Don’t go and see this new Godzilla film; that’s a couple of hours you’ll never get back.
‘Why Rob?’ I hear you cry – ‘have you seen it, falling on the sword of rubbishness for all of us?’
I have not.
And though my opinions on films I haven’t seen tend to be strong (Twilight – balls, Destry Rides Again – classic. Never seen either of them), I am usually – reasonably – trepidatious about expressing these views and, of course, ready to change them. I have never, for example, much liked the idea of Scorsese’s Hugo, but I’ll be happy to be wrong if I ever get round to seeing it – everyone seemed to love it, after all. I thought the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes would be a dog of some pedigree; turned out to be great. Your opinion just doesn’t count unless you’ve seen the film.
I bet you a tenner Godzilla’s rubbish, and I don’t need to prove it by wasting a little of my life on it. I saw the last one – I think I’ve seen it twice – and it stank to high heaven, and that will do me.
‘But how can you be so sure Rob?’ you pipe up, asking just the right question at just the right time.
Well, for one I think there’s a kind of effects-blockbuster snobbery at play with films like this, where it’s like no-one needs them to actually be good to enjoy them; exhibit A: Pacific Rim. Just dreadful. Bland, nonsensical, slow, not exciting, not funny… yet still I meet people who’ll tell me it was a bit of escapist fun. It wasn’t fun and there was no escape. And that makes me feel so sorry for the team who made, say, Captain America – The Winter Soldier, which was cracking escapist fun. It’s bad enough when people are tar-with-the-same-brush snobby about films they haven’t seen, but it must be depressing when your target audience acts like that.
Secondly, I think too much is lost culturally when you take Godzilla out of mid-twentieth century Japan; Gojira was a creature for its time, a necessarily oblique response to being in the world’s first and only nuclear war, a fable about man’s power at a time of much invention and expansion, and a monster that was a guy in a suit when those special effects were pretty bloody exciting. I’m old enough to remember, from tv at least, when the baddies in sci-fi were always lizards, cut in to look enormous, dubbed over with the terrifying roar of a slowed down cat – as I say, pretty bloody exciting – but now we can create just about anything, why go with a creature based on a creature that was a guy in a suit?
Cynicism about pacific blockbusters and global culture aside, Godzilla as a character – a concept – whatever – can never work, because s/he – it – whatever – always has to be a goodie, which just makes him rubbish. I remember that being lame in the cartoon version when I was young; they’d call Godzilla with a button, the thing would turn up and roar… and that would be it. What else could they do? Yes, you can add some nuance to that – the army general convinced the creature’s evil, people excitingly – accidentally – killed, buildings excitingly – accidentally – destroyed… But if Godzilla’s in any way a goodie, he’s never going to be Jaws, and ninety-five per cent of your story potential is lost. I went with ‘he’ in the end, did you notice?
But here’s the clincher; Godzilla is just too big. People make a story, and people mean nothing to this gigantic monster – so the stories about it mean nothing to us. Hank Azaria’s camera man saved by being between Godzilla’s toes in the last film inadvertently sums up this dramatic relationship – or rather total lack of one. As Nick Fury, Agent of Shield once said, ‘Ant, boot’.
I’ll admit it, expressing all this has made me want to see a family-friendly monster movie with terrifying beasts unleashed by the hubris of mankind, with a cast of quirky yet charismatic second-tier stars.
So I think I’ll watch Jurassic Park again.