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 British actress, who has appeared in several of the wizard films as reporter Ritz Skeeter, is convinced Rowling's novels and the spin-off movie series have done immeasurable good as they have increased reading levels among children across the world.
She tells Fox News, "I do think it's great from the kids' point of view because they're engaging in storytelling and character - books as well as film. J.K. Rowling got them back reading. It doesn't matter which way round they come to it. If they see the movies, they still want to read the books. If they've read the book they want to see if the movies live up to them."
Maybe it was the ultra-bright yellow that covered everything from the giant show banners to the "yellow carpet" that made the critics really, really want to cover a TV movie called "Growing Pains: A Reunion." Or maybe it was because the ABC summer press tour, held Sunday and today at the tony Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Pasadena, was like one of those motivational seminars, luxury-style.
After a gourmet lunch served by the pool, the reporters hunkered down for Q&A sessions with network officials and stars of the upcoming fall lineup. An elaborate stage in the hotel ballroom was flanked by massive ABC logos and two huge video screens, to better enable network officials to introduce the shows and stars of its upcoming fall TV lineup.
Geena Davis There was Geena Davis, promoting her new sitcom "The Geena Davis Show" with co-star Peter Horton ("thirtysomething"). Gabriel Byrne spoke about his Irish-American multigenerational comedy "Madigan Men." Both Jon Cryer ("Pretty in Pink") and David Krumholtz ("Slums of Beverly Hills) were on hand to discuss the paranoid comedy "The Trouble With Normal."
Then there's the shows that are getting a new look. "Spin City" executive producer Gary David Goldberg and actress Heather Locklear (sporting a Bon Jovi T-shirt) introduced Charlie Sheen, who is stepping into Michael J. Fox's shoes. Apparently they will play off some of Sheen's real-life, well-publicized problems with the vices he loves. Should be interesting.
Norm MacDonald seemed to be just as impressed as everyone else that Faith Ford was joining the cast of "Norm." He kept saying, "Look! Faith Ford from 'Murphy Brown.'"
"Monday Night Football" showed off its latest addition to the team, obscure-reference specialist Dennis Miller, who quipped, "With the paltry state of politics, we should get great viewership."
Then there was Garry Shandling, who'll host the 52nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. When a reporter asked Shandling how he'll manage to fill three hours' worth of air time, he reeled off: "It's not the length, it's how we use the Emmys."
Winding up the two-day event was the celeb-heavy "All-Star Party," complete with fajitas, fondue, open bar and a huge list of ABC who's-whos including Sheen, Bill Maher, "Once and Again" star Billy Campbell and several high-profile soap stars. MacDonald talked with kids about the Harry Potter books, and Davis briefly walked around barefoot in a short black dress before she was whisked away by her publicist, perhaps to practice for an upcoming archery meet she mentioned that day.
Next up this week: NBC's summer press tour. Can they possibly compete with ABC's gourmet menu?