West versus East interpretations of a classic movie monster.
2014 brought us Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla, the American movie reboot starring the quintessential Japanese monster. That film did so well worldwide, Japan’s Toho Studios (the production company behind all previous Godzilla movies, minus the terrible one starring Matthew Broderick; that was America’s bad) decided mere months later that they were also going to reboot the franchise domestically after the longest span of time between movies had elapsed since the creature’s inception, and it was going to be in the same spirit as the older versions. That is, they were going to dress up a guy in a lizard suit and have him thrash around for an hour and a half. Check out the newest trailer below for Godzilla Resurgence, opening next Friday in Japan:
This trailer is fantastic! I couldn’t place the verismo style opera score, but it sure does emphasize Japan’s version of Godzilla as a sort of tragic figure. Which makes sense, because he was created in response to nuclear weapons testing and usage in the Pacific. The whole nuclear metaphor doesn’t resonate as powerfully here for incredibly obvious reasons. In the American rendition of Godzilla, the creatures’ relations to nuclear bombs is addressed but just as easily forgotten, because we like our Godzilla as a hero. San Francisco is in danger, dammit! Our Godzilla seems to be indifferent to the human casualties amassed from his destruction, but at least he’s out there fighting his more dangerous cousins for us.
It’s like when we got our hands on the original 1954 Gojira (a portmanteau of two Japanese words for gorilla and whale phonetically spelled ‘gorira’ and ‘kujira’, respectively), Americanized it, and repurposed all the cautions of nuclear testing in the film’s ending into the optimism of vanquishing foes with omnipotent weaponry:
Edits made on the last scenes of the classic is a perfect example. In the original Gojira, after the Oxygen Destroyer defeats Gojira, Dr. Yamane remarks,
“I can’t believe that Gojira was the only surviving member of its species. But, if we keep on conducting nuclear tests, its possible that another Gojira might appear somewhere in the world, again.”
He cautions viewers about the consequences of repeated nuclear testing, which could cause a similar tragedy to the contamination of Lucky Dragon Five. This is obviously a warning towards the imminent threat of nuclear devastation as humans continue to dabble with nuclear weapons technology.
Interestingly, Dr. Yamane’s debbie-downer conclusion completely disappears in the 1956 version. Instead, the movie ends with Mr. Martin’s upbeat lines:
“The whole world could wake up and live again.”
Yay! Happy ending! The new high-tech weapon Oxygen Destroyer successfully eliminated the global threats and saved mankind.
Way to go, American edit. That’s literally missing the whole point. That’s like if someone took Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center and edited it to show how flying a plane into a building was a good thing. But that was 60 years ago. Today, we like our giant, fighting monster movies on the less preachy side.
I hope Japan’s version will be of the scary variety. Gareth Edwards’s film does an incredible job of framing Godzilla as the massive, awesome monstrosity that he is. Godzilla rarely fits in the entirety of the screen, and when he does, it’s one of those super far away shots where you question whether Godzilla is a living being or a mountain on the horizon. He just wasn’t all that terrifying. The visual effects were too impressive, giving our rendition of the behemoth the emotions of a stoic savior.
But look at this soulless beast. It’s those dead puppet eyes. That’s the benefit of practical effects. Yeah, it looks kind of cheesy, but I’d rather face the more animalish Godzilla of the Americas than this demon hellspawn of my nightmares. Both the U.S. and Japan have announced many more entries in their respective Godzilla universes. If we could now only get a Bollywood Godzilla film where the movie finishes in a massive dance number with King Ghidorah and Mothra, or at least a French interpretation where Godzilla just eats crêpes and has sex all day, my life would be complete.
Related Topics: Monsters