You've probably heard there's a new "Godzilla" coming, and the pointy fella's not looking to give humanity a hug. The last time this happened on a large scale, with the 1998 "Godzilla" remake, I yawned, dragged my butt over to the theater to watch Matthew Broderick go to battle, and left feeling thoroughly unimpressed.
I have memories of weekend mornings as a child, hiding behind a pillow as my brother and I watched old black-and-white monster movies on television. "The Deadly Mantis" was particularly terrifying, but I always got a thrill when spiny-backed Godzilla showed up, rising out of the waves, hauling a desperate nuclear legacy behind him. It didn't matter if he was stomping on cities or going at it with Mothra. Godzilla was a star of my childhood movie memories.
It's hard for slick modern films with overloaded GGI graphics to rekindle the visceral sensations of watching these movies as a kid. But the trailer for the new "Godzilla" is as close as I've come since I reached adulthood.
There are some interesting choices going on in the trailer, not the least of which is Bryan Cranston's hirsute head. As a resident of Albuquerque and a "Breaking Bad" fan, I have an immediate fondness for any production Cranston is in. I have a sort of blind faith that he'll pick a solid script and that "Godzilla" will be good based solely on his decision to show up for filming.
Cranston is all over the trailer. He's growling, "You're not fooling anybody when you say what happened was a natural disaster. You're lying!" Shivers. There's something rising up out the water. The torch arm has been ripped from the Statue of Liberty. There's a big fat reference to the original 1954 film. There's a nuclear explosion, so we know it's not going to leave that crucial part of the legend out of the mix. These are all promising signs.
It doesn't look like there will be any scrimping on the special effects. We see CGI all over the place in the ruined cityscapes and airplane crashes, but I'm fostering a belief that it will all be in the service of a strong core story with a human connection I'll actually care about. Because, Bryan Cranston.
The trailer could have played coy with us. It could have gone all "Cloverfield," but instead we get a pretty good glimpse at Godzilla's screaming maw. This is totally the right call, because everybody knows what Godzilla looks like. There's no use in trying to hide it.
My "Godzilla" optimism could turn out to be misplaced, but my hopes for this movie are running strong. We could just look at this as another dark reboot in the ongoing trend of dark reboots, a la "Batman Begins." But the thing is, it's hard to get much darker than the original 1954 Japanese "Godzilla." I'm not talking about the re-cut 1956 Americanized version with Raymond Burr, which was released as "Godzilla, King of the Monsters!"
Before the new film comes out on May 16, it's worth going back to the beginning, which I plan to do. It's worth revisiting the fear, the sense of uncontrolled power, and the aftermath of nuclear scars left on Japan, all expressed by a beast that rose out of the sea and broke through the fragile constructs of mankind. These thematic goals may be too lofty for a Hollywood blockbuster, but I hope the new "Godzilla" at least strives to touch that primal part of us that still wonders what lurks deep beneath the waves.