Godzilla: What Kind of Resurgence will Toho Bring?

I had planned to write a post on the stages of Amiibo addiction, but I’ll save that for another time. A couple of trailers debuted yesterday and I want to talk about this one:

Needless to say, this footage is pretty striking. The images of a glowing, bleeding, gnarled Godzilla frame a stark contrast from the monster last seen by mainstream audiences in 2014. Shin Godzilla, or Godzilla Resurgence as it will be known internationally, is the 29th Toho Godzilla film and the 31st overall iteration in the franchise.

The new Godzilla is grotesque, with large chunks of exposed muscle tissue and bone, not to mention a multitude of sharp dagger teeth.
The new Godzilla is grotesque, with large chunks of exposed muscle tissue and bone, not to mention a multitude of sharp dagger teeth.

Since his original film in 1954, Godzilla has become an unparalleled film icon. It is the longest running, largest film series of any character (outnumbering even the 26 James Bond  films). He is part of the modern mythology of the twentieth and now twenty-first century, and has such seen many interpretations.

Godzilla has been a father, a force of nature, an angry spirit, a protector of Earth, a radioactive mutation, and, most famously, a symbol of man-made nuclear destruction. Watching the trailer for Godzilla Resurgence, it seems fairly obvious that Toho has selected to invoke this original, most striking interpretation of the Godzilla mythology.

Fun fact: Godzilla's skin has always been designed to show radioactive burning, but this is the first iteration to go further.
Fun fact: Godzilla’s skin has always been designed to show radioactive burns, but this is the first iteration to go further.

Before I continue further, it is interesting to note that, to date, Japan is the only one to pursue this horrible envisioning of Godzilla. When the United States has adapted the King of the Monsters, there is always the tendency to distance his creation from the use of nuclear weapons. The 1998 film actually comes the closest to preserving his nuclear heritage, but even that movie reduces Godzilla to the byproduct of a French nuclear test, and not the direct result of the United States using and testing atomic weapons on its then enemies.

Even the unmade American Godzilla adaptation featured an origin very similar to the 2014 film, where Godzilla is an ancient creature from before the dinosaurs.
Even the unmade American Godzilla adaptation featured an origin very similar to the 2014 film, where Godzilla is an ancient creature from before the dinosaurs. (This point taken from David Kalat’s book, which can be found here).

Godzilla Resurgence appears to be a direct sequel to the 1954 film, and by that I mean it will likely not include any of the other films in the Godzilla series in its continuity. This would make it the fourth time that Toho has used a direct sequel to start a new series (yes I am aware of the Millennium series – I will talk more about that in a bit). The others include Godzilla Raids Again, The Return of Godzilla (Godzilla 1985), and Godzilla 2000: Millennium (Godzilla 2000). Of those, this will be the second time that Godzilla has appeared in a movie solo, without fighting another monster – The Return of Godzilla being the only other Godzilla sequel to not feature another monster.

The Return of Godzilla marked the first time that Toho tried to return Godzilla to his somber roots.
The Return of Godzilla marked the first time that Toho tried to return Godzilla to his somber roots.

Each of these films began a “series” of Godzilla films. Godzilla Raids Again is the first film in the Showa series, the Godzilla films between 1955 and 1975. The Return of Godzilla launched the Heisei series, covering all Godzilla films between 1984 and 1995. And Godzilla Millennium appropriately launched the Millennium series, spanning 1999 to 2004. Each of these series has their own unique feel.

The Showa is historically marked by silliness and “cheapness.” As the first series, this is when the effects looked their “worst.” It also saw Godzilla primarily as a good guy, the defender of Earth against all other monsters. The fights were brawls, typically featuring a lot of wrestling moves. This series saw the most movies, the most monsters, and the greatest range of film style and tone.

Dancing Godzilla was part of the Showa… and this is nowhere near how zany things got.

The Heisei series is “serious.” These films feature a continuity, with each clearly happening after the one before it. This is the only Godzilla series where a clear continuity is evident. The costumes became bulkier, Godzilla became meaner and more a force of nature than either villain or hero, and the fights became more beam-oriented and less close quartered.

