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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There's a new player in Disney's executive game of musical chairs. Chief Michael Eisner has named ABC chief Robert Iger as president, filling the hole left by Michael Ovitz when he jumped ship in 1996, says The Associated Press.
Iger's appointment, along with other managerial promotions, is expected to help the entertainment giant overcome its recent troubles, which included sagging stock prices and the departure of Disney studio chief Joe Roth. Seems things are already in turnaround: Disney also announced a 7 percent jump in first-quarter earnings.
INDUSTRIAL COUPLE: Time Warner, which already seems to own everything, is making another deal -- this time with British music giant EMI. It was announced today that the two would merge music businesses to create a new monster -- er, company, worth $20 billion.
Time Warner, whose labels include Warner Bros., Elektra, Atlantic and Rhino and is home to Madonna and Alanis Morissette, will now be able to add EMI's Garth Brooks, the Beastie Boys and legacies such as The Beatles and Frank Sinatra to its family.
The new giant will be called Warner EMI Music, according to Daily Variety. The deal is expected to close in the second half of this year. No word if this marriage will result in some new duets: for instance, guitar crooner Jewel giving props with rapper Master P, or the Spice Girls with that other seasoning group, the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
GOLDEN COUPLE? The most intriguing pair at Sunday's Golden Globes was Jodie Foster and Russell Crowe, who arrived at the ceremony cozily hand-in-hand. Those who watched the broadcast through its credits also caught a glimpse of Crowe, 35, pointing and smiling at the camera, then pulling Foster, 37, in for a whisper or nuzzle, we couldn't tell. Was it staged?
"That was the intention," the best dramatic actor nominee ("The Insider") told the New York Daily News of the sensation they created. Foster joked, "He paid me."
For the record, Foster's rep says the two are friends and might be pairing up for a film. Well, let's hope it's a love story, because they did look mighty fine together.
GOLDEN COUPLE, PART II: We told you last week the rumor about Jim Carrey, 37, giving Renée Zellweger, 30, a $200,000 diamond "friendship ring." The couple was asked about the ring -- and their status -- at the Golden Globes. "Yeah, wasn't it nice?" Zellweger said on the red carpet, holding out her hand -- only to show no ring in sight. The two laughed about it but would only say that they're "friends." Still, 22 million people saw the Golden Globe winner (for "Man on the Moon") give his "friend" a big smooch on the lips before accepting his award.
LITTLE MAN FARROW: Mia Farrow's son might be heading off to college. But she'll have to drive him, since he's only 12 years old. Seamus Farrow has applied to attend Columbia University in the fall and already takes college classes in Massachusetts. But his mother worries about it; not the difficulty level, but the arduous commute to New York City from their home in Bridgewater, Conn.
"It's such a long ride," she told the New York Daily News. "Part of me would like to put it off, but he's intent on going."
CELTIC PRIDE: Gabriel Byrne is proud to be an Irishman -- so proud, in fact, that he's taking shots at everyone else going Irish.
The 49-year-old actor, who last played Satan in the actioner "End of Days," is a bit perturbed about his homeland's use in Hollywood and speaks his mind in an interview in Irish America magazine. "I don't think it's necessarily a good thing that Mel Gibson and Steven Spielberg came to Ireland to shoot 'Braveheart' and 'Saving Private Ryan,'" he said. "Spielberg shot there because it was cheap, and he got to use the Irish Army. I don't like to see the country being used as a cheap location for huge multi-million dollar movies."
He also isn't keen on non-Irish actors playing Irish characters. "There are a lot of really brilliant Irish actors and actresses that never get a chance to do anything." Despite his love for Frank McCourt's book "Angela's Ashes," he fired off about the film adaptation. "An Irish movie?" said Byrne. "It's directed by an Englishman, Alan Parker. The screenplay is by an American writer (Laura Jones). It has a Scottish actor (Robert Carlyle) playing the father and an English actress (Emily Watson) playing the mother." We're just glad no one asked him to rate Brad Pitt's much-criticized brogue in "The Devil's Own." --