Fri
Jun 15 2012 11:00am
Looking Ahead: Godzilla 2014—Fears and Hopes

Godzilla

Making a movie about a pop-culture icon is always tricky business. On one hand, you have the diehard fans to appease. In this case, the majority of those fans are between the ages of 35 and 45—basically the same group of mostly men who have witnessed the brutal pillaging of their childhoods through movies like Transformers, Smurfs, Land of the Lost, G.I. Joe and most recently, and strangely, Battleship. While some of these movies have tanked, others have been financial giants, but few have pleased the original fan base.

On the other hand, studios must entertain youngsters, ages 4–12, whose parents bring them to these movies. I have recently been to see The Avengers, Snow White and the Huntsman, Men in Black III and Battleship. I would not consider these PG-13 flicks kids movies, but I saw kids, perhaps as young as three at each and every one of them. I personally think the parents who bring their children to these films need therapy—their children will—but they are there anyway. And the studios know it, so we end up with dwarfs making poop jokes and giant robots dangling prodigious testicles—humor that’s more appropriate for a (bad) Adam Sandler movie.

On the third, alien hand (perhaps a tentacle), is the group in the middle: teens and young adults who want the same thrills and dark themes as the older generations, but aren’t bothered by potty humor and maybe even find it funny. However, they have no preconceived notions of what the story and characters should or should not look, act, or sound like.

Godzilla fights King Kong

Before I make my case, I should explain who I am. Clearly, I’m a diehard fan. Anyone from the other two categories would either have nothing to say, or aren’t yet able to type. I grew up in New England and thus was treated to weekend doses of Creature Double Feature. I would watch Godzilla, Gamera and a mash-up of other kaiju (giant monster) and horror movies every Saturday morning, while I drew my own monsters. I now own all of the Godzilla movies, in English and Japanese, with the exception of the horrible 1998 Americanized version.

This early love of monster stories stayed with me, and today, I’m the author of fifteen monster novels and eight novellas featuring aliens, genetic mutations, demons, robots and various monstrosities created by science gone awry. Some are as small as your fingertip, but others rival Godzilla in scale. I’ve even gone so far as to name the creature in my 2013 release, Island 731, “Kaiju.” The point is, not only do I know Godzilla, but I know what works and what doesn’t in this genre.

So let’s get into the most difficult subject: fears.

Will Godzilla be a modern day kid’s movie? Before you point out the glaring flaw in my argument (that I was a kid watching Godzilla) it should be noted that over the years, Godzilla has been envisioned in several different ways. Not only has he laid waste to Japan, crushing, melting and smearing scores of civilians, but he has also been Earth’s defender and was liable to break into dance (see my Facebook page for proof).

Although some Godzilla movies were certainly made for a younger audience, they lacked today’s lazy mixture of potty humor, slow motion boobs and non-stop explosions at the sacrifice of plot. Now you’re laughing, because I implied Godzilla movies had plots. But they did. The English translations of the movies are fun to listen to, but they lose much of the serious tone from the Japanese originals. Godzilla, in his most sinister incarnations, is about humanity paying for its hubris. Nicer versions of Godzilla feature stories about enemies coming together to face a common threat, but even then, the big green giant has little regard for human life. It’s not really kid’s stuff and shouldn’t be presented that way, if only because the movie’s most excited fan base is the 35–45 year old diehards who don’t want to watch Godzilla dance, see Gigan’s balls or hear commentary from a middle-aged house wife about whether or not Jet Jaquar has a vibrate mode.

Godzilla 1998

My second fear is less irritating, but more likely. A reboot. This brings us back to the 1998 debacle known simply as Godzilla. In this reboot of the original 1954 Godzilla, not only did they completely redesign Godzilla, changing him into a giant iguana, removing any kind of sentimental attachment the diehards might have and making it easy for us to loathe the movie, they also told a very simple reboot origin story. Godzilla attacks a city, humans fight back, Godzilla dies and diehards everywhere leave disappointed. It might seem backward, but we want Godzilla to win. Even when he’s laying waste to the masses, he’s the good guy. To a Godzilla fan, a simple origin story reboot is *yawn* underwhelming. We’ve seen it. Twice. Since 1955, over twenty-seven movies, Godzilla has shared the screen with other kaiju—some friends and some foes—and fans look forward to them as much as we do Godzilla. That’s why every authentic Godzilla product—movies, comics, novels and children’s books—display little icons revealing which monsters are featured. However, the more complex story of humanity understanding that Godzilla is a force of nature, who is just as capable of protecting humanity as he is of destroying it, is far more interesting.

On to my hopes, which can most easily be summed up as being the opposite of my fears, but I’ll break it down as the following: I hope for an intelligent plot lacking Michael Bay-style idiocy that also remains true to the history, design and soundtrack of the franchise. It’s a Godzilla movie, so I expect cities to be ravaged, people to die and lots and lots of (blue!) fire breathing, but you can have all of that and a sense of humor, without sacrificing IQ.

