Thursday, June 13, 2013

America Attempts Godzilla

I should actually be writing a review of Man of Steel, which I saw earlier tonight, while it's still fresh in my mind, but I am way too tired to analyze the film that closely. I don't know what it is about movie theaters, but by the time I get out of there I am just completely exhausted. Maybe it's the dim lighting, or the sudden change from the artificial environment to the real world, or the way a movie theater is so encompassing that you're pulled into the movie and that mental wormhole between realities is just tiring to zip through, or maybe it's because Man of Steel was such an intense film (and I think my girlfriend's made me a bit of a crier), but right now I am seeing purple and green spots, my lids are being tugged down by a pair of invisible anvils, and I just don't have the mental stamina to make a review work out for me right now (hell, I doubt this post will work out for me!).

With luck, though, this little linguistic exercise will stimulate me enough that I can get that opinion out after all. Who knows?

Instead I'd like to talk about one of my all-time favorite movie anti-heroes, someone whose films I've been an avid fan of since before I was out of diapers: Reptar! Well, not quite. I'm talking, of course, about Godzilla. I think my first introduction to the rogue reptile was with Hanna-Barbera's animated series--the one with Godzooky. Yeah, I know, it's awful, but I loved it. I loved it so much that I made my mom run out and buy as many of the original Godzilla VHS tapes as she could find (and in those days, Christmas Tree Shops was just full of these niche videos). I remember we got King Kong vs. Godzilla, which I watched until the tape wore off (and promptly purchased again), and one of the ones with Mechagodzilla--I think it was the one with King Caesar, though I only remember seeing his film once--and we must have had one with Mothra in it, because I knew who she was growing up. We also rented one with SpaceGodzilla, and I remember thinking he was the coolest kaiju this side of everything (his vague resemblance to Dragonzord probably helped with that).

I probably needed better role models.

Naturally, when I heard about a new Godzilla movie I rushed out to see it. Unfortunately, it was this. Now don't get me wrong, I actually really like that movie. I thought it was an interesting way to go about the character, and I love how they later took that incarnation of the monster and explained it as being a different kaiju which was mistaken for Godzilla. With that now in mind, I suppose I can't fault the movie for not being a Godzilla movie any more, but the fact of the matter is: it was advertised as a Godzilla movie, and no part of that movie had Godzilla anywhere near it. Even as a kid I found myself beyond sorely disappointed. Runaway Reptar was more of a Godzilla movie than that was.

And now, just like back then, I can't help but feel the excitement building within when I hear about developments on Warner Bros.' new Godzilla film (a dark and serious reboot of the franchise). Some part of me knows that, being an American production, it won't have the same values as a traditional Godzilla flick and might even shit all over just what it means to be a Godzilla movie, but there's no getting around how ridiculous and corny the source material can be, just like with the recent string of comic book movies. If they can take the core concepts of this character and make it into something incredible, then I'm all for it. Of course, if I could make any little change to it, I'd make just one:

The studio. Warner Bros. has made some fantastic films, and I definitely trust them to handle this one. However, I'd much rather see a new Godzilla film in the hands of Marvel Studios. Almost everything to come out of Marvel has been an A film for me (the only exception so far has been Iron Man 3), and they've shown an incredible capacity for taking the stupid out of the outdated source material, or updating it to be not stupid at all and often even cool (case in point? Bucky). I know Marvel only handles their own properties, but I also didn't just pick them out of the clear, blue sky. Once upon a time, Marvel published a Godzilla monthly series (which I think I will read soon) which had a lasting impact on the core canon of their comics universe.

Marvel's Godzilla, King of  the Monsters was not an out-of-universe licensed work. The stories all happened within the 616 Marvel Continuity (that's the primary line of stories, for those not in the know) and saw the King of the Monsters come up against the likes of Dum Dum Dugan, Devil Dinosaur, the Fantastic Four, and even the Avengers and Spider-Man. Several villains unique to the 24-issue series also returned in later Marvel adventures, and Godzilla himself reappeared a few times even after his license had run up, adopting an entirely new look to avoid copyright limitations and seldom being referred to by name. The events of his series have even been referenced in other titles, like Iron Man, from time to time.

Most of Godzilla's crossovers have already been adapted to two-thumbs films, some merely one-thumb, and a small minority which haven't yet been touched at all. Marvel hasn't been able to get away from the impact this character has had on their continuity, and I think that Godzilla and the Superman/Spider-Man crossover have been the sole reason Marvel has insisted on keeping all other licensed events and crossover outside of mainstream continuity (they've jumped through some pretty tight hoops to keep it all together without getting sued).

Not only is Godzilla significant to Marvel's history, but I feel like Marvel Studios is the only company equipped to get a relaunch just right. Their films all have had this visual quality of taking the cheesy costumes and the bright colors and making them work in real life environments. There's a very particular style to the Marvel films, a blend of comic book and reality. It's like the give everything an extra bit of smoothing and coloring just to make it look a little more like a moving page, and I think that's the kind of visual quality a new Godzilla movie is going to need. They've also had some real top-notch animation going on, and that's something which will be very important for a Godzilla film--even moreso when you know that an American studio will not have a guy in a costume dancing around on screen.

In short: I love Godzilla, I love Marvel, I love Marvel's Cinematic Universe, and I'm sure I'm going to love Marvel's Essential Godzilla (though I wish it were in color). I would absolutely love a film in the Cinematic Universe to feature Godzilla, and it makes me a little more dead inside everyday knowing that it's never going to happen. Maybe the concept can be used for a Devil Dinosaur flick. It wouldn't be the same, but I'd still see it.

But still, Marvel,

Get Godzilla in your pocket again.

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