The concept is a simple one, one that has been working for some time now; find a successful film or movie franchise that belongs to another country; make a Hollywood blockbuster version of it (because Hollywood can make a spectacular blockbuster out of a Minsk period drama about one impoverished peasant boy and his love of the kitchen radiator); fuck it up beyond all recognition, including the scrapping of all culturally specific resonance and significance, relatable characters, deep thought provoking subtext, and instead make it about Americans’ overcoming adversity using weapons (specifically the military and their guns); blame the original source material for never being good enough to have made a decent ‘reimagining’ in the first place once it flops spectacularly; move back to stage one; repeat process. Sounds familiar right? Thus, in response to reading a very good article on the subject by astute film critic Mark Kermode, today’s instalment shall be the woefully abysmal Godzilla ‘reimagining’ of 1998; a movie conceived to be the first of an ongoing monster mash staring the title character, only to end up as one of Hollywood’s greatest and most savagely berated blunders. It wasn’t just that the film was bad or pointless, but that it was so lacking in the symbolism and subtext that made the Japanese original so powerful and significant to begin with (a film made in response to AMERICA DESTROYING NAGASAKI AND HIROSHIMA WITH ATOMIC BOMBS – that’s like a Japanese adaptation of 9/11 but declaring themselves the true victims of the attack, such is the irony here) But hey, at least it didn’t feature Godzooky…oh…
Part 1: He Wasn’t Always a Water Deity…
This is all set some time before the events of August 6th 1945 in order to show us the origins of the reptile overlord (Americans sure love their origin stories – so long as they’re the ones telling them that is). Nuclear tests are being conducted by the French (you see how easy it is for America to say it had nothing to do [symbolically] with Godzilla’s Tokyo rampage back in the 50s? Although, “the French destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki” fails to hold much weight) on a tropical island, the fallout of which affects a colony of spectating marine iguanas on another sandy beach. Yes, Godzilla was never the physical manifestation of the disruption wa (the harmony between man and nature) striking back against mankind for polluting the great lands and oceans; he was an original contender for the X-men. Flash-forward to the present day Pacific Ocean, where a large creature claws a Japanese fishing trawler into oblivion. Fortunately in this action scene the large monster and all things remotely Japanese are dispensed with in haste in case anyone should be getting excited about a bunch of yellow people being attacked by Cthulhu – no, audiences need a good dose of generic, all-American boring after something like that threatens to entertain them. Matthew Broderick as the unpronounceable Dr. Niko Tatopoulos, is investigating over-sized worms at Chernobyl (tone shift as jarring as a sudden motor collision), when some guy from 24 turns up from the State Department to reassign him to giant lizard hunting duty – the poor bastard. In Tahiti the French have the last remaining fisherman left alive after the earlier attack. As if being heavily radioactive and suffering survivor guilt after a monster attack weren’t enough, Jean Reno threatens him with fire demanding to know what the dying man saw.
Japanese Fisherman: (weakly) Gojira…Go….jira….
Jean Reno : What did he say?
Frenchman: I think he said ‘Godzilla’.
Japanese Fisherman: (weakly) No, I say ‘Gojira’.
Jean Reno: Not anymore he isn’t – he’s American now.
Dr. Toffeepopcorn arrives in the tropics and meets with Sam Witwicki’s dad from the Transformers movies, here posing as Colonel Hicks
Toffeepopcorn: Why did you drag me to this tropical paradise when I should be studying mutated earthworms in the pissing rain of Russia?
Colonel Hicks: Oh cool, you mean like the giant worms in Tremors?
Toffeepopcorn: No, they’re just quite large – as I’ve discovered after 3 solid years of study -, as a result of man-made radiation. Did I mention it was man-made, this radiation? Only I don’t feel there is enough guilt flying around about mankind’s use of nuclear power at this point.
Colonel Hicks: My salary isn’t enough to deal with this much Matthew Broderick, just look down!