As an adult who writes serious monster novels with lots of blood, more than a few laughs and sometimes even emotionally moving plots, I would like to see a brutal Godzilla movie made. One where we’re not shielded from the carnage wrought by the monsters tearing through the cities. Let’s see the death. The gore. The seriousness of what is happening. Let us experience the terror of what an actual Godzilla attack would be like! To an extent, this is what Cloverfield did, but it could go further. At the core, Godzilla is a horror story and I believe it should be treated as such. He is, after all, the King of Monsters.


Jeremy Robinson is the author of numerous novels translated into ten languages, including the wildly popular new novel, SecondWorld, as well as Pulse, Instinct, and Threshold, the first three books in his exciting Jack Sigler series. He also writes the ever-expanding science-fantasy epic known as The Antarktos Saga, all featuring more kaiju than you can shake a stick at... which wouldn’t be wise. Visit his website at: www.jeremyrobinsononline.com

24 comments
john mullen
1. johntheirishmongol
Sorry Jeremy, have to disagree. I don't want monsters to win. I don't want aliens to win. I am human.
NickM
2. NickM
Ah, growing up in New england, watching Creature Double Feature on Channel 56...thanks for taking me back with that one sentence.
NickM
3. RobinsonJ
I would agree with the blanket statement, "I don't want monsters to win." In my novels, monsters (and aliens) rarely, if ever, win in the end. But when it comes to Godzilla, that's something different, at least for the people who grew up with him, or maybe just me.

Historically, he saves people as much as he kills them. In most Godzilla movies, he does a lot of damage, but its limited to parts of Japan. While that's not good, Godzilla also typically stands in the way of something worse, something that will destroy or enslave the entire planet without Godzilla there to keep it in check.

Plus, sometimes he dances. How can you want to kill a 300 foot dancing monster?
NickM
4. Francis Donohoe
Totally agree...and even get me started on The Hunger Games!
NickM
5. SF
Godzilla has been somewhat rebooted a couple of times in the original Toho films as well. Usually, this means wiping out not the original 1954 film, but all of the films since. That seemed to be the approach for most of the films in the last Toho series, the Millenium series.

I actually think this has a shot at being good. At the very least, it has a good director, Gareth Edwards, who did the thoughtful, low-budget giant monsters film "Monsters." While I don't think his Godzilla film will take the same approach (people would complain that we don't get to see enough of Godzilla), I would be surprised if he went all Michael Bay with the film.

Also, the preliminary design that the studio has released points to a more traditional approach than the 1998 film, which builds off of the designs from the 00's:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Godzilla_2012_design.jpg

And before we get the Godzilla film, we should get Del Toro's "Pacific Rim," which will feature plenty of kaiju action. They're even called kaiju in the film.
James Whitehead
6. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
@Jeremy & 2NickM, I loved Creature Double Feature on 56 with Dale Dorman, blast from the past I know, doing the intro. Can still hear the music (ELP I think it was).

I loved the original Godzilla best but didn't mind parts of the remake - mostly Jean Reno & Hank Azaria. ;-)

Kato
NickM
7. Robin Maxwell
One of my favorite expressions from comedian Rip Taylor is: "From your lips to Godzilla."
Shelly wb
8. shellywb
Anything to make the masses remember and spread the word. No one where I work even knew who Gamera was! But I sent his picture and song around and now, occasionally walking through the office I hear someone humming it. It always makes me grin.
NickM
9. Improbable Joe
Jeremy, I'm going to assume you're friends/friendly with Scott Sigler, and buy all of your books.

I used to watch these with my mom when I was a kid on one of the UHF channels in NYC back in the late 70s and early 80s, along with a bunch of kung-fu stuff.

Does everyone else love Godzilla: Final Wars where Godzilla kicks the crap out of CG Americanized Godzilla in 30 seconds flat? Most of these flicks rotate in and out of Netflix, be sure to catch them all!
NickM
10. RobinsonJ
@Improbably Joe, you have assumed correctly, and thank you. Hope you enjoy all of them!

And yes, that is my favorite scene in Godzilla: Final Wars. I think it summed up how many of us felt. Love how small and pitiful they made the American Godzilla look compared to the real deal.

