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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As the premiere of the all-new American Idol approaches, we bid adieu to those “mean” audition practices that push the crazies through to the final rounds just so we can hear Simon tell them how awful they are as the other judges giggle and try to sugar coat the big, bad wolf’s real talk. But come on, most of these people are totally aware that they’re putting themselves in that situation – I said most! – they’re just looking for a reason to get on TV. Now, the voice of reason has gone on to greener pastures and left us a panel of music biz vets who are determined to be “uplifting” and “nice” – whatever that is. Just because Idol is kinder and gentler doesn’t mean we have to be kind or gentle. Since everything’s going to be all peachy keen once the show starts, why don’t you get your Idol crazies fix by imagining a few hopefuls attempting to woo the judges with these tunes. They aren't bad songs (well a few of them are); they're a selection of some of the worst choices if you actually plan on getting a ticket to Hollywood, but man would they make things a little more interesting for the folks at home.
"Party All the Time" – Eddie Murphy
Auditioner Category: Clueless Frat Boy
This is the guy who would probably have a decent or okay singing voice, but the fact that he most certainly “pre-gamed” during his entire 14 hour wait to audition ensures that all he’ll show us is his ability to recreate that awkward side-to-side dance that reminds us of the Super Bowl shuffle. Good effort, dude, but you're like, not going to make it to Hollywood.
"The Piano Has Been Drinking" – Tom Waits
Auditioner Category: The Delusional Immitator
This guy or girl thinks A: that they can be just as awesome as Tom Waits and B: that Idol is some sort of contest to see who can imitate their favorite successful musician the best. They will almost always insist that they are above the competition itself and they may exit their audition like this guy. He or she probably also considered doing Bruce Springsteen's “Nebraska” or Neil Young's “Hey Hey, My My” but decided those weren’t challenging enough.
"Loving You" – Minnie Ripperton
Auditioner Category: The Delusional Wannabe Prodigy
This girl would pick an iconic song that almost no one can successfully recreate. She’s probably been told by her great aunt and her mother that she’s the next Mariah Carey, but when it comes time to audition if those plastic Coca-cola cups could be shattered, the judges' table would be covered in little glass slivers. Even the best Christina Aguilera-style arm gyrations can't save you from that (you know, the ones that look like she’s trying to sing while wearing a blindfold and pop a slew of invisible bubbles).
"Shoop" – Salt N Pepa
Auditioner Category: The Angry Girl Who Thinks She’s Above the Show’s Premise
This girl swears she’s the best person the judges will see all day, but she’s failed to realize that it’s a singing competition, not a swagger competition. She’s probably still stuck in the 90s, rocking overalls and an unbuttoned plaid shirt or some other outfit seemingly inspired by Brittany Murphy’s character in Clueless pre-Chertastic makeover. “Rollin’ with the homies” isn’t going to get you a ticket to Hollywood, darlin’.
"Fernando" – ABBA
Auditioner Category: The Housewife Who Somehow Sneaks Past the 28 Year Age Limit
This very nice lady, sporting her mom jeans and dragging along her very bored teenage son and daughter, somehow managed to make it past the age limit and is determined to show the judges just how great of a singer she is. She’s probably not a terrible singer, but her awkward swaying movements, Lawrence Welk style vocals, and homemade “I Love Idol” sweatshirt probably aren’t going to make the cut.
"Die Another Day" – Madonna
Auditioner Category: The Hardcore Madonna Fan
He or she will come into the audition with far too much seriousness and a little drama. They may or may not be donning their favorite Madonna concert tee – probably a colorful one from the “Music” era – and their blind love for the Material Girl has caused them not to notice that this is by far one of the worst songs ever. In his or her head, they’ll sound like the spacey auto-tuned Madonna, but the rest of us will just hear some awful sing-talking and have the urge to run out and rent a James Bond movie starring Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry after hearing the title repeated a million times. Weird.
"Aqualung" – Jethro Tull
Auditioner Category: The Kid Who Loves Classic Rock Songs But Doesn’t Realize What They’re About
This kid thinks he can prove to his friends that auditioning for Idol isn’t something to be embarrassed about, so he picks one of his favorite classic rock songs. Too bad he’s never been that good at deciphering the meanings of lyrics. Even if he rocks the vocals, the fact that he failed to ask (well, anyone really) what the song is about will condemn him to the status as a creepy, laughable, YouTube-worthy audition.
"Cat Scratch Fever" – Ted Nugent
Auditioner Category: The Spastic Set Destroyer
This guy is the reason the producers of the show have to take out insurance on the set equipment. He’s like totally pumped to be auditioning for Idol and he’s totally psyched to be performing like one of his favorite songs OF ALL TIME, EVER. Too bad he’ll get way too excited, run into the judges table and knock over a few set lights before he even gets to the bridge. Randy will probably need a week off to recover due to “psychological damage” as a result of the event.
"Highly Suspicious" – My Morning Jacket
Auditioner Category: The Obnoxious New Arrangement Guy
This person has just discovered the concept of rearranging songs. Now that they don’t have to do an exact replica, they think they can re-imagine something like “Highly Suspicious” as a classy, jazzy tune and wow the judges with how unique they are. They think of themselves as a genius, the rest of us will just think they’re a douchebag. PS: Knowing how to arrange music doesn’t mean you can actually sing.
"Short People" – Randy Newman
Auditioner Category: The 15 Year Old Girl Whose Dad Chose Her Song
In her dad’s defense, he thought the “cute” irony of a short girl singing “Short People” would put her ahead of the game. The actual result is two uncomfortable minutes of a little girl singing a song that she probably doesn’t understand with a vacant expression, a pageant smile and her hands on her hips. Creepy much?