Toffeepopcorn realises that not only is he standing in a gargantuan footprint, but also wasted three years of his life studying 17% larger earthworms. He’s introduced to a palaeontologist Elsie, whom for some reason finds him instantly attractive…this guy:
Not to be confused with David Mitchell:
Dr. Craven appears with French footage of the trawler that was ransacked and the dottery Japanese man’s desperate cries of “GO-JIRA!!!! How many times do I have to say it?!” Ah the plot is coming together now, shame it’s time to flip over to New York (in retrospect a good choice to host as the American equivalent to Tokyo, and by proxy the cities destroyed by aerial attacks of 1945) so we can meet the aspiring journalist love interest, her gratingly irritating office friend, and sleazy boss Kent Brockman. Love Interest is trying for a promotion but just can’t get ahead. And this is relevant to a film about giant monsters and man’s meddling with nuclear powers he can’t control why? You know what the love interest in Gojira brought to the table: providing a counterpoint to the destructive powers of Gojira through her selfless actions; providing a “point of departure from the social repression (and often abuse) of women” in film [C. Balmain, 2008: p.37]; and emphasizing the need for individuals to consider the needs of the nation before the wants of self. In Godzilla the bitch really wants a promotion… strong, compelling stuff.
Vicky hits on Toffeepopcorn, allowing him to state that although he and Love Interest are not together he still loves her, giving him grounds to reject the sexual advances she’s making and basically having to pry her off his face. They arrive at the washed up fishing ship and admire the colossal claw marks running its length. For a military operation there are a lot of tourists wandering round taking pictures, but it’s only those mysterious Frenchmen integral to the plot that the Colonel is concerned with recording the evidence. Jean Reno (or Mr. Roach [more and more this film is putting down the French more than they deserve – first they dropped the atomic bombs and now the lead is named after a bottom-feeding and much loathed insect]) arrives, claiming he and his men are involved with the ships’ insurance and promptly leave. Toffeepopcorn makes the startling discovery that the fishing ship was full of fish, but can’t seem to draw any conclusions from this – he also finds a gubbins of sorts and takes it for analysis. Elsewhere, an AMERICAN trawler is ambushed and its’ aquatic cargo consumed. This scene last far longer than when the inconsequential Japanese boat went down, primarily because these guys speak English so their plight is far more serious. This is bad; Godzilla has eaten all of the fish in the Pacific Ocean and has now decided to head west. Now why would an animal migrate from the mid-Pacific to the North Atlantic? Is New York really the only place Roland Emmerich is allowed to set his disaster films? As the research team and the military envoy return home the reports come in of the trawler disasters 200 miles off the coast. Wild theory time!:
Vicky: Must be some kind of dinosaur we thought was extinct and has been hiding for 65 million years.
Toffeepopcorn: That’s retarded. More likely it’s the result of B-movie science gone wrong, in which radiation has made a simple lizard grow to improbable size. It’s the only explanation.
Vicky: But it isn’t because I just gave an alternative.
Maybe one day the lead character won’t be the one whose theory is the right one. Toffeepopcorn theorises that the creature originated in FRENCH Polynesia where the FRENCH were carrying out FRENCH atomic tests, causing the FRENCH to inadvertently create a city threatening force of destruction, and it’s now on America to shoulder the problem. Although all I’m hearing is ‘misdirected blame’ repeated over and over.
Back in New York, Love Interest is receiving a much needed pep-talk from her vile best friend about her not only deserving a promotion, but also a decent man too. I disagree, because all I’ve seen her do so far is act as a doormat to douche bags and be insulted and disrespected by her friends. Thank Christ Hank Azaria is there to distract from this preface to Sex and the City. Mid way into the second round of “and another reason you suck…” she notices her beloved Toffeepopcorn is on TV…a small TV. With a fuzzy image. With him running away from the camera. In the distance. And the TV is across the room. Forget journalism, with those eyes she should try for Xavier’s School for Gifted Children – you can enrol with Godzilla. She creams over the man who could double for Peep Show’s Mark, while Godzilla terrorises the elderly fishermen bums over on the east side as he tears up the docks and makes his way into the city in spectacular style. The dock workers panic as the illegal immigrant wanders the city, threatening their jobs and national security while making a mental note to blame it on any black president that gets elected down the line. Still shedding boats like dandruff, ‘Zilla heads for Tiffany’s as part of his big day in the big city, disturbing a mayoral press conference as he goes; his inability to remain at a fixed size making things very problematic when trying to traverse the bustling streets. Bigger things need to be addressed right now though – I’m dying to hear more about Love Interest and why she isn’t with Toffeepopcorn; uh-huh, college sweet hearts…yeah, love of your life…WHAT no way! He asked you to marry him? What happened…wait…No, Godzilla go away – you’re ruining the bit we paid to see! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Hank Azaria grabs his camera and chases after the creature in order to document how an animal that size is failing to leave any footprints despite its earth quaking stomps.
