About a month ago I had the pleasure of seeing Godzilla for the first time. The original film, made by Ishiro Honda back in 1954, was being shown unedited and uncut at the Film Forum in New York City.
I had seen the film a few times as a kid, on TV. Or so I thought. What American audiences had seen was a muddled, farcical bastardization of Honda’s film. In an art-by-marketers sham designed to make the film more appealing to American audiences, they chopped out key scenes and stuffed in Raymond Burr, playing a character that didn’t exist in the original version. And despite the addition of Burr’s character, Honda’s film was so badly disemboweled that this altered American version actually ran a full 15 minutes shorter than the original.
Of course, upon seeing that freakshow production, American audiences loved the idea of Godzilla but couldn’t understand why those silly Japanese made such a bad film. That’s where Ironyzilla comes into play. Because it was the greedheads in Hollywood who churned out that crap, not the Japanese. And seeing the money on the wall, they considered it a license to churn out a whole series of crap in its tepid wake.
Which brings us to Gareth Edward’s 2014 version of Godzilla, which I recently had the displeasure of seeing. Yes, the special effects are far better. The effects Honda used 60 years ago can’t even stand up to what amateur filmmakers can do these days. But the effects in Edward’s big-budget version don’t exactly wow you either.
The biggest disappointment with this latest attempt to ruin Honda’s masterpiece is the plot itself. Let me start out by saying that, like Bryan Cranston, Godzilla plays only a supporting role in this production. The lead human is some young chap who excels at staring, or at least that’s what he does throughout most of the film – casting an emotionless stare upon the events at hand, which is something I think everyone watching the film can relate to.
The film is really about giant bugs who, like Godzilla, feed on radiation. Now why the first bug travels from Indonesia to Japan to burrow under a nuclear power plant when there are dozens of such plants in nearby Australia is a bit of a mystery. Just as how he got there. It implies that he may have swum, though later in the film he flies across the Pacific. And, despite the disappearance of flight MH370, an object of that size flying – or even swimming – towards a city in Japan is bound to get noticed.
Second, why that bug, and its mate, chose to meet in San Francisco is also a mystery. Sure, it’s a great town for romance, but these things are supposed to be attracted to radiation. There are plenty of nuke sites along the California coast. And the second bug had been living in Yucca Mountain, where the United States stockpiles its radioactive waste. It seems to me that if any creature fed off radiation, that’s the place they’d want to be, so why not meet and shag at Yucca Mountain? After all, if you feed off of gold, then you’d go to Fort Knox, right?
Stranger still is the depiction of Godzilla, and the forced theme of the movie: nature, not man, is in control. Godzilla plays the hero. He comes out of hiding to save mankind, the species that has done his species nothing but harm. Does that sound like nature is in control? No, not really. Godzilla is also supposed to be attracted to sources of radiation, yet he pursues none. Not even a little treat for saving the human race. And, I’ve got to tell you, it doesn’t look like he’s been starving himself.
There’s plenty of other niggling stupidity to be found. Why, for example, are these bugs so huge compared to the size of what’s supposed to be a giant dinosaur? The scale is way off, even for behemoths. And why does Godzilla suddenly get a turbo boost and start breathing what looks like a giant electric welding arc? He was getting his ass kicked and it’s as if he forgot he had that capability. Which I guess is expected given that the legend is 60 years old.
My advice is to find an art-house cinema that’s showing Honda’s original 1954 Godzilla. Yes, the effects are almost comical, but the plot and the acting far surpass any Godzilla film made in its wake, including Edward’s Crapzilla.