INTO THE NEXT STAGE: What? ‘Godzilla’? Again? Why?

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johnstonBy GEORGE TOSHIO JOHNSTON

I haven’t seen it and frankly, I don’t have any desire. Yes, I am referring to Warner Bros. Pictures’ new “Godzilla.”

Other than the fact it hits theaters Friday, May 16, I don’t know if it’s a guy in a rubber suit, something computer-generated or both. It also looks like this Godzilla is way larger than past incarnations, judging by the ads that’ve begun cropping up around town. I like the high-contrast Godzilla image with the name spelled out in his backfin.

But, as mentioned, I don’t need to see this movie, even though I might if my kids express a desire to see it. So far, though, at least one member of the target demographic for this movie — my 8-year-old son, Jameson — said neither he nor his friends at elementary school seem to be interested. That might be a cause for alarm for the studio.

For a creation that was killed in its original and still-best movie — 1954’s “Godzilla” (or “Gojira” for the purists) — movies about some version of Godzilla continue to be made every few years and for just one reason: money. When it comes to Godzilla, commerce outweighed art decades ago.

Godzilla posterSince beginning this column, I’ve seen and written about several Godzilla movies: 1995’s “Godzilla vs. Destroyer,” 1998’s “Godzilla” and 2004’s “Godzilla: Final Wars.” (Of the three, “GFW” was, though far from great, the best of the bunch.) I could have seen “Godzilla 2000,” but I skipped it.

I’ll happily admit to enjoying all the Godzilla movies I saw as a kid, when he went from malevolent force of nature out to destroy Japan and, presumably, the rest of human civilization to a human-friendly protector of Earth. I will also admit to hours of happily passing time as a child playing with kaiju figures and watching all the spawn of the tokusatsu shows created in the aftermath of “Gojira,” thanks to Eiji Tsuburaya, the special effects genius who also went on to create “Ultraman” and all the spin-offs and knock-offs.

As noted, the studio distributing this “Godzilla” is Warner Bros. Pictures, which was also behind last summer’s “Pacific Rim,” a fun homage to giant Japanese monsters and robots. That bodes well for this movie vs. the 1998 “Godzilla” from Sony Pictures Entertainment. (For a movie company owned by the Japanese, they’ve done a horrible job doing anything Japanese-related: “Godzilla,” “The Green Hornet,” “Memoirs of a Geisha” and the “The Karate Kid” remake.) Maybe having Kevin Tsujihara as a honcho for Warners helps in that regard.

Despite the Warner Bros. Pictures pedigree, however, and co-stars Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe, “Godzilla” is a tough movie to sell. Sure, the scenes of destruction — movie violence — can be diverting. But an audience needs a character to root for. Godzilla is not so much a character as an icon, a stand-in for a typhoon, tornado or tsunami. There’s nothing to identify with. So, that leaves it to some human to be the person we root for, and that’s the tough part. Maybe this movie will pull off that trick.

I’m rooting for it to work storywise, but “Godzilla” as a movie is to me just an exercise to extract more money from our collective wallet, but in exchange for what?

Blue Öyster Cult’s song “Godzilla” had a chorus that went, “Go, go, Godzilla!” I’d have to change it to “No, no, Godzilla!”

Until next time, keep your eyes and ears open.

George Toshio Johnston has written this column since 1992 and can be reached at [email protected] The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect policies of this newspaper or any organization or business. Copyright © 2014 by George T. Johnston. All rights reserved.

 

 

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  1. Let’s keep Godzilla alive. This is a medium to showcase the artists talents, why not with Godzilla?

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