And who knows, maybe if Godzilla does well, we'll get a Gamera movie. Or maybe my kaiju (giant monster) novel, PROJECT MAIGO, coming out next year, will get picked up for a movie! :)
NickM
11. RobinsonJ
@Improbable Joe, first forgive the typo in your name in the last comment. Second, I should have mentioned, I actually wrote one of the crew stories for Scott's, THE CRYPT. So you may have already heard some of my writing. :)
NickM
12. Peter H. Brothers
Let's just hope they have a compelling script with good actors, a nice way to honor the memory of Ishiro Honda, the man who started it all...
-Peter H. Brothers, author of "Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men - The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda."
NickM
13. Jettoki
Sorry, but Godzilla has never been a horror story at it's core, and as a die-hard fan, I would be outraged if they turned it into the mess that was Cloverfield.
NickM
14. KC Herbel
Hey Jeremy,'
I agree. The last Godzilla was a disappointment (even knowing someone who worked on it) and Cloverfield's gimicky rough "hand-held" made the movie unwatchable. A good, "realisitic" Godzilla would be cool. I thinking something along the lines of Battle: Los Angeles, possibly even harsher.
NickM
15. King Kong
A Godzilla movie as a purely "horror" movie would be very interesting. I loved Cloverfield; it was refreshing to see an American giant monster movie that wasn't a piece of junk like some of them are. Personally I love the American Godzilla('God'Zilla). It isn't Godzilla, it's Zilla. I thought that this movie did what Godzilla movies only touched on: the animalistic nature. My opinion is that the title was only to attract attention. It is a legitimized monster of the Godzilla series through Final Wars(I knew that tuna eating monster was useless). I would love to see Zilla in the future but never as the main star.

Enough of that though. I love all of the Godzilla films even the worst ones like Godzilla's Revenge. I sincerelly hope that after the 2014 movie comes out Toho will make more. I feel bad for the people who cannot appreciate kaiju films but hey its their loss. Although I love the American 'God'Zilla, it doesn't do the series justice. Americans know how to make movies but there is a simplicity to the plot of Japanese Kaiju films that we cannot replicate. Cloverfield got close, King Kong 2005 was almost there even with the ridiculous love story and Jack Black's childish antics, and 'God'Zilla was pretty far off. As much as I can't wait to see the 2014 Godzilla I know that it won't work. It's going to have a love story that will take away from the purpose of the genre, there will be excessive use of comic relief, and Godzilla won't do enough damage. I also hope that no weapons will hurt him as was origionally intended. At least America got that right in Cloverfield (stunned by a shock wave doesn't count as hurt). It'll do well but I foresee a lot of groans and angry fists in the air.

I want to see a Kaiju film where the monsters win and humanity is decimated to the point where there is but a small colony like in the Matrix. King Ghidorah v. Godzilla in Japan, Clover v. Zilla in New York, King Kong running rampant accross the western coast, Titanosaurus and Mechagodzilla destroying the eastern Asian coasts, and all the others spreading destruction all over the world. Basically Final Wars without the aliens and without humanity winning. Everyone loves apacolyptic films, it's about time a skyscraper sized monster brings it about.
NickM
16. RobinsonJ
@KingKong "Everyone loves apacolyptic films, it's about time a skyscraper sized monster brings it about."

AGREED!!
Boquaz
17. boquaz
If the goal is really to make a good film which will lead to more good films, I think this one needs to show Godzilla saving humanity. There should be multiple monsters, lots of fights and a simple plot. I can even sketch it out:
act 1) a nuclear test wakes up Godzilla
act 2) Godzilla ravages city after city
act 3) humanity admits defeat
act 4) 'space' monsters appear (no reason needed) and begin absurd environmental destruction
act 5) Godzilla defeats other monsters and vanishes, leaving humanity alive
NickM
18. ORGA
Whether I think it will be good or bad I will be in line on opening day to see it. I love all Godzilla movies. I do think most though have alot of sillyness to them but love still the same. " OH NO!! THERE GOES TOKYO...GO GO GODZILLA!!!
NickM
19. Mish
I think it would be better to see "Godzilla" as a "Cloverfield"of"Monsters" like movie,complete with a group of students and found footage video of them encountering "Godzilla" and other Kajiu monsters.
NickM
20. Gman
what do you guys think would be the best thing in this new Godzilla
NickM
21. maxi
(I want to see a Kaiju film where the monsters win and humanity is decimated to the point where there is but a small colony), i couldn't agree more, i would have have all the monsters engaged in some very violent fights & brawls not because they want to destroy each other, for them it's all good fun, they just happen to wipe out millions of people and decimate our cities in the process. i just read the blurb on Island 731 and sounds like the sort of book i wouldn't be able to put down once i started reading, i was going to read world war z but this sounds better!!
NickM
22. Zorkus
We're not going to get a "brutal" Godzilla movie with "gore" and other graphic imagery. Toho would never allow it. Children are a major demographic, and the Godzilla franchise appeals to them as well. Take them out of the equation and you have a box office bomb.
NickM
24. Dave Marnin
Hello, I am a huge Godzilla fan and I miss the Saturday creature features when I was growing up. How and where can I "get" my hands on the Godzilla films?! I've tried but I guess not hard enough, but now i really to want to sit back on a weekend and enjoy them uncut!
NickM
25. Marcus Donahue
Just because we aren't as old as you doesn't make teens less of a fan than you. I have seen every Godzilla movie there is and own the cartoons. I am just as much of a fan as you, and have been ever since I was born, because the first memory I have is of watching Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster on TV and loving every bit of it.

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