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.
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.
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