The worm specialist, the fossil expert and the military enter the city and discuss how they lost sight of the creature…what?! The thing is fucking huge. So big it can’t even fit on the screen. So big it causes Azaria’s camera to go cross-eyed as he attempts to record it. So big it sheds boats, has foot falls that cause cars to bounce from entire blocks away, and has a favoured past time for eating trawling ships. If you’re argument is ‘we dropped the ball on this one’, then you should be forbidden from being allowed inside the toy shop to buy a ball ever again. Vicky wonders if it’s possible he went back into the river; that maybe the filmmakers had used up the CGI budget and they could all go home.
Toffeepopcorn: Why would he leave when this is the perfect place to be; water on all sides; a fish market; a great gay scene; and best of all, plenty of tall places to hide.
Imaginary Character: Hide from what? We’ve posed no physical threat and what does anything that size and covered in bony armour have to fear in the way of natural predators?
The imaginary character disappears in a puff of logic as no one is listening. Footage comes in of Azaria’s brush with the titan as the news team prepare to relocate. Instead of packing, Love Interest sees another all-too lingering shot of Toffeepopcorn being stalked by the press with too keen an interest (trust me you guys, interview him for the briefest stint and you’ll realise how dull he is). She pushes her connection with Toffeepopcorn on Kent Brockman, but he isn’t interested in having an exclusive interview with a man who might know something about rampaging dinosaurs loose in New York. Jean Reno places a microphone on the mayor in order to secretly record his dealings.
Kent’s attempt to bypass the police blockade is thwarted as Love Interest has stolen his press badge, using the pre-computer hacker technique of gluing her picture over his in order to gain access to her former boyfriend and a whole heap of identity theft lawsuits. Jean Reno and his fellow Frenchmen discuss the woes of American coffee and the lack of croissants in kingdom of the beagal as they eavesdrop on the mayor inside the military compound. The Mayor is taking it out on the military from evacuating the city when the monster is no longer around, their plaintive argument that it might come back and kill everybody failing to hit a chord with him (try “no ventilation through breathing, no votes through booths”). Additional problems are confounding the issue down in the subway; Godzilla has gone subterranean, having gained access through AN OFFICE, not an office block; an office, singular – did he close and patch up the gaping hole where there used to be a wall behind him? Chances are he’s escaped the quarantine zone, despite the polite signs telling him not to. For whatever reason Colonel Hicks doesn’t want Godzilla escaping the city and going anywhere that isn’t New York. Why not? Let the lizard that could own the ass of any T-rex be someone else’s problem – someone with a better military and less places to hide and gorge on fish. No? Okay, if you say so. Good thing Toffeepopcorn has a plan relating to draw the creature out, like he does with his earthworms (how do you bait earthworms? They want for nothing in life).
