By Arturo R. García
It could have been a lot worse.
Gareth Edwards’ bid to not just revive, but redeem the Godzilla brand — at least, on non-Japanese shores — didn’t steer clear of every pitfall we discussed late last year. But Edwards and writers Max Borenstein, Dave Callaham and Frank Darabont should be credited for at least getting the adaptation part of their duties right.
Finally, the 1998 American abomination can rest in ignominy. The creative team for this installment eschewed the usual wink-nudge “blockbuster” tricks and managed to combine the best bits of some of the character’s past incarnations together into a monster that’s a little familiar, a little scary, and truly in command of the screen once he appears. That there’s already a sequel coming isn’t surprising, but that this preamble makes you look forward to it is, and pleasantly so.
SPOILERS under the cut
By Arturo R. García
The release of the trailer for the latest Godzilla release spawned a pretty good discussion over at The Mary Sue Wednesday, including this critique from a fan:
It’s too early to tell just how “global” this new Godzilla is, but it would be really nice if it acknowledged that the death of human beings is universal and is no more or less tragic by virtue of location, nationality or ethnic background. I don’t see that happening for the promotional campaign, because the people who make trailers and commercials are frequently different from the actual filmmakers, and tend to be somewhat problematic at the best of times – so I don’t see them doing anything different from the norm.
Because the sad fact is that lots of people are going to look on the deaths of non-Western non-white people in films, even outright disasters, as they do for real life: as sad or upsetting, but not *quite* as upsetting as if it happened to “their” people – even if it takes place in a western city with an ethnic majority. It isn’t cinema’s job to challenge those preconceptions, but cinema is in a strong position to make a difference. Would it really be such a problem for a film to make the “bold” statement that the death of thousands of non-Westerners is just as tragic as the death of thousands of Westerners? Would that really constitute “reverse”-racism? Is that infringing on white people’s representation in the media?
The first trailer doesn’t give us a lot to go on on that score. And even if the film’s IMDB cast list counts at least six people of color involved, what we see here is mostly focused on white characters (starting with the nameless white soldier who jumps into near-certain doom at the beginning). But the only POC featured, Ken Watanabe, will likely be playing a key character in Godzilla canon — Dr. Daisuke Serizawa, the man behind the invention that killed the original Godzilla in the monster’s 1954 eponymous debut.
But a piece of the synopsis has me, at least, hopeful that this film won’t just aspire to be a “reimagined version” of the character’s first appearance, and will show better judgment in picking which parts of Godzilla canon to explore.
SPOILERS UNDER THE CUT
By Arturo R. García & Kendra James
(L-R) Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) and Mako (Rinku Kikuchi) team up to save humanity from an extraterrestrial scourge in “Pacific Rim.”
Pacific Rim was introduced as an oddity and emerged as even more of one, but in a good way.
While the film was promoted as an homage to the Japanese Kaiju films of old (even outright integrating the term into the story), what audiences actually got was a movie that owed as much to anime classics like Neon Genesis Evangelion as it did to monster smash-’em-ups. And even more surprisingly, one that managed to use those tropes in a thoughtful, downright progressive fashion (albeit while using some wonky dialogue) without skimping on the action the trailer promised us.
Which makes it doubly disconcerting that the movie couldn’t even win its opening weekend at the U.S. box office, finishing second to, of all things, Grown Ups 2. Luckily, the movie’s doing well enough internationally that there’s already talk of a sequel.
But is it worth that kind of effort? Our intrepid reviewers suit up and tackle these questions under the cut. Heavy Spoilers from this point on.