Remake Rumble Review: Godzilla

It is ironic that people today moan about action movies having ten, twenty minutes of solid action and destruction; little do they realise that films have been doing this for decades!

This is something of a Remake Rumble as well as a saga review. The original Gojira, an American release of the same film Godzilla: King of Monsters, and Godzilla.

One of these three remains (so far) the only Godzilla film to be nominated for a Best Picture award and won one for Best Special Effects.
Another one of these films won the award for worst supporting actress and worst remake or sequel, and was also nominated for worst picture of that year.
Which ones could they be?


Gojira
(1954)

Twenty years after King Kong, Japan’s first major entry for what is now called the “monster movie” genre.

When ships are destroyed off Japan’s east coast and all further attempts to investigate end the same way, the story follows a salvage ship owner and a zoologist as they deal with a colossal prehistoric creature behind the destruction.

Being a monster movie from the 50s and one of the original “blockbusters” the film has a remarkably casual pace; the first act of the film does not feature the monster but shows the effect his mere presence has on Japan. Godzilla is portrayed more as a force of nature, a steady, unstoppable creature who is influenced by our actions as much as we are of it.
Godzilla’s prehistoric nature is because of his home deep beneath the oceans being corrupted by nuclear testing, and as a byproduct he himself is radioactive and has unnatural powers and invulnerability.
Of course, this is the heavy subtext of nuclear weapons, but the more challenging message the film provides is how far humanity should go to stop a new danger? A scientist in the story has developed a new super weapon, possibly the only thing to stop the monster, but should a new weapon of mass destruction be unleashed to stop the effects of another?

It was good fun to watch. At its most dated moments it is charming; I love miniatures in special effects! (even when it can look like someone tossing toy cars around) Most of the action is at night which helps, and even the black and white nature of the film makes the sight of destruction a little more believable. That said a lot of the fire effects around the monster are still spectacular to look at today, and Godzilla’s ten minute long tirade through Tokyo is impressive.

Of course it has dated, and the first act is strangely void of major characters and in fact you have to wait until the main heroes are actually revealed. Any possible compassion for Godzilla, through the zoologist character who would rather study the creature, is left at the wayside; we see the monster causing such terrible destruction and his character can do little to stop or condone it. What compassionate subtext there is is for the audience to decide.

It was great to watch, and I recommend others appreciate the origins of the classic monster!


Additional Marshmallows: Did you know that Gojira coupled with Toho Studios’ other film that year The Seven Samurai nearly bankrupted the studio?? And that Gojira was nominated for best picture and won Best Special Effects at the Japanese Academy Awards! George Lucas has been quoted saying the miniature effects in Gojira inspired the miniatures for Star Wars.

Godzilla: King of Monsters
(1956)

In today’s film industry of remakes, this sixty year old variation on the idea is a breath of fresh air by comparison!

The film follows the exact events from Gojira only from the perspective of an American reporter who found himself swept into the turmoil of Godzilla’s attacks.

Instead of blindly missing the point by remaking a piece of art, Godzilla: King of Monsters (supplied by Toho Studios for general release in America) attempts to extend the story instead. This works at times and has noble intentions, but I suspect due to budget restraints a proper parallel story couldn’t be made.
Our American protagonist, Steve Martin (Raymond Burr) is nothing more than an audience surrogate: he watches the events unfold from the sidelines and is placed among the crowds that witness the destruction. His unique scenes are entirely him and a handful of Japanese extras watching “nothing” (or more accurately, the footage of the original film!) occur off-screen, or his own narration over the more widespread events. Other scenes between Gojira‘s main cast, which he couldn’t possibly be involved in, are dubbed.
What is most impressive about the endeavour is Toho’s decision to have the Japanese characters (while in earshot of Steve) speak only in Japanese and give the audience no subtitles, giving the sense of confusion our foreign hero would experience.
It may just be my personal dislike for dubs, but the film starts to collapse when Steve starts to interact with the characters from Gojira (I’m sure this wasn’t apparent back in the 50s) but a conversation between Steve and the-back-of-an-actor’s-head feels clunky and impersonal. But time and budget restraints are likely the cause of these issues.

