2014: Godzilla, King of the Summer

One monster will rule the box office this summer. 

As a child, Godzilla was part of my daily nutritional intake. Nintendo games, Godzilla, and basketball. I did manage to squeeze in some actual nutrition in there somewhere. Stuff like Infra Man, Ninja Gaiden, and Transformers were what my brain required for sustenance—and it's not so different now. I've seen nearly every Godzilla film at least twice, besides the embarrassment of Matthew Broderick trying to keep a straight face through the entirety of the first abysmal American remake. What wasn't wrong with that film? They analyze Godzilla ooze with a corner store pregnancy test and determine... she's pregnant! And a wave of gasps rolls over the audience.

Gareth Edwards is technically British, so, the new "American" remake might need to be referenced with air quotes when speaking aloud. His indie film, Monsters, was an impressive exercise with what a director with a lot of heart can do with a small budget. The film reclaimed eight times its budget, so it's no wonder the guy was picked for the Godzilla remake, which seems to clutch to the very roots of 1954's Gojira. Tomoyuki Tanaka, the original film's producer, said that "The theme of the film...was the terror of the [atomic] bomb. Mankind had created the bomb, and now nature was going to take revenge on mankind." Based on the monumental scale of the current trailers and its exceptionally grim tone, it's clear this is precisely what Edwards is going for. And I couldn't be more geeked.

Gojira never set out to inspire a cheese-infused franchise of Mechagodzillas, sludge monsters, and self-inflating super robots—it was very serious stuff in its inception. I grew up with the campy entries and wasn't conscious of the grave metaphor of the original. No doubt, I have fuzzy feelings for cardboard cityscapes and eye-laser lobster cyborgs, but that avenue has been finely punctuated with Final Wars.

Released in 2004, Godzilla: Final Wars marked the 50th anniversary of the original Gojira. In Final Wars, He faced off against damn near every major monster in the series, including the American bastardization in its cheap, computer generated glory. Toho, Godzilla's mother studio, declared Final Wars to be the last entry for a decade. 2014 marks that decade's end with the refreshed interest Toho intended to achieve with the hiatus. It seems the stars accidentally aligned when American rights were once again secured for the honor of reigniting the story inspired by the seeds of Gojira just in time.

It's definitely Marvel's era for summer blockbusters. I love those movies, but it's long overdue that we need a big step outside of the colorful, poppy stories and characters. Since 9/11, American blockbusters have steered away from the dark event films in favor of vivid palettes and heroes of the American dream. This isn't new—Superman, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones all released within the atmosphere of the Soviet Cold War and Vietnam. Again, I adore these kinds of movies and I'm there on day one for all of them. I'm relieved, however, that Warner Bros. has finally switched out their set of balls for something that might very well make my gut sink during a summer movie escape.

That's why I'm excited for Godzilla. It looks to be thrilling and genuinely terrifying in a way that only a massive event film can provide. One of the best cinematic moments in my lifetime was being squeezed into a more than sold out theater for the premier of Independence Day, with unlucky latecomers—probably illegally—watching from the lit aisles. When the spacecraft the size of the Grand Canyon burrowed forth from the clouds, the scene gave me the same feeling a rollercoaster does when you're curling over the top of the first big drop. I knew something horrible and immense was about to go down.

It's been almost twenty years since I've felt something like that. Now, it's the Godzilla trailers alone which raised the hair on my neck and made my stomach buzz. This is what I've been waiting for: a borderline horror movie on a global scale that isn't another tired, over hyped zombie cliché.

Bring along Bryan Cranston, only one of the best actors known to our planet, to seize the drama into a headlock and strangle it to death. The guy could tell me he bought me a pair of kittens for my birthday and somehow it would sound like the most petrifying experience of my life. But it's not kittens. A gigantic, maybe prehistoric mutant reptile is coming to potentially destroy humanity, and Heisenberg is the one who gets to warn us about it. Dude, that's crazy scary!

Godzilla by itself was good enough for me, but there are not-so-subtle hints that both Rodan and Gigan—or creatures eerily similar to them—will have cameos. Gareth Edwards mentioned that if he got to make Godzilla, there would have to be more building-smashing creatures. Well, it's been 100% confirmed that the King of the Monsters will indeed square off with not one, but creatures plural. I will be wearing a diaper to the theater.

Gareth Edwards is a grassroots filmmaker—Monsters was particularly impressive, with its crew numbering a mere five people besides the actors. The man created the visual effects for Monsters on top of being the writer, director, and cinematographer. He's already a harder worker and more knowledgeable helm than 90% of directors at the same stage in their career. Edwards, no doubt in my mind has more than what it takes to knock this clear out of the park and into sequel territory. For a talented man who's clearly in love with the kaiju genre, and for the huge cash stack and effective marketing backing this project, I can't see the film bombing. I'd be shocked if Legendary and Warner doesn't demand a sequel. Godzilla is far too rich with creative plunder in the monsters alone. I just want to see Jet Jaguar punch Megalon through a mountain. Just think of the toys and play sets! Oh, that sweet profit margin of merchandise.

There's so much there to feed off of. Edwards' intent with this rebirth, however, is to trim the fat in order to maintain an atmosphere of mystery, keep the audience tense and asking questions, employing a decidedly Lovecraftian vibe. Gareth Edwards' Godzilla is promising to be a faithful reimagining of the most frightening kind. It's been a long time since a monster movie had the potential to profoundly capture my intrigue. My hopes are definitely not in check.

- article by J.G. Barnes