Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
With only a week and change having passed since the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, we no doubt feel the question living fresh in our minds: can we ever judge a remake without considering its predecessors? The conversation about the stark contrast in critical favor between Marc Webb's release and Sam Raimi's trilogy (the second installment of his franchise in particular) buzzed loudly, and we imagine the volume will keep in regards to Gareth Edwards' Godzilla. But it'll be a different sound altogether.
The original Godzilla, a Japanese film released in 1954, reinvented the identity of the monster movie, launched a 30-film legacy, and spoke legions about the political climate of its era. The most recent of these films — Roland Emmerich's 1998 American production — is universally bemoaned as a bigger disaster than anything to befall Tokyo at the hands of the giant reptile. With these two entries likely standing out as the most prominent in the minds of contemporary audiences, Edwards' Godzilla has some long shadows cast before it. And in approaching the new movie, one might not be able to avoid comparisons to either. It's fair — by taking on an existing property, a filmmaker knowingly takes on the connotations of that property. But the 2014 installment's great success is that it isn't much like any Godzilla movie we've seen before. In a great, great way.
This isn't 1954's Godzilla, a dire and occasionally dreary allegory that uses the supernatural to tell an important story about nuclear holocaust. A complete reversal, in fact, first and foremost Edwards' Godzilla is about its monsters. Any grand themes strewn throughout — the perseverence of nature, the follies of mankind, fatherhood, madness, faith — are all in service to the very simple mission to give us some cool, weighty, articulate sci-fi disaster. Elements of gravity are plotted all over the film's surface, with scientists, military men (kudos to Edwards for not going the typical "scientists = good/smart, military = bad/dumb" route in this film — everybody here is at least open to suggestion), doctors, police officers, and a compassionate bus driver all wrestling with options in the face of behemoth danger. The humanity is everpresent, but never especially intrusive. To reiterate, this isn't a film about any of these people, or what they do.
Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
The closest thing to a helping of thematic (or human) significance comes with Ken Watanabe's Dr. Serizawa, who spouts awe-stricken maxims about cryptozoology, the Earth, and the inevitable powerlessness of man. He might not be supplying anything more substantial than our central heroes (soft-hearted soldier Aaron Taylor-Johnson, dutiful medic and mom Elizabeth Olsen, right-all-along conspiracy theorist Bryan Cranston), but Watanabe's bonkers performance as the harried scientist is so bizarrely good that you might actually believe, for a scene or two, that it all does mean something.
Ultimately, the beauty of our latest taste of Godzilla lies not in the commitment to a message that made the original so important nor in the commitment to levity that made Emmerich's so pointless, but in its commitment to imagination. Edwards' creature design is dazzling, his deus ex machina are riveting, and the ultimate payoff to which he treats his audience is the sort of gangbusters crowd-pleaser that your average contemporary monster movie is too afraid to consider.
In fairness, this year's Godzilla might not be considered an adequate remake, not quite reciprocating the ideals, tone, or importance of the original. Sure, anyone looking for a 2014 answer to 1954's game-changing paragon will find sincere philosophy traded for pulsing adventure... but they'd have a hard time ignoring the emphatic charm of this new lens for the 60-year-old lizard, both a highly original composition and a tribute in its way to the very history of monster movies (a history that owes so much to the creature in question). So does Godzilla '14 successfully fill the shoes of Godzilla '54? No — it rips them apart and dons a totally new pair... though it still has a lot of nice things to say about the first kicks.
Oh, and the '98 Godzilla? Yeah, it's better than that.
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The 58th Annual Golden Globe Awards is shaping up to be one heck of a testosterone-charged run.
Steven Soderbergh's "Traffic" and Ridley Scott's "Gladiator" have emerged as the frontrunners in this year's race for the Globes, each receiving five nods apiece as nominations for the annual bash were announced this morning by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in Beverly Hills, Calif..
Trailing closely behind are Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical rock flick "Almost Famous," "Chocolat," "Wonder Boys" and Soderbergh's "Erin Brockovich," each earning four nominations.
Soderbergh's drug trafficking drama (which has yet to bow in theaters) picked up almost all the prized loot with a nod for best picture (drama), best director, best screenplay for scribe Stephen Gaghan and a best supporting actor and actress (drama) mention for Benicio Del Toro and Catherine Zeta-Jones, respectively.
Soderbergh and company will go up against Scott's brutish epic "Gladiator" in three other fronts: best picture (drama), best director and best supporting thanks to the lascivious performance by Joaquin Phoenix.
The Roman decadence film has also earned its rugged Australian star Russell Crowe a best actor (drama) nomination. Crowe was long favored by critics to receive a nomination for his performance. Rounding out the film's fifth nomination is a nod for best original score.
