Sunday, June 8, 2014

Godzilla - Finally, the movie I was hoping for!

This is the Godzilla I grew up watching.
When I was a kid, I was always watching one of three things on TV: cartoons, baseball or sci-fi (and if you ask my wife, she'll say that not much has But for me, Godzilla was a staple of my TV diet growing up. Whether it was Godzilla, Mothra vs. Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla or Godzilla vs. Elmo, I was watching it. So any remake of this classic was going to have to be good for me to like it.

The 1998 version was just wrong.
Enter the 1998 version starring Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno. I saw this one in the theater with high hopes. I came out of that theater with those hopes dashed. The plot was non-existent, the size of Godzilla was all wrong and just about everything else was wrong, too. Director Roland Emmerich reportedly hated the original films and only agreed to direct because the studio had given him permission to do whatever he wanted with the franchise. It kind of reminds me of a recent similar situation with a classic sci-fi series being revived and handed over to a certain director who didn't like it growing up. But that is an entirely different column.

This was an incredible scene in the film.
A few months ago, after viewing the trailer for this new Godzilla film, hope returned to me as I saw the titanic terrible lizard for a fleeting second. I remember turning to my wife and saying, "This one could actually be good!" A couple of weeks ago, when I was in Houston for Comicpalooza, I finally had the pleasure of watching this new version at the Palladium Theater. And I have one word to describe it...magnificent.

Now don't get me wrong, it's not an Oscar worthy film by a long shot. But what the film did that mattered most, was bring back the feeling I had when I watched those old Godzilla movies as a kid. There I was in awe as the creature, that you could always tell was a guy in a suit trampling Styrofoam buildings, looked incredibly real on the giant screen in front of me. This wasn't some overgrown dinosaur or a new stylized version of the gigantic lizard. This was Godzilla! This is what Godzilla would look like if he were real! They got it right!

Gareth Edwards
The first thing they got right was hiring a director who was a fan of the franchise. Gareth Edwards may not have had the credentials of other directors, but he knew that this film had to be more faithful to the originals to work. And after reading further about him, this quote impressed me even more.

Edwards said in an interview, "The way I tried to view it was: imagine Godzilla was a real creature and someone from Toho (the studio that produced the originals) saw him in the 1950s and ran back to the studio to make a movie about the creature and was trying their best to remember and draw it... and in our film you get to see him for real. It was important that this felt like a Toho Godzilla."

This film featured plenty of nods to the originals, including a possible hint of Godzilla's next opponent...a certain giant-sized flying furry insect.

Ken Watanabe
The performances of the actors was secondary to the special effects but I'll give props to Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe for standing out in a film dominated by literally larger-than-life characters.

And I won't give anything away, but it was way that Gareth Edwards handled the story, the personality of Godzilla and the ending that truly makes this a great Godzilla film and a great monster movie in general.

Godzilla done right
So if you're going to see Godzilla for it's artistic merits, you're going to be disappointed. Who am I kidding, you're only going to see it to watch giant creatures battle each other, knocking down buildings and blowing stuff up. And for those of you who are trying to recapture the magic of the classic films you loved as a kid, I say...enjoy!

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