This last week, me and my son, the Geek Spawn, took some time to get acquainted with the King of the Monsters, in all of his various incarnations. The results are in. He and I shared our preference for our favorite incarnation of Godzilla. Let’s see if you agree…
We actually watched the films in reverse order, so that’s how I’ll review them. Starting with this year’s big-budget blockbuster and working my way back in time through the transformed monster of the 90s to the original costumed creature.
- Godzilla (2014)
A lot of this movie wasn’t working for me. This was supposedly a Godzilla movie, yet there was very little Godzilla in it! I want to see a giant lizard smashing through buildings, but what I got was 45 minutes of a MUTO (ginormous bug) before we even see a picture of Godzilla. This is the point where the scientist essentially say, “maybe Godzilla, who we haven’t talked about this entire movie, will help us defeat the giant bug.” Why? Based on what? It’s a huge leap to think that a large unknown monster will somehow defeat a large known monster. Meanwhile, the MUTO keeps popping up everywhere the main character goes (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, (Channing Tatum must have been busy)). From Japan to Hawaii to San Francisco, the MUTO chases our hero around like the shark in Jaws: The Revenge. Beyond the plot problems, there are lots of cliché moments like the tied-up dog that get free just before being killed and the Japanese guy that speaks English with no accent until he says, “Gojira.”
On the positive side, I think they did a great job capturing the size of the monster. You really feel that he towers over anything else around. Even taller than the original! Particularly fun to watch was the scene where a team of paratroopers HALO jump past him and we see their POV as they keep falling farther down the beasts body.
- Godzilla (1998)
This story, like the newer version, contains some similar story elements. The long build up, the obligatory Japanese start to the monster, the inept humans that somehow loose track of a 400 foot tall beast. The Godzilla of this Roland Emmerich version has a very different look to him as well. My son said this one looked like Yoshi and the new one looked like Bowser! He is still very clumsy and cumbersome, smashing into buildings, stepping on cars… until he gets missiles fired at him. Then he can suddenly swerve and weave like he’s in Top Gun. Matthew Broderick led the cast as the radiation specialist brought in for his expertise. And it’s a good thing he was there, since he had the spontaneous idea to see if Godzilla was pregnant. His love interest was gorgeous in her 90s look, though not the best actress. And the sergeant was too nervous about his job to be believable. Taking a cue from Jurassic Park (or maybe just flat-out copying), Godzilla also has mini monsters. If Godzilla is the T-rex, the Godzilla babies are the velociraptors. After big Godizlla’s body floats into the river, a battle with the babies leads to a good fake ending.
One great aspect of this version was the humor. Something lacking in the other films. Some lighthearted situations and comments help keep the slower moments interesting. And at the end of this one, the crowd cheers because he’s dead, not because he’s alive as in the 2014 version!
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters (1956)
The Americanized version of the original Japanese film. This is a black and white movie, heavily dubbed and re-edited for American audiences. The opening scene shows the aftermath of the monster’s attack on Tokyo, which is a nice humanizing element to the monster story. But, it quickly goes downhill from there. Much of the movie is confusing, with the motivation of the monster being unclear. He seems to be attacking because he’s bored. Raymond Burr plays a reporter who is welcome into any top secret government operation he wants, even in Japan. The dubbing has a few issues that can be excused due to the age, but the word “phenomenon” seemed to be such a big problem, they should have left it in Japanese! It’s “phenomenon,” not “phenumunum!” I won’t even point out that the map on the wall in Japan is in English. Okay, maybe I will.
A big perk I will give it is that in the opening scenes teasing the monster, people actually see it! Reports from live people that the have seen Godzilla! I guess in the 50s it was easier to spot a lizard the size of a building.
Now, of the three, which did my son and I like best? …It was the 1998 version! I know, I know! Godzilla purists hate this version! They find it to be such a departure from the original, they just call it “Zilla” to avoid confusion with its classic inspiration. Blasted by critics, it didn’t even get the sequels that were originally planned for it. It did get a cartoon series follow up, though! But I really do enjoy it. I enjoy the humor, the monster, the not-great acting, and even the baby Zillas! The preference was marginal for my son. He did enjoy the new one too.
Okay. It’s your turn to tell me how wrong I am! lol. Let me know in the comments what YOUR favorite Godzilla is.