Friday, December 03, 2004

Ode To Godzilla

One of my earliest exposures to science fiction movies was the 1970’s remake of KING KONG. I made my Dad take me to see it, and I was all of four years old. I loved it. That same year, I got my initial movie exposure to the greatest movie monster of them all: Godzilla. A UHF channel (remember those?) ran a screening of GODZILLA VS MEGALON. I begged to stay up late and watch it. From there on out, I was hooked.

Every Saturday afternoon, I waited with bated breath for the creature features, hoping I’d get a Godzilla movie. There was also a great little show after STAR TREK on Saturday nights called NIGHTMARE THEATER, which ran cheesy movies. And of course, ELVIRA: MISTRESS OF THE DARK started around that time. (I didn’t really start to appreciate her for her other talents until a bit later.) I wasn’t too disappointed, most of the time. I also got exposure to Gamera (the flying giant turtle that spews flames out various orifices) and Rodan, to name a few other great movie monsters from the twisted little minds at Toho Studios.

Godzilla received a star this week on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It’s about time. Forget James Bond. Godzilla has now been around for 28 movies, including the American remake in 1996, but not counting the classic film short BAMBI MEETS GODZILLA. Name any other movie franchise that has made it that far. We’re talking 50 years of the Tokyo Stomp, baby.

To top it all off, Toho Studios is releasing GODZILLA: FINAL WARS. The big G takes on all comers, including his alter-ego from the American remake a few years ago. He earns his title of “King of the Monsters.” And why wouldn’t he? He’s 400 feet tall, armored, and can breathe radioactive fire. Sounds pretty imposing to me.

To a certified film geek, this is great.

There’s just something incredibly fun about watching a guy in a rubber suit stop the crap out of beautifully-done model cities. Remember ONE CRAZY SUMMER? The highlight of that movie was Bobcat Goldthwaite’s homage to Godzilla in the middle of the film. Godzilla’s roar is the sound I most want to have as my cell phone ring.

There’s probably not many people in the US nowadays who haven’t heard of Godzilla. He’s a definite cultural icon. I noticed he’s made his way into an advertisement for irritable bowel syndrome. You know you’ve made it when that happens.

So what’s so compelling about Godzilla, you ask? I have no idea, really. This is a movie monster that got its start as a protest against Japan’s getting nuked, and the Bikini Atoll atomic tests. He’s probably one of the first social protest movies, which normally would cause me to hate him. The special effects are usually third-rate (though the aforementioned models are usually great), the acting is substandard and not even in English, the plots are corny, and there’s usually too much acting and not enough monsters.

Maybe those things in and of themselves are what makes Godzilla so great. There’s seldom any CGI, and I find that wholesome. No Jar-Jar Binks anywhere. We have gone too much for the CGI thing in American movies, and I think we are suffering as a result. Anybody see VAN HELSING? No substance, but a lot of movie flash. The werewolf looked like he crawled out of a computer. It did nothing to scare me like the werewolves in THE HOWLING. Even though we all know it’s a guy in a rubber suit, there’s something a little more “real” about the way Godzilla eats a subway train in these movies, as opposed to when it’s all generated in a computer. After the original; there’s no pretense anymore. They are what they are, which is unapologetically corny.

So bring on the big G for his 50th anniversary. Toho says this is the last Godzilla movie. Somehow, I doubt it very seriously.

In fact, I’d like to suggest further movies:

Godzilla vs. Freddy and Jason (throw in Michael Myers and Chucky, nobody’s taking the Big G out.)
Godzilla vs. the DNC (I’d see it just for a scene where he stomps Hillary into communist jelly.)
Godzilla vs. James Carville. (He’d make a great movie monster, admit it.)
Godzilla vs. Greenpeace (If it had not already sunk, imagine the Big G eating RAINBOW WARRIOR. I’d pay big bucks to see that one.)
Godzilla vs. Al-Quaeda. (Imagine him running around in Afghanistan, little terrorists screaming in terror with their turbans ablaze. Happy Ramadan!)
Godzilla vs. Jar-Jar.
Godzilla vs. The Borg (Assimilate THIS!)

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