GODZILLA

GODZILLA AND ME

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During the 1970s when TISWAS or Multi-Coloured Swap Shop had taken a break for the summer, British television channels often screened old films to fill the early morning schedule before Grandstand and World of Sport began. It was during one such summer that I saw a film called Son of Godzilla. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before.

Giant praying mantises, huge eggs, crazy scientists and a great green monster with atomic breath. This was my introduction to Godzilla. I remember watching this film feeling terrible about what was happening to baby Minilla and being so glad when his father Godzilla comes to his rescue. The fact that it was dubbed badly into English never really registered. I was totally in awe of the amazing monsters I was seeing on screen. This film had everything. It was funny. It had awesome creatures fighting each other, fantastic music and it began my life long love for Godzilla.

This was in the days before VHS and DVD so TV was the only way to see these films. I’d never seen one advertised at the cinema and so I would wait patently to see if a Godzilla movie that would show up on one of the UK’s three television channels. Over the following years I eagerly watched Mothra vs. Godzilla, marvelled at the monster mayhem in Destroy All Monsters and egged on the Big G to win battles in Invasion of the Astro-Monster and Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. I had no idea that these films were part of a successful Japanese franchise. It didn’t matter that the TV channels were showing them in any old order. I just loved seeing this monster again and again.

Soon these films turned up less and less. But by this time I had discovered magazines like Starburst and Starlog where occasionally there would be features on these films. I began to learn about the history of the character, the Toho studio that produced the movies and how the effects were achieved. The more I learned the more I wished that I could see the films as they had originally been made in Japan. With the advent of home VHS some friends had VCRs and if we were lucky we would stumble across a Godzilla film in the local video shop or perhaps one would be on sale in Andromeda Bookshop and we would watch the film over and over. At this time I was also getting heavily in to comics and couldn’t believe it when I found Marvel was publishing a Godzilla comic where he come into contact with the Fantastic Four and the Avengers.

Godzilla would eventually appear again on TV in the late 70s as a Hanna-Barbera cartoon and although it had some great moments it also featured Godzooky, a comedy sidekick for Godzilla, and I never really accepted it as proper Godzilla.

Time passed and I managed to pick up a few Godzilla films on VHS but my collection was never complete. By now I’d also finally seen the American version of the 1954 Godzilla film and picked up a few imported action figures, which took pride of place on my shelves.

Then in mid 90s it was announced that Roland Emmerich, high on the success of Independence Day, had bagged the rights to Godzilla and was bringing him to Hollywood for a big budget take on the character. Excitement was high but the film proved to be a huge disappointment as they failed to capture the real essence of Godzilla. Plans for follow ups dashed, the film rights to Godzilla reverted to Toho and in the years since the Hollywood Godzilla has been revealed as a totally different monster dubbed Zilla, who the real Godzilla would see off in seconds when they came to battle each other in Godzilla: Final Wars.

Thanks to the arrival of DVD and the ability to import films I have managed to catch up with Godzilla’s further adventures which ended in 2004 with Godzilla: Final Wars. Now 10 years later Godzilla is about to embark on a new set of adventures. Gareth Edwards, who has only directed the astonishing indie hit Monsters previously, is bringing the Big G back to Hollywood to celebrate his 60th anniversary and this time it looks like the real deal. The design of Godzilla is more in keeping with the Toho original and from what we’ve seen in the trailers to date the themes of the 1954 film are the touchstones for this latest remake.

I can’t wait.

I’ll be seeing Godzilla at The Giant Screen as soon as possible so look out for my review.

Godzilla 2014 Trailer Gallery

Teaser Trailer

Main Trailer

International Trailer

Asia Trailer

Godzilla is released by Warner Bros. Pictures on May 16th 2014.

OPINION

Godzilla (2014)

This year marks the 60th Anniversary of the Godzilla character. He has changed and adapted to his environment over those years. Initially emerging as a mysterious force of nature he has weathered many storms, including a fairly turbulent one in 1998. Now ten years after taking his last bow in the original Japanese Toho series with Godzilla: Final Wars, he is back to his city stomping ways in Gareth Edwards follow up to the acclaimed Monsters (2010).

Edwards obviously understands cinema and how monsters fit into this landscape and effectively nods to not only Godzilla’s heritage but also the blockbusters of the 70s and 80s. From it’s opening scene this version of Godzilla takes its cues from the American master of fantastic film, Steven Spielberg. With its sweeping helicopter shots straight out of Jurassic Park to the slow burn monster reveal of Jaws, Edwards builds tension whilst teasing the wholesale destruction we know is coming. Audiences may be slightly taken aback that Edwards often cuts away from the action but the eventual payoff is well worth it and reminds us that patience is a good thing and seeing the world around us destroyed every 10 minutes is not the future of filmmaking.

We all know that this film is about the creatures and I wasn’t expecting the human cast to be particularly well served. This has proven to be the case but what little there is for the human characters to do while waiting for Godzilla to appear they do well enough and it’s in no small way due to the ability of actors. Casting Brian Cranston, Juliet Binoche and Ken Watanabe gives the film some acting heft but the remaining cast are little more than ciphers and do they best they can with characters who’s only purpose is to emphasise how helpless mankind is in the presence of these ancient beasts.

If you’re prepared to dig beneath the surface this Godzilla like its predecessors has more layers than you might expect. The film tackles some very important issues in a way that is never heavy handed. The sense that nature is the most powerful thing on earth is at the center of all Godzilla tales and here we find references to many recent examples from tsunami to nuclear power plant failures. It’s here that Godzilla is presented as being a protector and a way for nature to retain a certain balance and is not just a catalyst for destruction. In one scene it’s clear that he derives no pleasure from what he has to do and it shows how smart Edwards has been in using Andy Serkis to provide some advice on how to give the Big G some real emotional beats. It’s not often your monster can stir your emotions with a look in it’s eyes but here that is exactly what happens. Godzilla is a true character in his own film and the updated design works perfectly, retaining enough of the Toho classic to prove his lineage. The new creatures are equally as successful; the M.U.T.O’s (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) are not just evil monsters to be vanquished but animals that do what they have to do. It’s not that they want to destroy mans world it just happens to be the world they awake in. In one key scene they even reflect the same tenderness and desire to have a family that the human characters do. Its elements like this that lift the film from being just another monster mash and sets Edwards up as a worthy successor to Spielberg.

Unlike Spielberg and his long time collaborator John Williams, who has created some of cinemas most enduring musical themes, Edwards partners with Alexandre Desplat for this film. Whilst Desplat has composed some wonderful scores before I felt that in this score we lacked a distinctive theme for Godzilla. I would have liked to hear the classic Godzilla theme by Akira Ifukube included in some way. This score overall is mostly incidental and not one that will linger in the memory as much as I would have liked.

If you’ve never seen a Godzilla film before then this version is a great place to start. The mythology of the Toho series is successfully reworked and stands as a wonderful introduction to Godzilla and his place in the 21st Century. Recommend for fans old and new.

Directed by
Gareth Edwards
Produced by
Thomas Tull
Jon Jashni
Mary Parent
Brian Rogers
Screenplay by
Max Borenstein
Story by
David Callaham
Based on Godzilla by Toho

Cast
Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Ken Watanabe
Elizabeth Olsen
Juliette Binoche
Sally Hawkins
David Strathairn
Bryan Cranston

Music by
Alexandre Desplat

Studio
Legendary Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures
Distributed by
Warner Bros. Pictures

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One Comment

  1. Martin Mc added these pithy words on May 4, 2014 | Permalink

    Very good article. I think I was introduced to Gamera before Godzilla; he was my first love.

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