The usual suspects also turned up for the best actor (drama) category. Besides Crowe, there's Javier Bardem for his role as a gay Cuban poet in "Before Night Falls," Michael Douglas playing a mid-life-crisis-prone writer in "Wonder Boys," Geoffrey Rush as the decorum-defying Marquis de Sade in "Quills" and Tom Hanks -- who avenges his "The Green Mile" shutout last year -- with his turn as the modern-day Robinson Crusoe in "Cast Away."
But the most interesting race to watch is when Soderbergh goes up against himself. His "Traffic" and "Erin Brockovich" are nominated in both the best director and best picture (drama) categories. (Soderbergh, we might add, has also been named best director by the National Board of Review, the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association on the strength of both flicks).
Besides going head-to-head with Scott, Soderbergh will also have to fend off Ang Lee ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") and Istvan Szabo ("Sunshine"), also contenders in the best director race.
Joining "Traffic," "Brockovich" and "Gladiator" in the best picture (drama) race are boy ballet film "Billy Elliot," the Douglas late bloomer "Wonder Boys" and the surprise dark horse "Sunshine."
As everyone suspected, Julia Roberts secured a best actress (drama) nom for her bosom-enhanced role in "Erin Brockovich." She's up against Joan Allen ("The Contender"), Bjork ("Dancer in the Dark"), Laura Linney ( "You Can Count On Me") and a somewhat surprising nomination for Ellen Burstyn for what some folks thought was more of a supporting role in "Requiem For a Dream."
In the best supporting actor (drama) race, the HFPA picked "The Contender" co-star Jeff Bridges, Willem Dafoe as the stoic bloodsucker in "Shadow of a Vampire," Albert Finney from "Erin Brockovich" and, as mentioned before, Del Toro in "Traffic" and Phoenix for "Gladiator."
Their female counterparts in the best supporting actress (drama) are: Oscar and Golden Globe winner Judi Dench for her work in "Chocolat," Julie Walters for "Billy Elliot," Zeta-Jones in "Traffic." In that category, "Almost Famous" yielded two noms -- one for Frances McDormand and one for ingenue Kate Hudson.
Perhaps to show that drama is really different from comedy, the HFPA also has separate categories for films that are in the lighter and decidedly happier vein.
That said, "Almost Famous" was tapped a best picture (comedy) nom, along with dog show spoof "Best in Show," DreamWorks' "Chicken Run," "Chocolat" and the Coen brothers' epic laughfest "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"
The Golden Globes continues to smile on annual Oscar snub Jim Carrey as the actor picks up his Globe nod for his interpretation as the Dr. Seuss miser the Grinch in "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (he won a Globe for both "The Truman Show" and "Man on the Moon" the past two years). Going up against Mr. Rubberface himself will be George Clooney ("O Brother, Where Art Thou?), John Cusack ("High Fidelity"), Robert De Niro ("Meet the Parents") and Mel Gibson ("What Women Want").
And if Carrey is the Globes golden boy, then Sandra Bullock might be the awards' dream girl. However uncannily, the actress (who was nominated for "While You Were Sleeping") picked up a best actress (comedy or musical) nom for "Miss Congeniality." Juliette Binoche from "Chocolat," Brenda Blethyn from the marijuana-minded "Saving Grace," Tracey Ullman from "Small Time Crooks" and Renee Zellweger from "Nurse Betty" are also nominees in the category.
Besides Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," the best foreign film category is filled with titles that are obscure at best, unknown in the least. Going fist-to-fist against Lee's martial-arts flick (which failed to nab a best film nod) are "Amores Perros" from Mexico, "The Hundred Steps" and "Malena," both from Italy, and the French flick "The Widow of St. Pierre."
On the television front, the best series (drama) race will pit ratings buster "ER" (NBC) against "CSI" (CBS), "The Practice" (ABC), "The Sopranos" (HBO) and multiple Emmy winner "The West Wing" (NBC).
And "Ally McBeal" (Fox), "Frasier" (NBC), "Malcolm in the Middle" (Fox), "Sex and the City (HBO) and "Will & Grace" (NBC) will duke it out in the best series (comedy) realm. "Will & Grace" is this year's Emmy champ.
The Globes, in somewhat of a surprise move, nominated Sarah Michelle Gellar for the WB's "Buffy the Vampire" and Jessica Alba of Fox's "Dark Angel" in the best actress (drama) category. Joining them are Lorraine Bracco (HBO's "The Sopranos"), Amy Brenneman (CBS' "Judging Amy") and Edie Falco (also HBO's "The Sopranos").
Of special note is Robert Downey Jr.'s nomination for best supporting actor for "Ally McBeal." His future, however, on the Fox comedy series has been hanging in the balance since his recent run-ins with drugs and the law. Downey is nominated along with Sean Hayes of "Will & Grace" (NBC) John Mahoney and David Hyde Pierce of "Frasier" (NBC), Christopher Plummer of "American Tragedy" (CBS) and Bradley Whitford of "The West Wing" (NBC).
Winners of the 58th Annual Golden Globes will be announced Jan. 21 in an NBC telecast.