Part 2: Come for the Fish, Stay for the Slaughter
The streets are piled high with all the marine life at the city’s disposal (‘bring me your tired, you poor, your huddled masses of reptilian cuisine…’). They wait and wait yet no sign of the guest of honour. You’d have thought that a thing with a sense of smell great enough to detect the meagre takings of three fishing trawlers from the bottom of the ocean would be keen enough to pick up on several hundred tons of rancid fish meat as it pungently rots in the open air. The military prepare to abandon the operation until a few manhole covers are popped and ‘Zilla makes a grand entrance. I wasn’t aware that concrete makes the same ripping sound as paper as it’s torn in two by hungry Shoggoths. Neither was I aware that if you work around a towering pile of fish all day, you still come out smelling like roses, so today’s been one full of learning. I’m referring to Toffeepopcorn being studied up close by Godzilla; a beast able to smell fish through concrete, yet unable to detect enough of a fishy scent on the doctor to consider him a substantial meal. Having taken up enough time with the whole gentle giant, misunderstood monster, soft score to demonstrate this fact thing, Godzilla chows down until the military begin Operation Shit Can, bombarding Godzilla with ineffective bullets, missiles, pen knives, helicopter fire, whathaveyou, as it flees through the streets. Atomic fire breath is possibly only an Asian thing, as all this pathetic coward can do is squeeze through manholes, repair damaged buildings to use as cover, and turn invisible. Pussy. So once again the high-tech military and their fancy lock on helicopters are evaded by this:
-a monster that can hump buildings, as it runs through the very linear path allowed it by the tall barrier buildings. Eventually Godzilla decides that he isn’t standing for this shit anymore (what kind of person shoots at you on the first date?), picking off the attack party. The last man standing sighs in relief that he managed to lose Godzilla, only for the sneaky bastard to de-cloak from beneath and crunch him up good – that’ll show you not to be so quick to draw conclusions. With the military all out of helicopters the chase is called off and Godzilla returns to dry-humping buildings as Toffeepopcorn scrapes up some blood samples. Oh no, the US military has failed (thanks in part to Michael Bay having nothing to do with this production). Guess it’s up to the French to sort out the mess. Some light-hearted music plays despite the horror of the last few minutes which included opening oppressive fire on a feeding animal and men dying in flaming wreckage on their way through a esophagus.
News reports tell of the failed military efforts to subdue the beast, which is really hard to concentrate on as Kent Brockman is the one reporting it, and it is very hard to focus when the voice of Kent Brockman is delivering the information. Love Interest follows Toffeepopcorn into a drug store where he is busy buying all their reptile-specific pregnancy test kits. Hilariously he can barely remember her (she, the one who can recognise him from across a bar with his back to her despite having aged 10 years. She sounds more and more like a stalker), but bulls his way through it regardless. Ugh, the romantic piano song that uses only one key at a time to denote a scene of romantic intent…aaaaaand there’s the strings section, just as they decide to catch up on old times – AT THE MILITARY COMPOUND. She’s a journalist and he willingly takes her into a classified zone. If that doesn’t get him laid it’ll defiantly get him arrested. Then the bombshell: Godzilla is pregnant! This comes as a real surprise to Toffeepopcorn, who was convinced ‘Zilla was male, yet decided to check for pregnancy anyway. All the pieces are falling into place; Godzilla is asexual, and where else would a transsexual, an illegal immigrant, a pregnant teenager on the run, or someone with no regard for the considerations of others in a very open way go to keep a low profile but New York – and ‘Zilla ticks all four boxes. Worried that she’s come to the city to nest, Toffeepopcorn leaves his former sweetheart to ponder why he couldn’t recognise her in the drug store despite having a wall plastered in her photos like Robin Williams in One Hour Photo. In spite she ‘liberates’ the tape showing the dying Japanese fisherman and other top secret things, and flees into the night. Damn girl, you more determined to land news anchor than Cindy in Scary Movie 3. Beneath the streets soldiers are searching the sewers for any sign of Godzilla. One squad, relieved to find they have come up against a leathery wall delude themselves that the sounds of shifting earth, heavy breathing and crocodilian hisses directly behind are all part of the buzzing soundscape of the underground system. Jean Reno continues his monitoring of military chatter as the military discuss the recent biological findings, which the upper brass fail to find that extreme of a situation.
Toffeepopcorn: I believe this giant fuck-off komodo dragon has laid at least 12 eggs, each one containing one more giant fuck off-komodo dragon capable of reproducing asexually.
Colonel Hicks: Nice work Dr. Tomyokopop, we’ll file that under ‘eat Cheesits’ and get to it Monday.
Toffeepopcorn: These eggs are ready to hatch. I know this – with science.
Mayor: Now hold on son. I don’t believe in science, or any other religion for that matter, so when you say they’re gonna hatch, what do you base it on?
Toffeepopcorn: Okay, you know all those really tiny fish that very large animal was easting as it burnt off loads of energy exerting itself running away from us earlier? Well, whereas a biologist would say it needs all that food to survive, I, a worm expert believe that she’s saving some of it for the hatchlings.
*Single, slow hand claps*. The staff gets it’s a genuine threat and the eavesdropping Frenchmen pull up their files on Broderick for making the baffling leap of faith. Across New York, the stolen tape is playing, a tad unfortunate for the military that all the televisions in the entire city are currently tuned to the same news channel. Time for the stars media Christening:
Kent Brockman: Japanese fisher…man is calling it ‘Godzilla’
Spirit of Japanese Fisherman: Why? Why do you hate me and my people?
