Born and raised in Illinois, Clothier moved to California when he turned twenty in 1923. He began his career in films as a set painter at Warner Brothers before gaining work as an assistant cameraman...
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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First US feature as director of photography, "For You I Die"
Final feature as director of photography, "The Train Robbers"
Went to Hollywood and became newsreel cameraman for Paramount
First film as director of photography, "El 113" (Spain)
Born and raised in Illinois, Clothier moved to California when he turned twenty in 1923. He began his career in films as a set painter at Warner Brothers before gaining work as an assistant cameraman at several Poverty Row studios. Clothier worked on the aerial photography crew of the Oscar-winning "Wings" (1927) for Paramount. He continued working there until 1929 when he moved to RKO. Because of a strike, he relocated to Mexico City in 1933 and moved to Spain the following year. In 1938, he was imprisoned by the Spanish Communist forces. Upon his release and return to the US, Clothier returned to work as a camera operator and as a second unit director of photography and aerial cameraman.<p> Clothier made his debut as director of photography with "Sofia" (1948). He went on to lens a variety of films including the aerial sequences in "The High and the Mighty" (1954), the sci-fi thriller "Killers from Space" (1954) and John Farrow's adventure "The Sea Chase" (1955). He shot his first western "Seven Men from Now" in 1956. Clothier went on to work with a number of top directors including Frank Borzage ("China Doll", 1958), John Ford ("The Horse Soldiers", 1959; "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence", 1962; and "Cheyenne Autumn" 1964) and Sam Peckinpah ("The Deadly Companions" 1961). He shot John Wayne's directorial debut, "The Alamo" (1960), and other Wayne westerns including Howard Hawks' "Rio Lobo" (1970) and "Big Jake" (1971). Clothier also worked with director Andrew V McLaglen on eight films including "Shenandoah" (1965), "The Way West" (1967), "Bandolero!" (1968) and "Chisum" (1970). He retired after shooting his last film "The Train Robbers" (1973). Clothier died in January 1996 at the age of 92.