A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 560 – Godzilla, King of the Monsters!

Godzilla, King of the Monsters! – September 11th, 2011

Given that the running time for this and the original turned out to be so very much shorter than we’d been counting on, it really ended up being not a big deal to watch them back to back. And Andy really wanted to see them together. So we popped it in the night after watching the original. It really does qualify as its own movie, given the nature of the editing done to it. Which I find kind of fascinating. It’s the same story, but restructured a tiny bit and with a brand new character added in. Oh, it’s not a seamless addition. Whenever new guy Steve Martin talks to Emiko, for example, it’s painfully obvious that he was cut into other scenes of her talking, or that he’s speaking to a double whose back is always kept to camera. But that aside, there was an obvious effort to make him a part of the story instead of just a bystander narrating it all.

Now, making this new guy, Steve, the center of the human story is not without problems. For one, he’s a big white American lunk (sorry Raymond Burr fans, it’s true). For two, in order to make him central to the plot he has to be inserted into the relationships that were in the original. Instead of Emiko, her suitor, Ogata, her father, and her friend, Dr. Serizawa, you’ve got the four of them and Steve. And he just seems so out of place. I kept thinking grumbly thoughts about him, like “Why are you there? Leave Emiko alone! She has enough to deal with without worrying about some random American reporter! They figured it all out just fine without you in the other version!” And really, he’s not that bad. He just feels shoehorned into the plot, perhaps because in the original there was no need for a fifth main character. His purpose really seems to be to provide a US “voice” and presence in the movie to make US audiences more comfortable with it somehow.

Otherwise, the movie’s story is largely the same. The monster still attacks boats first, then the villages on the island before moving on to the mainland. People still testify as to the monster’s destructive powers. The monster still kills many and the results of its rampages are still shown. There are still the same main characters – no one’s missing. No one was excised in order to make room for Steve. The major plot points are all in there too. The various attacks, the determination of how old the monster must be. The professor’s desire to study the monster to learn about how it’s survived this long and adapted in the ways that it has. The insistence of others that it must be stopped. The eventual answer – the horrible weapon that might kill it, but also cause untold horrors as a side effect. It’s all there. But truncated.

It should be noted that this movie is a full 16 minutes shorter than the original. And that’s with all the extra US reporter stuff added in. I’m sure someone has done a scene by scene comparison between the two movies but there’s no denying that there’s material that’s been cut out. I suspect a large part of it is in the editing of each scene. Where the original lingers over shots, letting the visuals have time to speak for themselves, the US edit flips between shots much faster. It doesn’t change the pacing of the whole movie all that much, since everything still happens in the same order. But it is noticeable. What does change the pacing more for me is the addition of scenes of American reporters talking to Steve and trying to get details on the story. Those made me feel like the movie was both rushed and interrupted at the same time.

While the US edit didn’t shy away from showing the horrors of the monster’s attacks, it did feel as though less time was spent on it all. What’s frustrating about that is that it diminishes the power of the allegory. I suspect that these edits were done strategically, but I don’t have to like them just because they were done with purpose and intent. That being said, there were things I did like about the movie. Amazingly enough, it really does serve many of the same purposes as the original and I’m very glad that the allegory wasn’t lost in the editing room. Yes, it was diminished a little, but not lost. And that could easily have happened if the additional character had been handled clumsily or if key scenes were removed without much thought. But that didn’t happen.

A whole hell of a lot was kept the way it was in the original, such as the fantastic music. Bizarrely enough, they even kept the large majority of Japanese dialogue, but didn’t dub or subtitle it. Not that I like dubbing or think it would have been a good choice for this movie, but I could have seen it happening. But no, there’s a lot of Japanese, and left with no translation. What strikes me as odd there is that there was an effort to make this movie relate-able to a US audience but then vast swaths of Japanese language lines were left in without any way for people who only speak English to know what, specifically, is being said. I suppose it could have been because it was all deemed not quite important enough to subtitle for, it just struck me as odd. Still, even with that and Steve and the editing, it’s a far better and more serious monster movie than most that came after it.

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September 11, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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