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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Whether you're currently wrapped in eight layers, praying that you will survive the bitter cold of winter, or you live in a place where it never drops below 60 degrees (screw you!), summer is on the horizon. Helping to remind us of the light at the end of the tunnel are a set of new pics from 2013's biggest blockbuster releases. Nothing warms the soul like a superhero's scowl.
First up is a new still from the little-comic-movie-that-could, The Wolverine. The Hugh Jackman-led action flick is both a prequel to the original X-Men trilogy, a sequel to his spin-off X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and a… well, who really knows how it fits into the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past, which collides all the mythology — including X-Men: First Class — into one steaming serving of cinematic goulash. It's been a bumpy road for The Wolverine, which clawed its way through pre-production disaster after pre-production disaster to finally come to screens this year. And it looks good! Or, at least, an image like the one below has us pumped for more of Jackman's rough, gruff hero.
RELATED: 'X-Men: Days Of Future Past' Director Bryan Singer Teases Professor Xs, Young And Old — Pic
Next, we have a look at the upcoming Ender's Game, a sci-fi epic that has all the makings of a summer movie… but actually drops in November. Based on the acclaimed novel by Orson Scott Card, the movie stars Asa Butterfield (Hugo) as a wunderkind of intergalactic military strategy, sent to "Battle School" to train as a soldier. For fans of True Grit who wondered what happened to the young, Oscar-nominated star Hailee Steinfeld, she appears alongside Butterfield in Ender's Game, as you can see in the latest still from the film:
RELATED: 'Iron Man 3' Trailer: Tony Stark Is Still Having 'Avengers' Nightmares
Rounding out the bunch, Iron Man 3 continues its character poster binge with a new one-sheet of Guy Pearce as the suspected villain Aldrich Killian. While the folks at Marvel were ready to show off their trilogy-capper at Comic-Con earlier this year — with flashy footage of Robert Downey Jr. zipping around the sky and eventually hitting rock bottom as billionaire inventor Tony Stark — we're still in the dark on the plot of Iron Man 3. Ben Kingsley will appear as the popular villain Mandarin, but where does Pearce's Killian fit into the picture? Judging from this poster, he may play Miami Vicedetective James Crockett. Maybe.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox; Summit Entertainment; Marvel]
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Ron Howard (the Oscar-nominated director of A Beautiful Mind) is currently scouting locations in Texas for his upcoming feature film based on the legendary, fateful battle at the Alamo. Howard says he plans to deal with some complex issues of the combatants at the Texas landmark heretofore untold on screen, including Jim Bowie's slave trading, Davy Crockett's bigotry and the alleged infighting between the NBA's David Robinson and Tim Duncan.
Madonna's been open about her sex life before, but now it's turning audiences off. Featured in hubby Guy Ritchie's new film based on 1974's Swept Away, Madonna gets beaten up as a prelude to lovemaking, which, according to thestar.com, is making viewers upset. Incredibly, this is an improvement for Madonna, whose acting in her previous movies made viewers VERY upset.
Not that you asked, but we have more from the world of Madonna. Seems the actress/pop diva, who demanded a cameo in return for singing the theme song of the latest James Bond flick, has withdrawn completely from any involvement in the movie. Given the last news item, perhaps the James Bond series just isn't misogynistic enough.
Kenneth Branagh, the man voted by his high-school class as most likely to channel Shakespeare, has returned to the bard's work on stage for the first time in 10 years. Branagh can be seen in the lead role of Shakespeare's Richard III at the Crucible Theater in the northern English town of Sheffield. No word if Branagh has yet been able to turn Sheffield's winter of discontent into a glorious summer, but word has it that he'd give up his kingdom for a horse.
Mary Tyler Moore's character from her eponymous hit TV show is to be honored May 8 with a bronze statue in Minneapolis, where the show's story was based. An eight-foot-high statue of newswoman Mary Richards tossing her hat into the air will grace the downtown corner of 7th Street and the Nicollet Mall, pleasing not only fans of the '70s sitcom, but also pigeons from both of the Twin Cities.
Bill Maher hosts a show called Politically Incorrect, and his latest statements to the Seattle Times prove that label true about himself, as well. "Look, I'm not gonna lie," Maher opined, "I knew back in September our days were numbered. But what is a little galling is that for six years on ABC, we had to live with Nightline as the ultimate sacred cow. You could never ask Ted Koppel to do anything. He never asked viewers to watch Politically Incorrect after his show; instead, he'd tell them to go to nightline.com. Suddenly, he's not a sacred cow--he's a slaughtered cow." If Koppel's a slaughtered cow, wouldn't that make Maher little more than gristle?
It's still signing season for TV pilots. Helen Mirren, nominated by the Academy for her work in Gosford Park, is set to star in CBS' Georgetown; The WB has gotten Jennie Garth, formerly of Beverly Hills, 90210, to relocate to New York for an untitled comedy with Amanda Bynes (Big Fat Liar), and Murphy Brown's Grant Shaud is heading to Fox for Oliver Beene. ABC's big move for the week was...nothing!
Fox is gonzo for eras past (That '70s Show, That '80s Show) and, according to EW.com, is planning a retrospective of seminal '70s sitcom Three's Company; just don't expect John Ritter to host. "I can't see sitting in rocking chairs and going, 'Remember the time we sat on that f---ing dog, and Mr. Furley came in and kicked you in the nuts?'" Ritter told EW.com. Ah, how we miss Don Knotts.
Billy Baldwin, star of Backdraft and brother to Alec, Stephen, Daniel, Jermaine and Tito, is jumping to the small screen in CBS' grammatically challenged R.U.S./H.. Yet another cop drama, R.U.S./H. is the story of a special L.A. unit that's based in the tough neighborhood of South Central.
Keys auction house in London has told Reuters that it expects letters hand-written by the late Princess Diana to her former housekeeper could go for as much as $28,430 (approximately), when they are auctioned off later this week. Princess Diana passed away in a Paris car crash in 1997. In related news, correspondence written by editor Noah Davis to his imaginary friend Fred was receently purchased for 42 cents. (Thanks, Mom!)
Music giant EMI Group is cutting almost 1,800 people from its worldwide workforce, the Associated Press reports. Contraction began in April 2001, when EMI had 9,338 employees. By September 2002, that number will be reduced to 7,600. No word if Mariah Carey's release is counted in this number, but we're willing to bet that not many other employees will receive the same $28 million golden parachute the sultry songbird did.
Food infected with sewage pollution has been blamed for the mystery illness that graced some attendees of the March 2 event in Beverly Hills honoring scientific and technical achievement in cinema. Investigators aren't sure how the virus spread, nor do they know what arugula really is.