Cynema

Cynema

How Cynicism is Killing Entertainment

GODZILLA VS. CYNEMA pt. I

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Godzilla was the most masterful of all dinosaur movies because it made you believe

it was really happening.   - Steven Spielberg

 

 

There's a new Godzilla movie coming from Legendary Pictures with Gareth Edwards, director of the indie hit Monsters at the helm. Edwards diplomatically promises in interviews to not repeat the mistakes of the 1998 Godzilla disaster that enraged fans and Toho Pictures alike.

 

I guess I will say I’m highly aware – and everyone involved is incredibly aware – of everyone’s opinions on what this film has to do and what it has to be. And no one will do anything but the right thing. Without addressing anything specific, everyone knows how important it is to get it right. - Gareth Edwards on his new Godzilla

 

There is little doubt Edwards is referring to the Matthew Broderick Godzilla 1998 . Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich's big budget example of Cynema. Roland Emmerich admitted he had little interest in the original 1954 film, once again making the connection to Cynema.

 

 

 

Cynema: The cynical contempt for an audience in the making of product that is devoid of creativity, passion, production value or respect while having the financial and creative means to do better.

 

Emmerich justifies his ignorance of the 1954 film's messages with the $300 million his 1998 Godzilla made in addition to one billion in merchandising. Emmerich made it clear in this interview there will be no sequel to such a "successful" film.

 

"It's so strange because people expected it to be the biggest thing ever, then it only did well. They are disappointed, and you have to defend yourself. The movie made 375 million dollars worldwide, and The Perfect Storm made 325 million dollars. Also, Godzilla made a billion dollars in merchandise. Sony Pictures was happy with what they got. They knew that because of the media reception, they couldn't do a Godzilla 2. I told them not to do a sequel...because when you have a hit like Independence Day, people want to see you fall. -- Roland Emmerich"

 

Artist depiction of The Lucky Dragon near the Bravo blast.

 

The original 1954 Gojira was born out of the nuclear age. It was only nine years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki were laid to waste by the world’s first nuclear attacks. In 1953, the crew of a Japanese fishing boat, (ironically named) The Lucky Dragon, fell victim to radioactive fallout from the secret United States Hydrogen Bomb test called Bravo. The entire crew was irradiated and dead within months. The US denied responsibility, including financial reparations to the families of the crew.

 

Looking down on the dark water I wondered, 'what if a dinosaur was sleeping down there under all of that water. And then I wondered, 'what if an atomic bomb woke it?'

 

Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka

 

Japanese film producer, Tomoyuki Tanaka was crossing the Pacific on a night flight to a meeting in need of a story to pitch when the above quote came to him. Godzilla was born. The original 1954 film is a dark and tragic essay on man’s inhumanity to man through his ignorance of science and numbing of morality.The film’s score by Akira Ifukube is haunting--Godzilla’s theme aside, the chilling national prayer theme is heart rending when you understand the  tragedy behind it as a metaphor. Godzilla was created by American technology-- from reckless nuclear folly that created a monstrous aberration. Godzilla’s attacks on Tokyo and mainland Japan are mindless, random events meant to resemble a rolling nuclear attack, the likes inflicted on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

 

I can't believe that Godzilla was the only surviving member of its species... But if we continue conducting nuclear tests... it's possible that another Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world again.- Gojira, 1954

 

 

 

Godzilla breathes ATOMIC RADIATION. Images of cities ablaze, citizens crowding hospitals dying of radiation sickness were horrid memories for thousands of Japanese audiences while watching this film. The closest thing we can come to it would be the two post 9-11 films, United 93 and World Trade Center . US audiences sat emotionally wrecked  in these two films throughout theaters across the country. Director Ishiro Honda served in the Japanese army and witnessed a US fire bombing raid on Tokyo. He found a mother huddled with her children between burning buildings, refusing to leave, awaiting the end to join her husband in the afterlife. This scene appears in Gojira, recreated from Honda's memory.

 

 

Monsters are born too tall, too strong, too heavy, that is their tragedy. - Ishiro Honda

 

From the writing to the effects, this was a film of passion from a deeply wounded nation. While Japan rebuilt its devastated cities in the 1950’s and found its way in dealing with the long reaching damages and effects from the nuclear attacks, America was reveling in its victory over Germany and Japan and its newfound status as world leader and sole nuclear power.

