The giant Japanese green monster Godzilla is back. So like The Hulk, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, The Addams Family, Alice in Wonderland, Clash of the Titans and so many other familiar properties, Hollywood is going back to the well with a franchise and an easy-sell name. Sigh.
Last time, in 1998, Sony oversold Godzilla as a hulking surefire blockbuster, plastered on gigantor-sized billboards everywhere. But something went terribly wrong with Sony's Roland Emmerich Godzilla. Part of it was that Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park dinosaurs were so much better. Also, Emmerich's sense of scale was off: the thing was too big to be comprehended inside the frame. It wasn't scaleable, somehow. Now, in an ever-expanding CG universe, anything is possible.
Another reason for Legendary and Warner Bros. to add this project to their franchise arsenal: while the 1998 movie, which cost $130 million, was blasted by critics and grossed $136,314,294 domestically, that figure repped just 36 % of its worldwide $242,700,000 total (per Box Office Mojo). That's not so bad. They acquired the rights from Toho studios to make another Hollywood Godzilla movie. Six movies have been made since the 1998 Emmerich film in Japan, and Toho retains the rights for Japanese distribution. Dan Lin (Sherlock Holmes), Roy Lee and 3-D expert Brian Rogers will produce; he was working with producer Kenji Okuhira and writer Yoshimitsu Banno on a 3-D IMAX Godzilla; they have been folded into this project as exec producers, along with Doug Davison.
Also, Legendary genre maven Thomas Tull (who has partnered with Warners on Superman, The Watchmen and the Chris Nolan Batman films) pledges to return to the basics of the original series. "Godzilla is one of the world's most powerful pop culture icons," Tull told Variety, "and we at Legendary are thrilled to be able to create a modern epic based on this long-loved Toho franchise." The reboot is due in 2012.
Godzilla movies fall into three eras over 29 films: Showa, Heisei, and Millennium. The first 1954 Godzilla was released in Japan and sold 9,610,000 tickets. Initially criticized for taking advantage of Japan's nuclear devastation, it was released in America for the first time on DVD in 2006 by Classic Media.
As Patrick Tatopoulos completely redesigned the monster for the 1998 film, which was modeled on a disaster film formula, Tull seems to be heading toward a more conventional Godzilla (will he have atomic breath?), which could mean that the towering beast will battle other giant monsters. Oh joy.
When I tweeted my skepticism today, Drew McWeeny (@DrewAtHitfix) remonstrated with me:
@akstanwyck Emmerich's film was exactly what you're talking about. Corporate. Crass. I'll agree with that.
But Tull's a huge fanboy, and Godzilla is something he's wanted to do his whole life. This one's all about passion.
I think it's worth letting them take their shot and seeing what they come up with. After all... it's not my money.
Meanwhile McWeeny comments on the IESB rumor that Independence Day sequels are on their way, with Will Smith attached. Even the world's biggest movie star must stoop to sequels. The question, as McWeeny points out, is whether the original ID4 duo, Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin, who have gone their separate ways, would come back together for this.
[Additional reporting by Cameron Carlson.]