The bulky design rendered a lot of fighting movement impossible, but the "cheap" look of the Showa was quickly forgotten.
The bulky design rendered a lot of fighting movement impossible.

With the Millennium, nearly each film became a direct sequel to the original. Despite this, there is almost a continuity present as nearly all the films share a similar tone (Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah being the exception). The Millennium series can be described as an interesting mix of what came before. Godzilla is mostly the good guy, although never to the extreme that he was in the Showa series. The films are also, for the most part, less serious – or take themselves less seriously – than the Heisei, although again not to the extent that was seen in the Showa. This is the shortest series and the one to introduce the fewest new monsters to the Godzilla mythology.

I am making a point with this lesson in Godzilla film history (besides my having too much free time), and that is this: the first film does not necessarily echo how the series will be shaped. Godzilla Raids Again had a lot more in common with its 1954 predecessor than did Godzilla’s Revenge, yet both are part of the Showa series. GMK and Final Wars had nothing to do with Godzilla 2000 and were both tonally different films.

Godzilla vs. Hedorah features an LSD sequence, animated segments, and a flying Godzilla. This film was part of the Showa series but is unlike any other Godzilla movie... and probably any other movie, period.
Godzilla vs. Hedorah features a LSD sequence, animated segments, and a flying Godzilla. This film was part of the Showa series but is unlike any other Godzilla movie… and probably any other movie, period.

So, while Godzilla Resurgence looks to be bringing back the dark and ratcheting up the horror from the original, it is still too early to say what the spirit of the Shin or Neo (or whatever the fourth series is ultimately called) Godzilla series will be. Will there be continuity or will it be more disjointed (continuity at this point looks less likely given the stark imagination of the Godzilla suit)? Will Godzilla remain a horrifying menace or transform back into the good-guy defender of Earth?

The only thing for sure is that it is unlikely that audiences will be seeing the good-guy anytime soon from Japan. I base this off no definitive information, but rather by looking at the international landscape. For the first time ever, Toho will not be the only company putting out a Godzilla series. “The Legendary Series” as it is already becoming known, will span at least three films, and features a Godzilla who seems to be nearly completely the positive presence. Toho may likely opt to go darker just to form a distinction.

For all his power, this Godzilla definitely has the feeling of a superhero. Fighting King Ghidorah will only cement that.
For all his power, this Godzilla definitely has the feeling of a superhero. Fighting King Ghidorah will only cement that.

But all this may be getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s hope Godzilla Resurgence is good enough, and successful enough, to spawn a fourth Godzilla series. There are simply some things that Japan still does better than the United States.

Godzilla Resurgence is directed by Hideaki Anno, creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion. While that series started off entertaining, consistent would not be the word I would use to describe it.
Godzilla Resurgence is directed by Hideaki Anno, creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion. While that series started off entertaining, consistent would not be the word I would use to describe it.

Marketing Method: Ghostbusters (2016)

So finally, the trailer for the new Ghostbusters is out! Here it is:

So far, the reaction has been… mixed. Some have loved the new trailer and celebrated it as an exciting new entry. Others have had a… different reaction. Well, it’s sparked debate – so that’s something the marketing department did right, I guess?

Let’s get into it.

Speaking from a personal standpoint as someone who has followed the development of this new Ghostbusters, this trailer is confusing. Look at how it starts, “30 years ago, four scientists saved the world…” or something like that. Oh cool, so it’s a sequel right?

Apparently not, no. In a recent interview regarding his new movie, Paul Feig confirmed that his Ghostbusters is a reboot(or remake, whatever the popular term is these days). He even went in-depth to explain his reasoning in avoiding a sequel. Agree or disagree, as director – he gets to make that call. Unfortunately, the people making the trailer must not have seen this interview.

If it's a reboot, then it makes sense to have a "coming together" opening. Here's hoping the film moves a little more quickly than the original.
If it’s a reboot, then it makes sense to have a “coming together” opening. Here’s hoping the film moves a little more quickly than the original.

