Friday, August 15, 2014

Godzilla Resurrectus

Just as some people love Elvis while others prefer The Beatles, there are two camps of giant monster fans: those who adore King Kong and those who prefer Godzilla. I'm squarely on team Godzilla. The gene that makes people love giant ape movies? I don't have it. Monkeys just aren't that interesting to me. They're like uglier, harrier people, with less impulse control. They like to pee on each other and play with their own poo, and they have a bad habit of ripping people's testicles off just for fun, which is scary, but not in a cool way.

With the sole exception of Mighty Peking Man, giant ape movies usually bore me witless. And that includes King Kong and it's myriad spinoffs and ripoffs. Another notable exception is the woeful The Mighty Gorga, only because it is the crappiest, most miserable excuse for a giant ape movie in the long, interminable history of giant ape movies, which makes it perversely entertaining.

Reptiles are far more exotic and diverse. The larger carnivorous varieties may attack you if they're feeling hungry or territorial and you've had the bad sense to blunder into their personal space, but at least they won't try to rip your nuts off just for the hell of it. Reptiles are definitely cooler. The bigger the better. And they don't get much bigger--or cooler--than Godzilla.

I like "the big green guy," as Godzilla is unofficially known, even though he's not actually green as far as I can tell. During the course of my life, I've probably seen every Godzilla movie ever made, and while I hardly consider myself an expert, I will say this--and I say it with love--most Godzilla movies suck. They just do. Even the so-called "good ones." It's simply a question of the degree of suckage. Some Godzilla movies obviously suck more than others, however the magnificent 1954 original notwithstanding, nobody has yet made a Godzilla movie that doesn't suck on some level. The trick to watching Godzilla movies is not minding that they suck, or to limit oneself to those movies that don't suck so badly that they give you a headache, which weeds out quite a few of them.

It's not really Godzilla's fault that so many of his movies suck. Godzilla--or more specifically, the idea of Godzilla--is actually pretty cool, however filmmakers often don't seem to know what to do with him. For much of his career, he's been treated like one of those former Saturday Night Live comedians who keeps getting cast in crummy movies. I don't hold Godzilla responsible for Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972) any more than I blame Dana Carvey for The Master of Disguise (2002), or Mike Myers for The Love Guru (2008). I just kept hoping that one day they would put him in a half-assed movie again.

Gojira 1954 photo Gojira_1954_animation_004_zpsd0d86a2f.gif
(Image: Toho Company, Ltd.)
Now, after decades of wallowing in the horse latitudes of B-moviedom, Godzilla has finally been given a major makeover thanks to Legendary Pictures and British  director Gareth Edwards, a former BBC digital effects artist who was hired mostly on the strength of his previous film, Monsters (2014), a terrific indie creature feature remarkable for its epic look in spite of having been shot on a shoestring budget, with Edwards having done all of the digital effects himself on a personal computer in his apartment.

Critical response to the new Godzilla has been mostly positive, while die-hard fans have enthusiastically embraced Gareth's reboot as a welcome palate-cleanser after Tristar's campy 1998 Godzilla directed by Roland Emmerich, which is notable chiefly for being one of the most reviled installments of any major film franchise. (Disgruntled fans nicknamed the iguana-like title character GINO - "Godzilla In Name Only".)

As of Aug. 4, Legendary's Godzilla has earned over $200 million domestically, and over $300 million overseas. Meanwhile, Gareth Edwards has already been signed to direct two sequels. And it looks as though the "big green guy" is finally getting some long-overdue respect. But how did this decades-long journey begin? What is Godzilla, where did he come from, and how did he become such an indelible part of our popular culture?

The strange saga began sixty years ago, with a series of spectacular natural and manmade disasters as bizarre and terrifying as Godzilla himself...

Next: From Hell it Came: The Origins of Godzilla

Related links:

Godzilla, Box Office Mojo

Godzilla (2014)
(Image: Legendary Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures)

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