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WARNING: Spoilers! If you haven’t seen Godzilla yet, read at your own risk. 😉
Over all my friends are just as weird and nerdy as I am, each in their own way. Like several of my friends I have been a Godzilla fan for a long time. Yes, I still need to replace the G-movie collection my ex kept (the hit order is still in effect). And yes, I admit to liking the 1998 Godzilla with Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno. Don’t be hating, just read. I will also admit to not watching any Godzilla movie after the 1998 version. All that being said, I was seeing mixed reviews as the first showings this year’s Godzilla were hitting the big screen. You can find one such review at Biff Bam Pop with my friend Glenn Walker. I was very excited to see the newest version since it was being lauded as a Hollywood version of the Toho Limited-style movies.
Now, last night I saw my favorite lizard, in 3D, and I have to say I absolutely loved it! If you’ve seen the original movies you know they have almost Shatner-esque over acting coupled with cheesy effects. This version of Godzilla has better effects but it still looks almost like slow-motion film of actors in suits during the monster fight scenes (except for the last scene, later on that). Yes, as my pal Glenn points out the two monsters Godzilla fights look strange and alien. I thought the male MUTO looked like a bat-praying mantis hybrid while the female looked more spiderish.
Let’s talk about the science. The actual science is what a lot of people despised about the 1998 version. But be honest. It’s a monster movie. It’s supposed to be unreal and totally impossible. Monsters can’t actually come to live and roam the Earth, can they?! If had really believed that the Wasp Woman was a possibility in reality I would never have used make-up a day in my life! In this version, G-man is an ancient apex predator that feeds on nuclear energy, all of his species and the parasites (the MUTOs), going deeper into the Earth to get closer to the core as the outer atmosphere changes to support more human life. I thought this was a cool concept. Especially when they show us an underground cavern that is actually the remains of one of these giants, with ribs and a spine laid out in perfect order. And the weapon/self defense of the MUTOs being an electromagnetic pulse made it a formidable danger for our modern society, which is a nice nod to the dangers of nuclear bombs that was the unspoken enemy in the originals.
One point Glenn makes is that he noticed people cheering when Godzilla appears and that he’s viewed as a good guy instead of a destructive force of nature. I admit I cheered, too. There is a lot of human-based storyline in this movie and less of the actual monsters. Which is why I was thrilled to see the massive spinal ridges of G-man breaking the surface of the ocean when swims into the daylight. Godzilla was still very destructive. The tailspin knocking the male MUTO into a building to kill was a nice touch. I cheered then, too. I would say the big lizard is more an antihero in this movie. He’s not there to destroy San Fran just because it’s there. He’s there to take down the giant lovebirds and restore balance. He does his job and goes home. I’m cool with that.
Glenn’s review also breaks down the casting. I will say that it was disappointing to lose Cranston’s character so early but it was necessary for his son, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, to suffer the loss of both parents and realize the danger to his own family in order to keep going in the face of certain death. And in Taylor-Johnson’s defense, his character is military. Training knocks all the squishy emotions right out of them. While not overly emotive, I thought the character was portrayed fairly accurately for the background he had. I will agree with Glenn that Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Serizawa was perfect.
Okay, one last thing. My favorite part is near the end, the last of the monster fight scene. The mama MUTO is about to devour Taylor-Johnson, a bomb and the boat they’re on all in one vengeful bite. Godzilla, who we see fall right before this scene, pulls her back, pries her mouth open, and shoots atomic fire breath right down the bitch’s throat. Then he rips her head off. Yes, I cheered. It was beautiful. And the least cheesy looking of the monster scenes, I may add. If you’re a fan of the monster genre I would highly recommend seeing Godzilla. I will probably go see it again. Yes, I loved it that much. And I will be buying it on DVD. I may even have to get a poster.
Back in the day, you knew who the heroes were and who the villains were. Sometimes it was a matter of just wearing black, or wearing white. Indeed, in those days, the difference between being a hero and a villain was very black and white. There were no shades of grey, you were either one or the other. Things have changed. Let’s take a look at the summer blockbusters in the theaters this year, let’s look at the heroes of 2013.
