DIRECTOR: Roland Emmerich
May Contain Spoilers!
1954 saw the birth of the prolific Godzilla franchise, which would take Japan by storm throughout the 1950’s and 60’s. It was only a matter of time before Hollywood threw its hat into the ring. Even 1954’s Gojira, was recut into an American version, retitled Godzilla: King Of The Monsters, with new footage starring Raymond Burr in order to cash in on the Eastern phenomenon.
So, off the back of their success with Independence Day in 1996, Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich went straight to work on their reimagining of Godzilla. Now, the first thing I will say, for all the faults and criticism of this movie, the writing being one of them, the basis to this film is in keeping with the original, in a sense. But Gojira was a post Hiroshima and Nagasaki metaphor, using the radioactive Godzilla as a metaphor for the A-Bomb which the U.S. dropped on Japan in 1945, in order to bring World War 2 to an end.
The film had graphic scenes of radiation poisoning and mass destruction in a similar way to the bomb, with the radioactive Godzilla oozing isotopes as he spread his destruction across Tokyo. In the end, what they needed to destroy the monster, which was more of a wild animal in its first incarnation, though be it a giant one, attacking the coastal cities, was to create a possible doomsday weapon, which was seen in the film, as a solution which was too dangerous to employ, similar to the A-Bomb.
Gojira was a smart, thoughtful and insightful sci-fi thriller, though be in with shoe-string effects budget. This is the total opposite. A massive VFX budget, though the effects are far from outstanding and the script offers little in the way of insight either. It’s ironic, that Cloverfield, which drew heavily from America’s own devastating tragedy of 9/11, was closer to the tone and insight of Gojira than this remake!
Devlin and Emmerich were happy to just have a giant monster, bigger than the still excellent Jurassic Park dinosaurs, rampaging through New York, and as was the theme in 1998 (Armageddon being the other), destroying the Chrysler Building! The source of Godzilla’s radioactivity was to do with French weapon’s testing this time, (it’s funning how the U.S. have little to do with this?), and that’s about it. Manhattan Island was just that. An island in which the giant lizard can lay its eggs. There’s none of the deeper meaning and warning of the original.
But having said all that, the problems are more to do with the script that they had. The characters are not even one-dimensional. They are just poor cliché’s of New Yorkers and Geeks, with summer colds and funny ways of speaking. The army are overwhelmed or just stupid, with the Jean Reno, who is probably the best thing in this film, left to save the day as the leader of a French Special Services team.
The tone is just light and flamboyant, with not interest in enthralling the audience, just believing that we would be happy with the special effects and some so-called dramatic tension. But what they forgot to do was build any tension. With Independence Day, they crafted an hour of tension building and paid it off with a full reveal of the aliens power and destroyed the landmarks as we knew that they would, but here it all about footprints and tails! Show us Godzilla all ready!
It was misjudged from the start. Too cocky and full of itself as Devlin and Emmerich seemed to belief that they were untouchable as the new rising talent of the decade. Well, they weren’t. Godzilla showed them up for what they really were and that is merely grand circus showmen.
But saying that, what a show. The action is light and fluffy, but that’s not to say that it not fun and enjoyable if you let it wash over you, or watch it with you kids. Just don’t expect anything spectacular or deep and a you will not be disappointed. I would recommend Gojira though, a REAL gem. (Though you’ll have to forgive the strings!)