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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
I hope you'll excuse me if this recap of New Girl seems a little bit loopy, but I've spent the past few hours trying to play/figure out True Americans. I know that if you touch the lava, you have to be sacrificed, (i.e. someone throws tennis balls at you) but why I'm shouting the names of historical figures while throwing my empties at the recycling bin is still beyond me. All I do know is that I like it. A lot. I also liked last night's episode, titled "Normal," despite it not being as strong as some of New Girl's more recent outings.
I think I've also figured out what I liked most about Zooey Deshchanel's Jess over these past few weeks. Through her bang-covered eyes I get to see what its like to be part of the oft-times fun, more oft-times ludicrous, world of a boys club without all the hassle of actually living with them. Especially considering this particular boys club now includes drinking games, unabashed sex talk, and the occasional stabbing. Where's the sign-up sheet?
So there was no doubt that Mr. Fancy Man himself, Russell (welcome back, Dermot Mulroney) was going to have a little trouble adjusting to Jess' wildly different lifestyle. After spending a week in total bliss (a "sexcation", if you will) with her new beau, Jess returned to the land of broken garbage disposals and life-threatening elevators to discover not much had changed. Nick is still aimlessly floating through life, while Schmidt and Cece, against all odds, are still going strong. The only person who did undergo a major change was Winston who, despite an explicit warning from guest star Kareem Abdul Jabbar, accepted a degrading job as an assistant to a mean-spirited sports radio host.
Though Jess pleaded with her roommates to be normal around Russell, it was a recipe for disaster from the start: Schmidt is jealous of him, Nick is enamored by him (he even welcomed Russell to the door with a cheese plate), and Winston just likes messing with him. ("You scared of black people? It's 2012, baby.") Still, despite being completely out of his element, Russell tried to make the best of it and scarfed down Jess' "ethnic noodles", dispensed invaluable career advice to Winston to dip his er, little Winston into his bosses' milkshakes, and, of course, played the greatest game there ever was, True Americans, which resulted in drunkenly bonding with the guys.
Only, much like everything that comes to light after a long night of drinking, came the harsh realization that everything wasn't perfect between Jess and Russell. Despite their great chemistry, these two are operating on completely different levels. Jess' world is filled with Spice Girls quotes and male roommates who are busy creating a device called "Real Apps" (sound it out, because Schmidt and Nick sure didn't) while Russell is, well, he's a grown-ass man. In addition to tiptoeing around their age and cultural differences, Jess is also sensitive to a post-divorce Russell and is afraid to rock the boat with any arguments. (That all ended pretty quickly once Schmidt stabbed him with the "gentleman's shiv" feature of the Real Apps.)
I was relieved that Jess and Russell kissed and made up by the end of the episode, not only because Mulroney plays so well with the cast and his character Russell makes a pleasant match for Jess (she deserves to be treated well after the Spencer fiasco which led her to the fateful loft) but because fans don't have to wonder if Russell is "the one." Since Mulroney hasn't been announced as a full-time cast member, there's the assumption that, at least for now, there is an end to Jess and Russell in sight. But, it's not that I want them to break up. Okay, that's not entirely true, I totally do so that it can open the door up for the possibility of Nick and Jess again. (Did anyone else think he made a deflated wince when Jess was talking about her "sexcation" with Russell, too? Am I also crazy in thinking that Jake Johnson looks a little bit like a young Mulroney?) Russell is a welcome visitor, but in the end, he's no lifetime member of this club.
Here now are some of the other best bits and lines from last night's episode of New Girl, "Normal":
- "You gotta cut ties with that kid. He freaks me out. He never blinks. He's like a tiny little owl, with a shirt."- Schmidt, describing one of Winston's friends
- "I don't know, it's like we're living in a romantic comedy montage. We throw our heads back when we laugh and I try on floppy hats for him" - Jess, discussing her relationship with Russell. (Someone cue "Sweet Disposition"!)
- "You ever wanna take a ride on a magic idea? Well, strap in, Russell"- Nick wanting to share his '"idea notebook" with "innovator" Russell
- The term "getting Winklevoss-ed."
- Jess' "Hangover eggs": "They'll either stop you from throwing up the rest of the day or you'll just throw it all up really fast. It's high risk, high reward."
- Schmidt's alternate name for the iPhone: A "slippery germ brick."
- Schmidt and Nick's pitch for "Real Apps": It's a device you can "cut a bagel, cobble a shoe, or habberdash on the fly" with. (Features include a Zippo lighter and the aforementioned "gentleman's shiv," which is really just a corn holder.)
- Russell's reaction to apple picking as an activity: "That literally sounds like hell." (I love Jess, but I gotta agree with the guy on that one.)
What did you think of last night's New Girl, my fellow True Americans? Do you agree that, despite how likeable he is, Dermot Mulroney's Russell will be a short-lived romance? Sound off in the comments section!
[Photo credit: Fox]
New Girl, Glee, and Raising Hope Renewed by Fox
New Girl Recap: Jess vs. Dermot Mulroney
New Girl Recap: Relaxed Schmidt is Worse Than Regular Schmidt