In Star Trek Into Darkness, we are presented with the new young Captain Kirk’s first real foray against evil, or are we? Kirk, traditionally, has never made the right decisions, but following his rank and occupation, he is decisive. Once he puts foot to path, he follows through, and so in the end makes sure lives are saved, no matter the cost. This new young Kirk (long story short, new continuity, same names and characters, different circumstances, smart writing to free oneself of the chains of continuity) is a dumbass, who makes fundamentally bad decisions and learns the hard way. Unlike the original version, he hopes he’s right as opposed to actually being right.
The antagonist is this timeline’s Khan, who is much different from the original, yet much the same. A psychopath who does good is still a psychopath. There’s no changing that, yet, it does impose those shades of grey on both Kirk and Khan. I guess it’s a good thing that Spock takes the majority of the action in this one.
The fact that there is no longer black and white however is not all that new, especially in the heroic genre. Iron Man is flawed from the get go. He is one of the bad guys. As an industrialist, futurist, and weapons dealer, Tony Stark has brought much death to the world. Any grey goes out the window however when in Iron Man Three, he faces a foe so black and evil, there is no mistaking it. If only Iron Man were a more straight forward white hat.
So we turn to the first and greatest of the superheroes, who also had a movie out a few weeks back, the big blue boy scout – Superman. He represents truth, justice, and the American way, no matter how politically incorrect that might be these days. His origin is part Moses, part Jesus, and yes, even part John Carter of Mars. He is the guy we think of when we think ‘superhero.’ If there are any rules of black and white, good and evil, it should be in his latest film, Man of Steel, right? Don’t bet the farm, Martha.
At the helm of the film is Christopher Nolan, a man best known with his last movie trilogy in which he made Batman darker, as if that was even possible. Nolan brings to Superman a new kind of General Zod, one that if you watch and listen carefully is perhaps the most dangerous type of villain, and shade of grey. He is the villain who thinks what he is doing is right. No longer is Zod simply after vengeance on the heir of his jailer, or the conquest of some backwater planet – this Zod has been mandated with the task of saving the future of the entire Kryptonian race.
Seriously, if you’re Superman, how do you fight that? How the hell do you even argue against it? And if that’s not conflicted enough, there’s Superman’s father – no, not Ruussell Crowe as Jor-El, who crazily has more chemistry with Amy Adams’ Lois Lane than Henry Cavill’s Superman – but Kevin Costner’s Jonathan Kent. This Jonathan suggests Clark not act and let his schoolmates die in a bus accident, and then also impels his son not to save his own life. Pa Kent’s greatest lesson in this new world is paranoia and fear, rather than truth, justice and American way.
Perhaps it is this background that allows Superman only to act once the entire planet is in peril from General Zod’s superior forces, and then only when his momma is threatened directly. This is a hero? Hold on, folks, it gets worse, and if you haven’t had your spoilers helmet on yet, get it ready.
After punching each other through CGI scene after CGI scene of painful 9-11 conjuring disaster porn, finally Zod starts to take his wrath out on innocent bystanders directly, attempting to heat-vision a family in a train station. Superman does the only thing the writers (I’m looking right at you, Nolan, and David Goyer) can think of at that point, he murders Zod. It’s not unprecedented, it’s happened in the comics, but even there it was considered the darkest moment in the character’s history.
Excuse me while I soapbox for a moment. Superman would have found another way to stop Zod, without resorting to murder. He would have found another way – that’s why he’s Superman! Soapbox mode off.
Rounding out this summer of heroes with a darker edge is one that should never have been used in this context – The Lone Ranger. Let’s not even talk about what a complete dumbass move it was to put the bigger star in the sidekick role and have him steal the film with his moronic shenanigans. The Lone Ranger is
a character of, well, high moral character. He is more role model than hero. He does what’s right, and while he has guns, he has never killed anyone, and here Disney has gone and Superman-ized him.
This new Lone Ranger is not bright, not heroic, not the least bit a role model, and firmly in the shadow of a mockery of his sidekick Tonto in this violent flick. I hope you Johnny Depp fans got your fill, because the Lone Ranger fans left the theater choking and starving. All I can say in this case is if Disney hated the source material so much, why did they remake it?
In the summer of 2013, it seems no hero is safe from the internal darkness that permeates pop culture. I hope that changes. Superman and the Lone Ranger have no reason to be dark. And if things are so dark, shouldn’t we have real heroes and role models to look up to, to show us the light? Just my opinion.
Copyright 2013 Glenn Walker
Glenn Walker’s Heroes blog is also found in the August 2013 issue of Voluted Tales eZine. You can find all the Walker you can handle and then so here: