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