Geeked Out: Go Go Godzilla!
A flop like the 1998 version, or a harkening back to the majesty of the 1950s -- Godzilla returns to the big screen May 16.
Men in rubber suits or CGI – I don't care, I love me some Godzilla. Even as I type out the word, I hear the iconic screech echoing in my head. So yes – in case you were wondering or hadn't figured it out yet – I am stoked for Godzilla to finally return to the theaters this month in what is shaping up to be something well worth geeking out about!
First, it's been over 15 years since the last Godzilla movie. In the big lizard's absence, we've had a few noteworthy flicks to hold us over. JJ Abrams' Super 8, Matt Reeves' Cloverfield, and my personal favorite: Del Toro's Pacific Rim. But I've been itching for a real kaiju fix, and director Gareth Edwards, who directs the latest Godzilla flick, is the perfect man for the job.
Edwards' previous film, Monsters, was an awesome take on an alternate reality in which large monsters exist and roam large swaths of the Earth, and hoping to quarantine and contain these extraterrestrial monsters, human society developed alongside this new phenomenon. Like great zombie fiction, this film helps capture the imagination of what life would be like if monsters truly roamed the earth.
Edwards shot Monsters on a shoestring budget and I loved what he was able to do with it, so now with summer blockbuster bucks and the rights to Godzilla proper, I am fist pumping and hollering. So this is finally the time to celebrate the legacy of grown men donning rubber suits to engage in monster fisticuffs!
But first, let's reflect on what makes Godzilla so awesome – besides the men in suits part, which is, well, geeky awesome.
"In the original film from 1954, Godzilla's origin is explained as being the unintentional result of nuclear radiation from the atomic bombs that were dropped in Japan by the United States during WWII," says Cory Carr, host and editor of Erie-based SlaughterFilm.com.
The atomic bomb was the event that has long-standing effects on Japanese culture, and Godzilla, throughout the years, has been a tool to communicate some of the societal issues of the time.
"Sure, it's just guys in rubber suits, but there are some heavy ideas behind these films," Cory adds.
One of the awesome things to notice in Edwards' Godzilla is the return to true form with Godzilla fighting other monsters. "These battles are a long standing tradition that goes back to 1955 when Godzilla fought Anguirus in Godzilla Raids Again, which was the first film Godzilla battles anything other than tall buildings and the Japanese military," Cory says.
For one, fighting other monsters is way more entertaining to watch, and secondly, it helps further social commentary.
"More often than not, the monsters Godzilla battles are representations of a fear that was prevalent at the time it was created," Cory says.
Take for example 1971's Godzilla Vs The Smog Monster, Godzilla fights – you guessed it – a monster made from pollution.
Another reason why seeing Godzilla go toe-to-toe with a massive kaiju is exciting is that this will be the first time an American film allows our hero Godzilla to do what he does best.
"From the looks of it, this film draws inspiration from and pays homage to the longstanding cannon of Japanese Godzilla films, while also offering something creative and new," Cory adds.
This is what excites me as well, because the last and only other American Godzilla movie was a complete travesty.
Roland Emmerich directed the 1998 version of Godzilla, which has been the bane of fans the world around. Cory explains, "The single major hang-up of the 1998 Godzilla film was artistic license, or lack thereof."
Think about it – the film was made by Americans for Americans to release in our summer blockbuster months with virtually no respect to the expansive catalogue that came before it. Sure, it packed theaters, but true Godzilla fans were left wanting more. Awful writing, a pregnant Godzilla, and terrible dialogue led to that inevitable train wreck with the laughable tagline "Size Does Matter." It's hard to believe that the older men in rubber suits with plastic toys could make a better film, but because of superior storytelling and engaging and thoughtful themes, they did.
In that Matthew Broderick-starred interpretation, the big guy seemed to be made more to look like a T-Rex pilfered straight from Jurassic Park, than the hulking lizard beast he was originally. Cory agrees, "Emmerich played it safe, and as a result Godzilla '98 is an easily forgettable imposter of the Japanese Godzilla films, which there are nearly 30 of, by the way."
Edwards' take on the mythical beast looks to be an American version of Godzilla that is the return to the silver screen such folklore deserves. With the advancements of computer graphics in filmmaking, I've been begging for a new and worthy successor to my favorite post-nuclear allegory, and finally, it looks like it's arrived. No offense, Tolkien Geeks, but Smaug ain't got nothing on Godzilla!
So grab some friends, put on your favorite Godzilla film (I recommend Godzilla Final Wars) in honor of the mighty giant finally returning to theaters around the world May 16.
John Lindvay can be contacted at jLindvay@ErieReader.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @FightStrife.