It is a film of the times. Now that we have access to watch either film this one suffers by comparison, but as a concept for remaking a film it is worth implementing today! With the resources and funds the film industry has, a parallel story with an American focus could be far more interesting than simply re-shooting everything with western actors and even missing the point of the original screenplay. That said, some of the themes might be lost in the translation; the final note here isn’t as foreboding as the original film.

Having watched Gojira and now this, I can safely say that you only need to watch Gojira (unless you are as obsessed with learning about films as I am) as this is the same film. I suppose if you are one of those people who hate subtitles then Godzilla: King of Monsters might be better suited. Back in the 50s this would have been an inspired idea, but now it looks more dated than the original.


Godzilla
(1998)

Uuuuuuuugh.
So you might be wondering: “Cocoa, why torture yourself so?” and the reason being that I’ve heard people, actual real people, asking whether Godzilla 2014 is a sequel to this movie or not. Or asking why Matthew Brodrick isn’t in it.
Yeah. That’s right.

News flash: Godzilla 2014 has NOTHING to do with this awful, laborious pile of nonsense!

So, after French nuclear testing in the Pacific ocean an amphibious lizard is transformed by the radiation fallout into a colossal monster. It then terrorises the city of Manhattan, and only Matthew Brodrick (seriously?) can stop it.

First of all, this is because of French nuclear tests? Seriously? Despite the fact that America has done hundreds more oceanic tests? Secondly, every scene of this film is awful or contains something awful.

Allow me to elaborate: Someone thought it was a good idea to take a metaphor of nuclear destruction and the death of millions through natural disasters, something that has become a classic piece of film iconography… and turn it into an American comedy. It is a spoof, it is a satire. It has none of the original’s subtext, it doesn’t try to give it an American spin… actually it does, but only with all the worst aspects America has to offer.
Enter a host of cow-eyed, mushy faced actors and actresses. Brodrick, the king of nerdy, twitchy insecurity, Maria Pitillo is the queen of wide-eyed obliviousness, and the dad from Transformers as the worst military leader, who are joined by every sitcom cliche New Yorker character you can fathom. The sheer weight of awful characterisation (including caricatures of American celebrities) manages to bury Jean Reno, one of the coolest men in cinema during the 1990s.

I’ve not even gotten to the action. The action is poorly, poorly paced. One is reminded of the recent Die Hard 5 and its repetitive sequences that are one and the same, but the teeth-grinding repetition isn’t the worst of it, but more of the entire setup to begin with.
For some ungodly reason the screenwriters believed the best way to have Godzilla in Manhattan would be to prove how a city island, home of over a million people, is the “perfect place to hide”. I…
<insert mindless rant>
… What’s more, the original Godzilla came to the mainland to eat humans due to its underwater food source depleting. This Godzilla however, came to the mainland to lay eggs and eat fish. You know, because there’s nowhere better than Manhattan to lay eggs near the Pacific ocean, and there’s no better place to find FISH.

You see my gripe? The action doesn’t matter once you lay out the setup and see how atrocious it is, regardless of the fact that the action is overblown and completely dumb anyway.

You might say I am missing the point, this movie has clearly been designed this way: comedic laughs follow total devastation and death, characters never have any straight, honest dialogue. What angers me is that this is what a lot of people consider Godzilla to be. An awful, marketed, Jamiroquai-singing, product-placed, media-driven, dullard sitcom.

This film should be forgotten, and remember: Godzilla 2014 is NOT a sequel to this film!


Additional Marshmallows: An example of how clueless this film is: At one point Maria Pitillo’s boss steals her “top secret” report on the creature’s history and broadcasts it himself, dubbing the creature as “Godzilla”. Maria then angrily shouts at the television: “Its GOJIRA you moron!” as if to preach proper respect to the creature’s origin.
But according to sources the name “Godzilla” was actually Toho Studio’s idea during the original marketing for their film Gojira to American audiences in 1954. In fact, “Godzilla” or “Go-dzi-la” is the proper pronunciation of “Gojira”.

So you see… this film is garbage however you slice it.

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