 

Godzilla produced in a Japanese studio, is an incredibly awful film. The whole thing is in the category of cheap cinematic horror-stuff, and it is too bad that a respectable theater has to lure children and gullible grown-ups with such fare. - NYT Film Critic Bosley Crowther 1956 assessment of the Amercian edit of Gojira.

 

 

 

Crowther's review is for the Americanized Godzilla: King of the Monsters that will come to the US in 1955-56. While Godzilla was treated seriously in his native Japan, he was released in America as part of a cheap monster movie line up. Henry Saperstein, an American producer and distributor saw potential in big monster movies and bought the rights to distribute Gojira in the US, but would need a few changes to suit American tastes. The film was radically re-edited with all references to America’s responsibility for Godzilla’s creation cut out. Additionally new documentary style scenes were shot around American actor Raymond Burr and the film is seen through his reporter’s eyes, giving a much sanitized view of the monster’s rampage.

 

"This is Tokyo. Once a city of six million people. What has happened here was caused by a force which up until a few days ago was entirely beyond the scope of Man's imagination. Tokyo, a smoldering memorial to the unknown, an unknown which at this very moment still prevails and could at any time lash out with its terrible destruction anywhere else in the world.    - Raymond Burr as reporter Steve Martin, Godzilla King of the Monsters

 

 

The original Japanese language was re-dubbed with American voices-- giving bad lip synching when the characters spoke. This created a comical effect that will become a hallmark of stand up comedy routines for decades to come. In essence we took a serious film and re-edited it into a comedy. Imagine American reaction to another country doing the same radical re-editing to a US movie on the 9-11 attacks or even Pearl Harbor for that matter.

 

You have your fear, which might become reality; and you have Godzilla, which IS reality. - Godzilla King of the Monsters, 1955

 

The 1954 Gojira was a successful movie but Americans were ignorant to the original Japanese version and the dark dispersions it cast upon the United States and the horrors inflicted by American nuclear power. To his credit, Raymond Burr played the movie serious and adds a solemn voice to the hacked up film. Reportedly his scenes were shot in one day, maybe several tops. However his voice and steel glances added credibility to the American version. Burr felt a kinship with the monster and returned thirty years later to the American version of Godzilla 1985, again playing the part seriously while many of the American actors in his scenes played it as buffoons for high camp.

 

 

Nature has a way sometimes of reminding man of just how small he is. She occasionally throws up terrible offspring of our pride and carelessness, to remind us of how puny we really are in the face of a tornado, an earthquake, or a Godzilla. The reckless ambitions of man are often dwarfed by their dangerous consequences. For now, Godzilla -- that strangely innocent and tragic monster -- has gone to earth. Whether he returns, or is never again seen by human eyes, the things he has taught us remain.   - Raymond Burr's Steve Martin, Godzilla 1985

 

Dr. Serizawa shows his fiance, Emiko Yamane something more evil than Godzilla

 

To be sure, Godzilla 1985 (The American version) is not a great film. The Japanese version, entitled The Return of Godzilla was once again superior as New World Pictures removed all anti-American sentiment and considerably toned down the anti-nuclear message of the Japanese film. After all, it was 1985—Reagan was president and he had an Evil Empire in the Soviets to take care of. We couldn’t afford any negativity, even if it came from a Japanese monster movie.

 

Behind the scenes of "Gojira", 1954

 

The American transformation of both Gojira and The Return of Godzilla into the bastardized versions of Godzilla King of the Monsters and Godzilla 1985 were cynical moves for a quick buck in the monster movie genre.  What keeps Godzilla King of the Monsters from falling totally into Cynema is Raymond Burr, and that was something not planned. Godzilla 1985 (the American re-edit) was released in US theaters to make a fast buck off Godzilla’s 30th anniversary (with lots of product placement by Dr. Pepper). It failed but had a healthy run on home video. Unfortunately, the deep cultural messages reflected in the Japanese version were lost again on American audiences.

 

Behind the Scenes, "Gojira", 1954

 

See Godzilla vs. GINO for the next installment of this "Godzilla" article

 

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