Sunday, August 03, 2014


It's strange to even consider now, but back in 1998 I actually eagerly anticipated Roland Emmerich's Godzilla.  True, I'd hated his previous movie, Independence Day, but come on--this was a Godzilla movie.  How bad could it be?

Astonishingly bad, as it turns out, but its release at least briefly generated some interest in the character, and when Sony subsequently released the first in Toho's Millennium series, Godzilla 2000, to theaters in an English dub, I paid money to see it twice.  I also bought the DVD, as I did with all the further Millennium titles, as well as the Showa titles as they were released in definitive forms, and when Criterion released the 1954 original on Blu-ray, I bought it again, even though I already owned it in many, many different formats.

The point is, man, I love me some giant critters.  It would follow, then, that the recent spate of monster movies--Pacific Rim and its announced sequel, the newly-rebooted Godzilla and its announced sequel, as well as Skull Island, yet another King Kong adventure--should make squeal with delight.

Or maybe just sigh with regret.

Sure, the 1973 epic Godzilla vs Megalon is an objectively bad movie, but the wrestling matches between towering robot Jet Jaguar and an explosive-spitting whatsit from beneath the earth are a lot of fun, and even the (many) non-monster scenes have a certain goofy elan.  But when Guillermo del Toro--a fine director, to be sure--stages similar robot/monster fights in Pacific Rim, they somehow underwhelm, and the movie itself is ponderous and overlong.

A similar problem mars Gareth Edwards' otherwise admirable Godzilla, which keeps its title monster off screen for much of its runtime--a valid dramatic choice, but it forces us to spend too much time with flat dramatic scenes featuring charisma vacuum Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

Worse, both of these movies feel incomplete, as if they're setting up not just sequels but series, inspired by the success of  the Marvel Studios superhero franchise, where every movie is connected to another and you can't tell the players without a scorecard.  This suspicion is furthered by the fact that Godzilla and Skull Island both come from Legendary Pictures, which is presumably setting up an inevitable Godzilla/King Kong showdown at some future date.

So every movie will just be a setup for the next movie, and if they're all taking place in a shared universe, they'll all be tonally similar.  Yeah, sure, Toho cranked out a lot of monster movies back in the day, but they weren't much on continuity--you could drop in to the Showa series at any point and have a great time.

Or not, if giant monsters aren't your thing--after all, Toho in the fifties and sixties not only made giant monster movies, they also produced and released many of the great films of Akira Kurosawa.  But these days, Hollywood seems to produce nothing but movies aimed at twelve-year-old boys.  Guardians Of The Galaxy is a ton of fun, but it's still just an exemplary version of the same formula we've seen a million times before, and as a former twelve-year-old, I enjoy that sort of thing, but come on.  There are still many great movies being made, but they don't have nine-digit budgets and open in 3000 theaters at once.  And to make something like, I dunno, The Godfather, you'd need that kind of money.  But studios don't want to make that kind of movie anymore.  Bring on the digitally-rendered monsters!