This did the trailer no favors as audiences received an opening that promised a sequel and went into a lot of shots that frankly looked familiar. Remember this library opening from the original? This one:

Well, here it is again!

Screen-Shot-2016-03-03-at-8.30.06-AM-700x291

Three scientists coming together to fight ghosts?

Check.
Check.

An additional black Ghostbuster who is not initially part of the team (and probably not a scientist)?

Check.
Check.

Ghostbusters saving the city of New York from an apparent sudden ghost surge?

Well… okay that one isn’t fair. Every Ghostbusters movie should hopefully involve Ghostbusters fighting ghosts in some way. I would hope. Oh, but there’s also Slimer:

gb6

Point being, for a trailer that opens with the implication of sequel, there is a lot of retreading common ground. This likely goes a long way to explain at least some of the negative reaction. Personally, I think this addresses most of the fair criticism. The rest is subjective but probably a little reactionary.

“The jokes don’t work. The ghosts look CG (spoiler: they are). The writing sucks. The movie isn’t funny.”

Calm down – we’ve seen less than two minutes. Now, have I seen better trailers? I have. That being said, and this is again personal opinion, is too much emphasis being placed on the trailer rather than the team behind it?

Let’s look at another movie coming out soon: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. That film has trailers that are kinda all over the place. The first trailer offered an emotionally charged look at why Batman and Superman would fight. It didn’t get into too much plot, but provided a hook. The second trailer… likely told the entirety of the movie. Seriously, I don’t know for sure but I’m going to bet that after I see Batman v. Superman, I’m going to feel the same way.

That, in my opinion, was not a well put together piece of publicity. It suggested the unending need for more to satisfy the audience.

“Bored with Batman – we got Superman! Don’t like Superman – how about Doomsday? We also got Lex Luthor! Oh, here’s Wonder Woman! Justice League!!!!”

"WE ALSO HAVE AQUAMAN! PLEASE BE EXCITED!!"
“WE ALSO HAVE AQUAMAN! PLEASE BE EXCITED!!”

It cried a certain desperation that Batman and Superman are not interesting enough on their own.

But I am getting sidetracked. At the end of the day, Batman v. Superman is a movie made by Zack Snyder, a director with a… less than steady history (to put it objectively). Man of Steel, Sucker Punch, 300, Legend of the Guardians… Snyder does not have a consistent record when it comes to quality cinema.

Let’s look at Paul Feig, creator of Freaks and Geeks, Bridesmaids, the Heat, and Spy. While I have not seen the Heat (which has the lowest critical ranking of his recent films), that is a more impressive list to me. Spy was one of my favorite comedies of last year and has a trailer that looks:

Okay, I got it. Feig needs to hire some new trailer people.

It is strange to note that Snyder’s name is still being used for advertising, while Feig’s name is left off the Ghostbusters trailer.

Is there something more behind the seemingly incredibly malicious response to the trailer? Remember: people seem to love Star Wars: the Force Awakens, a sequel that had quite a few remake-ish similarities with a New Hope. I’m not going to get into it in this article – my short answer is I don’t know, maybe.

“I thought about it for a very long time. Like, many, many months. No, that’s not right. I was seriously thinking about this for years, really … It kept eating at me, and I really respect those girls. And then I started to feel like if I didn’t do this movie, maybe somebody would write a bad review or something, thinking there was some sort of disapproval [on my part].”             - Bill Murray on why he ultimately decided to be in the new Ghostbusters.
“I thought about it for a very long time. Like, many, many months. No, that’s not right. I was seriously thinking about this for years, really … It kept eating at me, and I really respect those girls. And then I started to feel like if I didn’t do this movie, maybe somebody would write a bad review or something, thinking there was some sort of disapproval [on my part].” – Bill Murray on why he ultimately decided to be in the new Ghostbusters.
There are legitimate criticisms to be sure, and the most frightening possibility that the studio might be trying to interfere with the movie in a classic example of “wanting it both ways.” That would not bode well.

So is Ghostbusters a sequel or a reboot? Who knows. Hopefully it’s not both.

Is it going to be a good movie? Too early to tell. At the very least, it appears to be in good hands.

