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 Easy Rider star revealed his fight with prostate cancer in October (09) after being hospitalised for "severe flu-like symptoms", admitting he was first diagnosed with the disease in 2002.
Hopper underwent regular treatment sessions at the University of Southern California, but reports surfaced in early January (10) suggesting he was facing his final days after learning the deadly disease had spread to his bones.
He passed away on Saturday morning (29May10) at his home in Venice, California with his family and friends at his bedside.
Hopper's manager Sam Maydew confirmed the sad news in a statement to the AFP.
The statement reads, "Dennis Hopper died this morning at 8:15 am (15:15 pm GMT) from complications of metastasized prostate cancer. He died at home in Venice surrounded by family and friends."
Tributes to the actor have been pouring in, with Hopper's Easy Rider co-star Peter Fonda among the first to pay his respects.
He tells TMZ.com, "Dennis introduced me to the world of Pop Art and 'lost' films. We rode the highways of America and changed the way movies were made in Hollywood. I was blessed by his passion and friendship."
A number of stars have taken to Twitter.com to honour Hopper including rocker Slash, who writes, "You take the great ones for granted until they're gone. RIP Dennis Hopper," while British actor Simon Pegg, adds, "Just heard we lost Dennis Hopper at 74. Great actor, sad loss. 'Sometimes he goes too far. He's the first one to admit it. ' Apocalypse Now."
Born in Kansas in 1936, Hopper enjoyed a career as an artist, actor and director spanning 55 years. His family relocated to California when he was a child and, after developing an interest in acting, Hopper made his TV debut with a small role in U.S. series Medic in 1955.
He went on to land two roles alongside his idol James Dean - in 1950s releases Rebel Without a Cause and Giant - but Hopper was left devastated when the movie star was killed in a car accident in 1955, aged just 24.
After moving to the East Coast and completing a training course at New York's famous Actors Studio, Hopper's career began to pick up pace and he became a TV regular on U.S. shows such as The Defenders, Bonanza, The Legend of Jesse James and Combat!
Hopper made brief appearances in Paul Newman's Cool Hand Luke and alongside John Wayne in The Sons of Katie Elder (1965) and True Grit (1969), while his more recognised roles include Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979), Out of the Blue (1980) and Rumble Fish (1983).
But Hopper will perhaps be best remembered for pulling double duty on 1969's Easy Rider, which he directed and starred in alongside Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson.
The movie earned Hopper critical acclaim, but his screen success was marred by trouble in his personal life - the star's eight-year marriage to first wife Brooke Hayward crumbled and he struggled with drug and alcohol abuse.
A year later, in 1970, Hopper rushed to wed Michelle Phillips - the disastrous union lasted just one week amid allegations of cocaine addiction and spousal abuse.
His private life hit the headlines again in the early 1980s when Hopper had a brush with death in an incident involving 17 sticks of dynamite near Houston, Texas, and it was only after finding himself stranded in a Mexican desert while drunk and on drugs that he checked himself into rehab in 1983.
Hopper kicked his addictions and marked his Hollywood comeback with critically acclaimed performances in 1986's Blue Velvet, with director David Lynch, Hoosiers, for which he earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, and 1988's Colors.
He returned to TV on numerous occasions and in 2002 appeared in Kiefer Sutherland's hit show 24, as well as government drama E-Ring in 2005, and Crash in 2008 to 2009, a series based on the Oscar-winning movie of the same name.
Hopper went down in movie history when he was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in March (10), but his health had deteriorated so rapidly he was in a wheelchair for his red carpet appearance.
His marriage to fifth wife Victoria Duffy, who he wed in 1996, also deteriorated in his final months - the actor filed for divorce in January (10), citing irreconcilable differences. He obtained a restraining order against her after his doctor claimed she was "hampering his cancer care" and Hopper's personal assistant, Emily Davis, went on to accuse Duffy of "trying to kill" the ailing star - although no further details were released.
The estranged couple was subsequently ordered to resolve their differences for the sake of their daughter Galen, who was born in 2003, and in April (10) Hopper was forced to pay Duffy $12,000 (£7,500)-a-month in spousal and child support.
Hopper is also survived by his three other children from previous marriages. The actor fathered Marin with first wife Hayward in 1962; Ruthanna with Daria Halprin in the early 1970s, and son Henry, born in 1990, with Katherine LaNasa.
The Scottish hunk plays a cocky ladies man in the film - but his confidence disappeared when it came time to shoot passionate scenes with the blonde beauty.
And he was so flustered by the bedroom takes, he struggled to keep in character.
He says, "I was so nervous. I kept forgetting my lines. Once, in the middle of a take, I said to Katie, 'Did I touch your breast?' It was an accidental brush but I was pretty nervous about it.".