Sixty years after Godzilla stomped around Tokyo, the radioactive lizard comes calling in this reboot
After Independence Day in 1996, from the producer-director duo of Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, everyone waited with bated breath for the next instalment of popcorn entertainment from the two. In 1998 when the monster hoardings were out—there were references to his eye being bigger than Gol Gombaz, the expectations soared higher than Qutb Minar. The trailer with the little old man fishing by the pier, the flash of fin before the pier and sundry stuff is destroyed was super exciting.
Independence Day made a superstar of Will Smith and reminded us of how cool Jeff Goldblum was. It was the ultimate escapist fare with the President of the United States (Bill Pullman) leading the fight to save the world from horrid aliens. Goldblum was the sexy nerd who fought the alien using a virus — computers were not ubiquitous then. Independence Day was the perfect blockbuster with charismatic actors, awesome special effects, cool lines (oops!) and a Braveheart speech — remember “We will not go quietly into the night. We will not vanish without a fight. We are going to live on. We are going to survive. Today we celebrate our Independence Day.”
Godzilla came out in 1998 which was the year of the disaster movie. There was Armageddon, Deep Impact and others that addressed our millennial fears of the end of the world as we know it. Practically every month, there was a movie where the United States (the world begins and ends there for Hollywood) would be swamped by tidal waves or destroyed by runaway comets.
Maybe we were suffering from disaster movie fatigue or Godzilla was just too long, too clumsy, not silly enough but the movie was disappointing. The first Hollywood production of the Japanese cult classic, Godzilla had Matthew Broderick as a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) scientist studying the effects of radiation in Chernobyl when he is called to Tahiti to study a destroyed Japanese fishing vessel with massive claw marks on it. There was that other trailer shot of Broderick standing in a gargantuan footprint. Jean Reno was the shady insurance guy and Maria Pitillo was Broderick’s annoying ex-girlfriend who is trying to make it big in the big bad broadcast world of New York with Hank Azaria as her cameraman as she is out to get the scoop of a lifetime. Watching Godzilla tear out chunks of Manhattan as it runs amok trying to get out of the silly movie, left the unfortunate “Size does Matter” tagline open to whole lot of terrible jokes.
Fourteen years into the new millennium when we are all digital natives living out our lives in bits, bytes, tweets and posts, and 60 years after the Japanese movie came out, Godzilla roars again. Helmed by Gareth Edwards, who made his directorial debut with Monsters, Godzilla stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Lieutenant Ford Brody a bomb disposal officer in the US navy. Ken Watanabe is Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, a scientist who has devoted his life to finding the mythical monster.
The lovely Juliette Binoche is Ford’s mum while Breaking Bad’s Walter White, Bryan Cranston, plays a nuclear physicist and Ford’s dad. David Strathairn, who played the smarmy Noah Vosen in the Bourne movies plays Admiral William Stenz of the US Navy. The story begins in Japan with the climactic battle in San Francisco—the Big Apple has a break. While the teaser trailers of 1998’s Godzilla was all about size and an unstoppable force of nature, the 90-second trailer of the new one, screened at Comic Con shows a glimpse of the monster amid the smoking ruins of a city with the father of the nuclear bomb, Robert Oppenheimer’s prophetic quoting of the scripture “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds” in the background, clearly stating which side the makers are on.
The destruction looks epic, the creature looks mythic, the only question that remains is will Edwards be able to walk the tight rope between sense and spectacle.