Here is a trailer for the original Ghostbusters for contrast:

So full of jokes!

A Rose by any Other Name… Can be Confusing: The Thing (2011)

In 1982, one of the greatest horror movies was released. I say this as a fan of John Carpenter, and as someone who really loves Halloween: John Carpenter’s best film by far is The Thing. The film can be seen as a masterwork, both in terms of paranoia/suspense and in terms of practical effects at work. That said, upon initial release – The Thing did not fare well.  Many critics (Roger Ebert included) were grossed out by the film’s excessive gore, and found the effects to be a little too real. Carpenter’s The Thing went on to be a box-office flop… with fame and deserved acclaim not being bestowed for many years.

Really? People found this too gross? Go figure.
Really? People found this too gross? Go figure.

Sounds like perfect material for Hollywood in 2011, right? So audiences were treated to The Thing again in 2011. Ready for the kicker though? Despite the name, The Thing is not, nor was it ever intended to be (by its director anyway) a remake. This film is a prequel.

A prequel with the same name. Makes… absolutely no sense. So why did it happen? The short answer is: I don’t know. After spending a few hours digging, I have not found an answer beyond this: they did not want the film to have a “:” in the title. Makes sense right? These days there is little that implies Hollywood marketing the way that a colon can. For example, take a look at this unofficial poster art for (one of) the upcoming Jungle Book movie:

jungle_book__origins_logo_by_paulrom-d8k6g3s

That’s right. They’re making two Jungle Book movies at the same time. One is not made by Disney, however, and so it is titled Jungle Book: Origins to differentiate… and to let audiences now that the studio is hopeful for a franchise. Well, I do agree with director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. The Thing: Origins or anything like that would have sounded pretty dumb.

But what about The Thing From Another World?

While 2011’s film was no remake, Carpenter’s sure as heck was. Really, all three films have shared the same basis, and that is the Who Goes There? novella written by John W. Campbell. Say, Who Goes There? would be a great title for a horror movie… oh but it doesn’t have The Thing in it. And everyone knows that, if a movie is to be financially successful, it must name the money-making property behind it.

Or perhaps not.
Or perhaps not.

So, while the director says one thing – I believe another factor strongly went into influencing the title for The Thing: Studio interference. This happens a lot in movies and happened a ton on this one. For example, one of the greatest criticisms leveled against the 2011 film was the effects. Gone were the brilliant practical effects of the 1982 classic, replaced by cheap, fake-looking CGI. What was the director thinking?

The director was all for practical effects. In fact, here is a look at the original effects for the new movie, before they were all replaced in post-production:

Pretty cool looking (although still nowhere near as bloody as 1982). Yet apparently, for whatever reason, the studio did not feel confident in this look. CGI is all the rage after all. ‘Cause this:

the-thing-2011-two-faced

Looks so much better than this:

maxresdefault

Apparently.

Also, The Thing (2011) lost its original ending, as the studio felt it was too confusing. The original ending featured many more alien designs, and has been dubbed “the pilot ending” by the director. In case you were wondering, we got “the Tetris ending” in the theatrical cut.

The point is: this movie had more than one master, and sadly that usually never works out in the film’s favor. I also know for a fact the script went through at least one complete rewrite from a scriptwriter whose other work has been.. less than stellar.

From the research I have done it appears that two goals were in mind. The first (from the director and crew) was to create a prequel that paid tribute to everything that makes the Carpenter film fantastic. The second was a bid to update The Thing for modern audiences in the 21st century, without risking grossing audiences out this time.

Nothing risky about this. Audiences love computers!
Nothing risky about this. Audiences love computers!

How did it turn out? The Thing bombed at the box office… again. History repeated itself, at least in that respect. Sadly, I don’t believe the 2011 prequel is destined for the same late recognition as the 1982 original, in part for the abysmal effects. The film is simply nowhere near the level of its predecessor, and I don’t believe it would be even if the effects were left alone. The paranoia isn’t there, the performances aren’t there. It is simply… lesser.

This was a film that started out pure but was then corrupted and taken over by an outside force, and in that respect – the title actually makes sense.