Godzilla Vs. Mothra,” “Godzilla Vs. Megalon,” “Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero” and “Godzilla’s Revenge” – not to mention his pretty dang awesome debut “Godzilla, King of the Monsters.” While these films were undoubtedly humorous, given their cheapo production values and men-in-suit antics, they often had genuine heart, moments of wit and some feverishly bizarre imagination.
Of course, I quickly found my temporary buzz gravely harshed by Emmerich’s movie, which re-imagined the titular scaly one as a frightened momma iguana trying to protect her young. Let me tell you, I don’t think I’ve ever been as crestfallen walking out a theatre as I was after watching the flick’s depressing, dreary conclusion, which featured a team of military forces elatedly blasting the living you-know-what out of the trapped, frantic beastie. While this tragic ending may have worked for “King Kong,” in “Godzilla” it just felt cheap and manipulative – a cruel attempt to mine pathos and uber-shallow social commentary from an otherwise unwatchable pile of lazy dreck by subjecting the audience to the unpleasant sight of cynical animal cruelty.
Now, after 12 long years of grieving and reflection, the gargantuan atomic reptile is ready to once again spring into action and create some chaos in a massive-scale summer tent-pole tentatively scheduled for 2012.
According to Variety, the production will be overseen by Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros., in association with the monster’s dedicated family over at Toho Co. in Japan. Although no director is yet named, the trade publication mentions that the producers are planning to announce one mighty soon. Reportedly, the studios are eager to veer well away from the 1998 film (big surprise…) and aim to deliver a “modern epic” which will “do justice to [the] essential elements that have allowed [Godzilla] to remain as pop-culturally relevant for as long as [he] has.”
Wow. Can I get a “Hell yeah!” with that? Hopefully this time around Hollywood will realize that Godzilla need not be gritty and dark to be relevant. All that’s truly required is a giant raging, rampaging reptile running loose in a city and I’d love to see a big, silly blockbuster built around that premise that isn’t afraid to have some fun with the concept. Obviously there’s room for some allegory and drama, but let’s allow the audience to experience the simple pleasures of a bad-ass Godzilla movie without dragging it into mucky “serious” territory. Think of a friendlier, non-handheld “Cloverfield.” Or “Transformers,” only, you know, entertaining.
And please, there’s no necessity to drag a sophisticated auteur, along the lines of a Nolan or Aronofsky, into this production either. Simply hire on a skilled journeyman with a gift for staging visceral thrills and let the rest work itself out. It would be cool to see someone like Louis Leterrier get a crack at the project. His efforts in realizing the clashing CG brutes in “The Incredible Hulk” were often very strong, and “Clash of the Titans” looks to continue this trend. Unlike Bay, he understands the importance of occasionally standing back and freeing the audience to take in the overwhelming action from a suitable, awe-inspiring distance. If the script is solid, he’s the man for the job as far as I’m concerned.
As for the design of Godzilla himself, please don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Though I actually kinda liked the Emmerich version purely as a visual effects creation, it was too radically different in appearance and never truly felt like it should share the same name as the towering, cold-blooded building-stomper we all know and love. My advice for this reboot? Go back and take a second look at Stan Winston’s revamped sculptures of the character from back when Jan de Bont was attached to helm. His interpretation looks absolutely fantastic and nicely translates the iconic Toho look into something more realistic, dinosaur-esque and, dare I say, freakin’ scary. It would be a nice way to honor Winston’s memory by bringing one of his most impressive abandoned works to fire-breathing life.
Perhaps what’s most exciting about this project, however, is the sheer amounts of amusing canonical material available to be revised in future sequels and/or spin-offs, assuming ticket-buyers bite the first time around. What would a 21st century take on Rodan look like? How about Mothra — alongside his weird twin fairy sidekicks — and King Ghidorah? Or, fingers crossed, Mecha-Godzilla?
How do you IJMers feel about the rebirth of Godzilla? How would you like to see him visually presented this time around? Which other Toho beasties would you give up your first born to see battle it out with him on-screen? Stomp on over to our forums and join the discussion.
But, before you do that, take a second and perform a little “Happy Godzilla” dance. The proper moves can be learned from the video below:
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Follow Cam Smith on Twitter at http://twitter.com/camspcepisodes.