New Yorkers: I heard ‘Godzilla’. Works for me. ‘Zilla! ‘Zilla! ‘Zilla!
Spirit of Japanese Fisherman: Nooooooooooooooooooooo!
Toffeepopcorn gets name dropped, including his wild accusations that Godzilla is pregnant. As this is recent news to the military, for them to hear they aren’t the first to know gets them a tad riled, enough so to boot his traitorous ass outta the project. Love Interest catches up with him.
Love Interest: You’re leaving? Is it because of the whole stealing that top secret footage and leaking it to the press?
Toffeepopcorn: Hey no hard feelings. After all I just got kicked off the case of my wildest dreams that would have won me a Nobel Prize, but seeing as you wanted a little more respect in the office, I’m being extradited back to Russia to study engorged worms before the government shut my research down permanently for supplying a journalist with top secret information. So, yes I am leaving.
Love Interest: [defensive] You never said it was off the record… besides I lied to you: I’m not really a reporter.
The look in his eye says it all, and what it says is too full of rage and sexual violence to do justice in words. She continues to whine about HER PROBLEMS; of feeling like a failure, of not being respected by her boss; of feeling she’s disappointed him, a man she hasn’t spoken to in 8 years. Seriously, watch Gojia – this review will be here waiting for you. When you’ve done that, consider how the lead female in the original is worried her actions are too selfish and she must instead continue to work towards helping society and the people around her before herself. Then dwell on everything Godzilla’s leading lady is about. After that, beat your wife for being born a woman in Western society, followed by a mass cleansing by fire of every copy of Sex and the City in your local area. And this is just how I feel about her. Imagine how I feel about the film as a whole, and of what the most significant monster in Japanese film history has been reduced to. This lightweight piece of fluff stirs up enough bad emotions for me to die and create a ju-on curse just by watching it.
Back to the film. Toffeepopcorn leaves but finds he has been abducted by Jean Reno – so things could be worse. Reno belongs to the French equivalent of the Secret Service. He informs the good doctor that the military has decided against looking for the nest, perhaps to spite him (“that’ll teach him to leak to the press: swarms of crocosaurs running amok. Hahahahahahah!”), so he must trust Reno and his team. They need Toffeepopcorn to locate the nest, forgetting that there are plenty of other more qualified biologists working in the city that would do a better job faster. Demands are made as to why Reno doesn’t just work with the military. He explains that the French are ashamed by THEIR dabbling into nuclear weapons and they do not want the world to know of THEIR mistakes – a rather forced way of implying the French were responsible for the bombings of Japan but kept it secret. Thank God the French directed Hills of Eyes remake dealt with the consequences of American nuclear testing and set the scales straight again. Toffeepopcorn signs up with Reno’s team, as Love Interest wallows in tearful self pity over what her life has become (HATE.HATE.HATE.HATE.HATE.HATE.HATE.) so it’s up to Hank Azaria to make her feel good again, offering to put his life in danger in order for her to be with the man she doesn’t deserve as he takes her to the French base he saw Broderick get whisked away to. This involves a trip through the sewers, to which she starts bitching about rats! You’re meant to be doing this to help the man whose career you ruined you fucking bint! Dressed as soldiers, the French pass through the military checkpoints using Elvis Presley impersonations (bad enough the legendary Leon has to be in this piece of crap, now they have him doing Elvis impressions *sad face*). Both parties walk further and further into the jaws of Hell through derailed subway trains and burst overflow pipes. Suddenly Godzilla emerges through a wall and crawls a path of mayhem in a dazzling display of CGI (I got a lot of grievances with this film, but anyone who says the monster itself is badly designed is talking smack) and a cacophony of noise – a loud and quake causing enough to make you wonder how anyone could lose track of the beast even underground. Godzilla returns to the surface, blithely stomping right into the heart of the military strike force – literally looking down the barrel of the gun as s/he assesses the obvious trap they have set up. Refusing to fall for the brilliance of their plan, a slight variation of this:
-the military are forced to open fire, drawing Godzilla towards the river where submarines launch a bombardment of torpedoes until Godzilla is pronounced exterminated. The military and mayor congratulate each other for wiping a relatively benign and inoffensive species of non-people eating reptile entirely off the map.
