Godzilla is tough creature to get right. Ever since the original Japanese film in 1954 there has been many interpretations of our favourite giant lizard monster. From the original’s depiction of the creature as a force of nature, to a Super Sentai influenced superhero of a monster fighter all the way through to whatever the hell Roland Emmerich was thinking when he made the U.S. Godzilla film. He’s a character that, much like James Bond, can be presented in many different ways from light comedy to dark drama/horror. If you were lucky you may have seen the trailer for next year’s Hollywood produced Godzilla film. It was one hell of a teaser trailer. Probably one of the best since the 1998 Godzilla teaser. Which may not be a good omen. So, let us discuss the trailer and what we can hope to expect from the completed film. Click the link for my thoughts.
Unfortunately posting the trailer here will be tricky. As fast as it was getting uploaded it appears Sony have been getting the videos blocked and removed from sites all around the web. Once it’s available officially I’ll add it to this post here. For the rest of this post though I shall assume you have seen it.
The first thing that strikes you, other than the dangerously close to comic cans text on the company logos, is that the tone of this trailer is not that of an action movie. I’m going to be making comparisons to the 1998 Godzilla film a fair bit here and it’s with good reason. The very first shot of film in this 2014 Godzilla is of a destroyed city. Everything is in ruins. Buildings have holes in them. Trains look like they’ve been squashed under foot. This isn’t the weak destruction we saw in the 1998 film where ‘Zilla barely touched any buildings. This isn’t the happy go lucky destruction of Pacific Rim where buildings were a method of breaking a Jaeger’s fall. This is apocalyptic destruction. The view we get purposely recalls the images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki shortly after they had been obliterated by the bombs dropped on them to end World War 2. And it’s with good reason too.
The original Godzilla was the Japanese film industry’s reaction to the bombings. That was along with many other works of art and literature at the time such as the excellent Barefoot Gen. In this film Godzilla was a representation of the sheer destruction capable by one being in the wake of the invention of the atomic bomb. Godzilla was a force of nature that could not be contained or halted as it laid waste to Japan’s recently rebuilt civilisation. He represented their fear of the return of the atomic bomb and all the senseless death that would come with it. Quite a lot of thematics going on there for a film that was made in a rush, when a previous project fell through, and that was heavily influenced by Ray Harryhausen’s The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. Now, did you get anything resembling those thematics in the 1998 Godzilla? Sort of. There was mention of radiation creating the beast but the story was focused on being the T-Rex and Velociraptor sequences from Jurassic Park but on twice the scale and with half the talent.
It seems that the director of next year’s Godzilla film, Gareth Edwards, very much has the thematics of Godzilla in mind. By visually representing the destruction an atomic bomb can bring he’s brought that original film’s themes right up to the front. Couple that with a quote from the father of the atomic bomb, Robert J Oppenheimer, and you have a very powerful image presented to you. That quote in part comes from the Bhagavad-Gita which Oppenheimer had quoted in a documentary called The Decision To Drop The Bomb. The voice-over is directly from that documentary and the full quote is as follows:
“We knew the world would not be the same. Few people laughed, few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” I suppose we all thought that, one way or another. “
It’s a heavy line to quote for a film that’s meant to be a tent-pole lead in to the summer movie season next year. If this was Emmerich directing again I’d question it’s use believing it to end up being misappropriated for the sake of a striking trailer. I’d then wonder about how Emmerich would have heard of Oppenheimer when the majority of his life is spent trying to find ways to make films for the stupidest people on Earth. This quotation is in the hands of Gareth Edwards though. Now he’s not a director with a massively prolific career so far but he did direct Monsters which is probably the only independent and entirely character driven monster movie ever made. Well, the only good one anyway. He’s also worked on Power Rangers, which is kind of awesome. You know who else worked on Power Rangers? Bryan Cranston, that’s who. And guess who’s in this new Godzilla film? Yup… Elizabeth Olsen. Oh and Bryan Cranston. He’s in it too.
All this points me towards the impression that this film is not going to be the big dumb fun that Pacific Rim was earlier this year. This film is looking like it’s going to provide the spectacle but with that director and the tone of the trailer I’m pretty sure we’re heading into a Godzilla film that has more in common with Gojira and Godzilla 2000, in that it maintains a darker and heavier feel. But don’t go thinking this is just going to be Godzilla roaming around the country smashing building independently, because as we view the piles of rubble that was once a city the camera pans past a mountain and, as it comes out the other side, we see a multi-legged creature lying defeated on the ground. This film is going to deliver one thing the 1998 Godzilla didn’t. Other than quality I hope. We’re getting some monster on monster action.
From what I’ve read there may be a couple of monsters that Godzilla fights during this film. This gives the impression there’s going to be some sort of story reason for this. The monsters in the Japanese films would usually appear from somewhere, be it an experiment, the future, monster island or deep space. What was mostly the case though was that something was behind these creatures and Godzilla likes to be the only monster on the block. Well, apart from Anguirus, who ends up being Godzilla’s buddy. Also, Godzilla was kinda fond of that kid of his… erm.. hers. I don’t thing he/she is going to be fond of whatever monsters appear in this film though. Word is that Edwards and his team had to create brand new monsters too as the license with Toho only extended as far as Godzilla itself. Although there’s been another rumour floating around that Toho have been so impressed what what they’ve seen that there may be some more recognisable monsters in the U.S. Godzilla’s future.
Then comes the moment everyone is watching the trailer for. The reveal. Very slowly we watch as glimpses of what appears to be a tail vanish into the huge cloud of dust rising from the ground. We know something is there. We know exactly was is there. I imagine a lot of people watching this for the first time had their fingers crossed. We want Godzilla to look like Godzilla, not some stupid fish eating lizard. As the dust clears we hear a roar (for the second time to be fair but it’s more dramatic here) and then we see it. Godzilla’s big lovable angry looking face and… it looks like Godzilla!!! If you’ve seen all the teaser posters and images that have floated around over the last few months you’ll know that this is the final part of the puzzle. No-one wanted to see a T-Rex head again. We’ve got a face on Godzilla that looks like it comes from Godzilla 200 but with a slightly pronounced jawline. It’s a little different but instantly recognisable.
I remember before the 1998 film was released all we had seen of Godzilla was her (definitely a she in that film) foot in the teaser trailer. Zilla’s appearance had been kept secret for ages and everyone was clamouring to see the design. All we knew was that it was going to be different. One day, about 2 weeks before the film’s release, I was wandering around town and decided to head into my local Virgin Megastore. No, that’s not a place that sold virgins. It was a dvd and music store. As I was browsing something caught my eye. It was a display that had the Godzilla logo that was everywhere at the time. The green text with the eye behind it. I walked over to see what it was and there before me, on a poster for sale, was a T-Rex with long arms. That was not a good first impression. The film managed to deliver a lot of bad impressions on me when I eventually saw it. But hey, at least the Jamiroquai song was good.
Godzilla 2014 could still disappoint me, I am well aware of that. Admittedly the hype I’m currently feeling for the film is a lot like the hype I had for the 1998 film. Remember that back then Roland Emmerich was a huge name after making Stargate and Independence Day. They may not have been great films but they were at least fun. What is different for me here is that Edwards is a promising talent. He’s already shown what he can do with monsters and strong character. He’s shown how well he understands the use of special effects too and how to get the film to look as good as it needs to. He has a strong cast and, if you look over his imdb page, it’s almost as if his entire career has been building towards making this film. I fully believe that he is not going to screw this up. Actually getting to see that Godzilla’s design is respectful and accurate to the iconic design we all know is very promising. Now, let’s wait for the first full trailer shall we?