Back in 2009, Legendary Pictures announced that they had the rights to do an American retry of Godzilla. They put out t-shirts at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con that featured a slick design of the monster and spat out virtual flames if you aimed your webcam at it from the Legendary Pictures website. They hired relative newcomer Max Borenstein to write it and Gareth Edwards, who stirred attention with his indie movie Monsters, to direct it. Then – nothing! No presence at the 2011 San Diego Comic Con and, other than some brief questions posed to Edwards about his “love” of the franchise by an occasional website, no real indication of any movement at all on this much anticipated project. So, what happened?
I just don’t get the careful attitude here. Okay, maybe I do. I know that Legendary is being careful after the 1998 Godzilla debacle. But, let’s be honest, that movie presented a concept and tone that was so far removed from the Godzilla brand that it’s pretty easy to “fix” the franchise from that. It’s simple: make Godzilla actually look like the classic creature, make him shoot radiation breath, and make him destroy cities in wanton, unstoppable rampages before disappearing into the ocean as quickly as he appeared. Make him a force of nature that man struggles to understand. Like a tornado. The 1998 movie got it so wrong that it put the essence of what made Godzilla as a concept work into stark light.
I read somewhere that Legendary Pictures wanted to do a campy take on the character harkening back to the 70’s, featuring aliens plotting to destroy the earth with a giant monster and Godzilla defending the planet from this menace. I love the old 70’s Godzilla movies, but really, this was the plan to reboot Godzilla in the States? In the middle of a craze of realism that renders the X-Men in leather outfits and Superman shooting lasers that you can’t see because realistically you can’t see lasers unless they’re captured by fog? Campy Godzilla beating up on some monster in a story with no layer or depth was Legendary Pictures’ response??
Aahh, the 70's. *sigh* God bless 'em.
And what is with the constant American movement away from the nuclear message? Mankind forging ahead with creating new ways to destroy each other, only to accidentally come up with something deadly and unstoppable through such attempts, is the whole point of Godzilla. Godzilla was created by man, and yet, cannot be explained. Godzilla is something that, for all of our vaunted knowledge and chest-beating of how in control we are of the world, mother nature and science cannot account for the combination of unnatural experimentation and nuclear science that this one last experiment, the straw that broke the camel’s back, unleashes – a seemingly unstoppable, gigantic creature who lays waste to populated city after populated city while we struggle to figure out what we have done -- and it’s all our fault. With the success of challenging material like the revamped Battlestar Gallactica series to newer series like Walking Dead and Hell on Wheels, I don’t get how the original Godzilla concept from 1954 wouldn’t work with today’s audiences.
As for the question of how to do Godzilla, see below for a recent (and successful) attempt at rendering Godzilla as a fully CGI creature in the movie Always 2: Sunset on Third Street (2007). It’s a dream sequence that opens the movie (and probably surprised the heck out of Japanese audiences), but Godzilla looks surprisingly good. Look, I love man-in-suit technology (suitmation) as much as any kaiju fan, but in order for this terrific subgenre of films to carry on, the special effects need to be updated to a point where giant monster movies are not just for a niche audience. After having seen The Adventures of Tintin, I think the answer for how to render Godzilla in future movies is obvious: motion-capture. The technology is at a point right now where people were screaming for Andy Serkis to be nominated for an Oscar for his role as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Motion-capture technology will establish those human elements of suitmation that fans love so much but can’t put a finger on (body language, walking motion, acting nuances like hesitation and reaction, arm and fist movements) and incorporate the advantages of CGI (more detailed muscle movement, more articulated body and tail, more facial expressions, lack of visible rubber folding and warping effects). It’s really the best of both worlds and an obvious step forward for Godzilla.
The CGI Godzilla from Always 2
I guess my point here is that all of the choices for a Godzilla reboot are obvious. This movie should have been released last year. I don’t get the hesitation, I don’t get the foot-dragging, and I especially don’t understand the lack of concern or urgency at Legendary Pictures. “Oh, we don’t want to get it wrong!” Well, it seems to me that if you’ve seen all of the movies and you are in fact fans, it takes a lot of effort to get it wrong. The 1998 movie made obviously stupid choices (I mean, no radiation breath?? Seriously???). Just don’t be stupid. That’s the best advice anyone can give Legendary at this point.
Oh, and for eff sake, please include the iconic Akira Ifukube godzilla theme!