Part 3: Like if Jurassic Park were filled only with Godzooky.
Back in the underground the Reno team discover the nest right beneath Madison Square Garden, and boy it’s got a lot of eggs, all of which start hatching to reveal many a poorly rendered CG terror midway between Lost World’s baby T-rex and the abomination from Super Mario Brothers cinema excursion. The ripping sound you may be hearing is the sound of many a mental scar re-opening as those unlucky enough to have survived the last few decades recall the chilling terror that was Godzooky.
Oh God, the memories are returning! The ‘Zookies take a keen interest in the humans, who realise they smell of the fish they have briefly been in contact with since commencing the mission, as opposed to the colossal heap that Broderick was wallowing in earlier that failed to generate so much as a sniff of interest from Godzilla Prime. Thus begins a seemingly endless chase scene as both Love Interest and Team Reno avoid being eaten, run, make references’ to the Nicks, meet up, flee, loose some of the lesser characters, then run some more. Things calm down to less effects-driven levels as the 4 main characters hold up in the broadcasting centre, allowing Love Interest to finally get her Pulitzer worthy interview with Broderick as he describes the wonder of the animals currently trying to give them an all-access tour of their digestive system, but failing to instil the terror he had hoped when he lays it out that each one is born pregnant, grows large enough to be classed as a mobile skyscraper, and lays up to infinite young – not even the military seem as worried by this as they should be, so wrapped in awe at the beauty of the uplifting 90s music playing to the report. Do they not realise that just 3 of these guys making it to puberty is enough to declare the world screwed!? Toffeepopcorn implores the military to destroy the building, maybe even nuke the city to be safe, to which the guys who had hated his not 30 mins ago now feel bad about him having to die in order to save the planet – that speech and dramatic music really humbled them more than an eagle with a rifle and a Stars and Stripes cape fighting terrorist to the last breath humbles even the looniest right wing patriot. Love Interest then repeats exactly what Broderick just said, making it sound like her idea and incurring my wrath for drawing yet more attention to herself.
Orders to destroy Madison Square Garden are handed down as the team desperately struggle to escape the building before death comes a knocking. More running from Godzinis. 30 seconds to get past a wall of mosters between them and the exit. Escape. Explosion. Genocide. Mommy turns up, not too thrilled to discover the 1000-odd eggs she forced painfully from her birth canal over the last 48 hours have been fried. Noticing Matthew Broderick and the insufferable Love Interest are still alive and hogging centre stage while Jean Reno and Hank Azaria remain sidelined, Godzilla give furious chase – maybe it’s because her entire family is dead, and like Batman she now lives for vengeance (I have checked all over the inter-web and there are no images of Batman-zilla, so apologies for creating such an awesome image with no visual representation folks).
The team dodge Godzilla’s rage bender via taxi, assuming they have escaped as they approach the George Washington Bridge. No such luck for Godzilla erupts through the bridge, forcing them backward but becoming ensnared in the suspension cables as she goes, leaving her trapped inescapably. All of this seems a bit unfair seeing as they ordered the death squad to barbeque her offspring – the sacrifice of just these 4 is all Godzilla is asking for in appeasement. Instead, they hit her with multiple missiles and areal strikes until eventually she dies, alone, childless, and filled with regret for having never made it in New York…wait, I’m getting her mixed up with Love Interest 40 years from now. In a genuinely touching moment, Godzilla slowly fades and sleeps forever more. Crowds cheer at their triumph over nature and French mishaps. Seriously, the movie is celebrating this atrocity.
Imagine if everyone gathered and cheered at the death of Bambi’s mom. Seriously, fuck this film and it’s terrible morality. Reno steals the footage from Hank’s camera and disappears into the night; Love Interest quits her job; everyone is happy. In the flaming wreckage of Madison Square Garden, one lone egg remains and the last of the ‘Zillas is born screaming “Revenge!”, in a set up for a sequeling franchise that’ll never happen. And just to top things off, the credits roll to Puff Daddy covering Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir. Seriously, fuck you Godzilla In Name Only, you culture leeching parasite.