The Green Trial: Can Frank Darabont Make 'Godzilla' Matter Again?

Godzilla remake Frank Darabont

Until today, I thought Legendary Pictures' effort to make yet another contemporary Godzilla reboot was a seriously misguided idea. I know that almost 15 years have passed since Roland Emmerich's 1998 take on the reptilian Japanese scream queen hit theaters, but that movie was such a dark, senseless and empty mess that it effectively killed my once fervent love of the big-ass monster genre.   

Okay, so there were other  contributing factors, too, like terrorists in planes who managed to knock down the two largest buildings in New York. When that happens, big mutant lizards don't exactly cut it anymore. But I digress. Emmerich's Godzilla debuted three years before 9/11, and the thing that's most infuriating about the movie is his tiresomely conventional attempt to top the original Japanese movies by just making his reboot bigger, noisier and more Godzilla-ier.  The same goes for Diddy, then Sean Puff Daddy Combs, who contributed an equally bombastic song to the soundtrack, "Come With Me," that, as far as I'm concerned is a sacrilegious use of Jimmy Page's great guitar riff from Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir."  (Page apparently didn't think so at the time. He appeared in the crap-tastic video for the song, which references the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.)

The more ambitious thing to do would have been to mine the campier, Mystery Science Theater 3000-worthy elements of the Godzilla movies, such the Peanuts, the Japanese twin-sister singing group who played the tiny priestesses that were able to communicate with Godzilla's winged rival, Mothra. But who am I kidding? Emmerich doesn't deal in subtlety or wit.

The reality is, that whether it's Emmerich's fault or not, movies about giant mutant creatures terrorizing a city or town don't move the needle anymore unless they think smaller — on a human scale.  J.J. Abrams' Super 8   and the Abrams-produced Matt Reeves-directed Cloverfield worked for that very reason. The monsters in those films were really catalysts for interesting human drama.

To a lesser extent, I felt the same way about Gareth Edwards' Monsters, so my interest was piqued when he was hired to direct Godzilla and, at Comic Con last summer, promised "a grounded and realistic film that isn't particularly sci-fi," according to a CinemaBlend post at the time.

Well, to paraphrase Leonardo DiCaprio's signature line in Django Unchained, Legendary had my curiosity, but now they have my attention with the news, reported by Deadline, that Frank Darabont is rewriting the Godzilla script.  The beauty of The Walking Dead  under Darabont was that the human conflict and relationships taking place over the first two seasons of the AMC series were way more compelling than the creative zombie deaths. Each of the survivors was a distinct, fully fleshed character that I grew to care about over the course of the series, and that made their peril all the more intense and terrifying. Factor in the excellent script Darabont wrote for The Shawshank Redemption and, although the odds are pretty steep, if anyone can make me care about big-ass mutant lizard again, it's him.

[Deadline, CinemaBlend]

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  • Andrew says:

    God I could not disagree with you more. No one cares about the little people in monster movies. They care about the monsters. It's the same line of thinking as the Transformers movies. No one wanted to see Shia Lebouf running around screaming "No", they wanted to see Optimus Prime and Megatron punch each other in the face.

    They wanted to see that SO much that many people got burned 3 times just hoping for a 2 hour movie where robots punched each other in the face and instead got maybe 15 minutes of that and 2 hours of bad whackin' it jokes and racism.

    Cloverfield has some of the most annoying characters on film. I never once believed in them or felt for them. And wanted the guy holding the camera to just shut the hell up. The only reason I watched it was

    Monsters was badly "written" with some of the worst improv acting I've ever seen over a plot that makes absolutely no sense with 3rd rate "dudes are doing it better on Youtube" special fx. It was insulting how bad and lazy that movie was. And smug. You can't look down your effete British nose at America's policies on Mexico while filming Mexican citizens without their permission. That goes so beyond hypocrisy it's almost satire. You want to fear for Godzilla...fear for it because Gareth Edwards sucks and he's going to get his smug taint all over it.

    Now if you were to say "Troll Hunter"...that I would agree with. As I thought all those characters were well developed AND they managed to find a nice balance of "cool troll stuff" with the character moments.

    • Andrew says:

      missed a line.

      *the only reason I watched it was that the sense of dread with the monster was well done and I wanted to see if it ate all of them.

      • Frank DiGiacomo says:

        Andrew, let's agree to disagree, but I have to say your take on Gareth Edwards is quite entertaining. I liked "Monsters" better than that, especially Scoot McNairy.

        • Frank DiGiacomo says:

          I must also add that Roland Emmerich did not get me to fear for Godzilla. He got me to loathe it.

    • Nicholas says:

      Andrew got it COMPLETELY RIGHT. IMHO the 1998 remake a "good" movie. At least I enjoyed it very much.

  • Brooklyn says:

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