By: Dan Grant
“Hey, I’m going to be going to Montreal on the Victoria Day weekend,” said Daniel Reynolds. “So I guess we’ll have to scrap that Godzilla review. Can you think of anything to fill the space?”
“Well hey now! I like Godzilla. Why don’t I just give it shot?” I stupidly replied.
“OK man. If you want to do it, go for it. I’ll get my Mad Men column done for the Tuesday, and the Godzilla one can go Monday. Sound good?” Reynolds asked.
“Yessir, sounds good to me!” I said with winning smile. The smile of a confident idiot.
“Gojirais a portmanteau of the Japanese words: gorira ( “gorilla“), and kujira (“whale“), which is fitting because in one planning stage, Godzilla was described as “a cross between a gorilla and a whale,” alluding to his size, power and aquatic origin.”
The Gorilla Whale!
Now, this isn’t my first movie review. I used to write them sometimes for my university newspaper (shout to the Sputnik!) and I’ve actually even written one for Same Page before, about Anchorman 2. However, it was set to be my first ‘conventional’ review. I wrote the Anchorman ‘review’ as a ‘preview’, outlining my hopes and dreams for the film, rather than actually seeing it and telling you fine folks what my opinions were. More on this later.
I decided to sit down and make a list of steps so that I wouldn’t mess anything up. I used the assistance of my friend Sir Wilfred Google (of the famous Munich Google’s) and found a handy list of 6 steps!
1. Do your preliminary research. What is the films relationship with its audience? What genre does the film fit into?
This version of Godzilla is the 29th official incorporation of the monster into a full length feature film. While King Kong (1933) may have pioneered the ‘giant creature/fish out of water’ movie, at least, in popular film, Godzilla (1954) was the first film that had an unexplained monster wreaking absolute havoc; people running for their lives, skyscrapers being destroyed etc.
My relationship with Godzilla began when I was 13. The now widely panned Godzilla (1998) starring Matthew Broderick was released. It attempted to capitalize on the popularity of the Jurassic Park franchise by making Godzilla into a dinosaur-like creature that actually turned out to be female (or possibly asexual). This movie was a commercial success, with a giant opening weekend and 380 million dollar worldwide gross against a 130 million dollar budget. However, the plot was bland and boring, starting with Godzilla him/herself. Nobody liked the monster. Nobody. In nerdlinger circles, this version is now simply referred to as ‘Zilla, with the ‘God’ removed. Pretty telling.
I remember thinking the movie was fine, if not great. I remember my dad thinking it was a pile of junk. I remember then returning home, that very same night, to find Space was running a marathon of the old Gozilla movies from the 60’s and 70’s. They wound up doing this a lot over the next few months. Each Saturday night, after midnight, I sat and watched as Godzilla battled Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah, Mechagodzilla and Anguirus, teaming up with the various giant monsters at certain points, battling them at others. The special effects were cheesy and the plots sometimes hard to follow but these movies all had something that the ’98 version lacked. You liked the monster. Godzilla was the star of the show. This is the key to a good Godzilla movie.
2. Come up with an angle. Everybody and their brother are going to be writing reviews of most movies. What makes yours different?
“Hey Daniel,” I started.
“Yes Dan?” Daniel Reynolds replied.
“I’ve been thinking about that Godzilla review. i think I’m going to do something a bit different,” I said smugly.
“Ooookay,” he said, taking a deep breath. “I am both wary and interested. Carry on. Oh one other thing: I’m not going to be back from Montreal until the Monday evening. Could we run your Godzilla column Monday? No worries if not.”
“Yeah sure!” I replied, again stupidly, full of quiet, ill-advised confidence, “No problem at all!”
3. Make sure you pre-scout the film. Some people preach going in to a movie blind but especially for blockbusters, the trailers, the media coverage; it’s all a part of the experience.
The build up for the 2014 version of Godzilla has been immense. It’s grossed 93 million on its opening weekend and is being cited as one of the best Godzilla films in recent memory.
I remember seeing this trailer back around Christmas. It hooked me immediately. It was everything the 1998 version of the movie wasn’t. Manic, visually impressive; it had what I wanted in a new Godzilla movie. Like the best parts of Cloverfield and Pacific Rim, aptly described by Grantland’s Alex Pappedemas as “Godzilla movies that just didn’t happen to star Godzilla,” the absolute pandemonium throughout the trailer gave me hope. Using a lone soldier’s terror filled perspective was also effective.
As the build-up continued, more and more positive details came to light. Bryan Cranston was in a major role, his first since Breaking Bad. Pre-screenings were going well; critics and audiences alike praised the newest version of the monster, as well as the films acting, plot and direction.
A second trailer is what finally sold me, once and for all. This was a badass version of Godzilla that I couldn’t wait to see.
4. Try and write a rough outline at least a couple days before the final product. It helps with self-editing and might help you eliminate any ‘crazy’ ideas you have that don’t totally ‘work’.
INT. A DIMLY LIT COFFEE SHOP IN WEST HOLLYWOOD, 2:00AM
“So has he called you?” Mothra asked, looking at the plant. Where had he seen that thing before?
Ghidorah has a cup on the table for each of his three heads. All three simultaneously leaned in to take a long sip.
“No. No he hasn’t called. What about you Rodan?” the middle head spoke for all three.
Folding his wings neatly behind him, Rodan pushed his glasses up on the bridge of his nose “No, I haven’t heard from him either. And I have to say, I’m pretty disappointed”.
Mothra sighed, taking a bit out of his bearclaw. “Have you been in touch with any of the others?” he asked.
Rodan stretched wearily. “Well Anguirus is the only one really left and he’s pissed. They haven’t really been in touch for years, but those guys used to be best friends! I know we should be happy for him, but it’s hard to see him hogging the monster movie corner. You had those movies in the 90’s Mots, but the rest of us, we thought that we came back for Final Wars in 2004, that would be the beginning of something! Now it’s been ten years, and I’m back waiting tables…”
King Ghidorah appeared to be in the middle of an argument with himself. “We should have moved back to Japan!” His left head snarled.
“No!” said the right, “We’ve been gone too long. This is our home now.”
“Shut up both of you!” said the middle head. “We’re not going back to Japan. We’re staying here in Hollywood. We have to be ready if he calls!”
Mothra signed again. Just another night as an out of work monster in Hollywood. He flipped open the newspaper and saw a giant ad for the new Godzilla movie again. They were everywhere.
“That guy is such a jerk!”
“What? Who said that?” Mothra looked around.
“I’m right here you ass!” The voice appeared to be coming from the weird looking plant that had been on their table when they sat down. It’s leaves parted and revealed a small head with razor sharp teeth.
“Wait, is that….” Rodan stuttered.
“Yes, it’s me! BIOLLANTE!” The plant yelled triumphantly.
“The nuclear plant from the 80’s? What they hell are you doing here?” King Ghidorah’s heads spoke in unison.
“Well I thought it might be nice to see the old gang,” Biollante started. “And I’ve got a can’t miss investment opportunity that you might be interested in…”
“Go on” said Rodan.
Mothra sighed. Had it really come to this? Maybe he’d go up to Big Bear and see what Mechagodzilla was up to these days. The guy was a bit ‘robotic’ but it couldn’t be worse.
5. Go see the movie and follow through with your plan. Enjoy!
“Hello wife of mine!” I said to my wife. “So I’m doing this article for Same Page about the new Godzilla movie. It comes out next weekend. Want to go with me?”
“Sure!’ she said with a smile. “But remember, it’s JP’s birthday that Friday, so it’ll have to be Saturday or Sunday. That work?”
“Definitely, let’s say Saturday.”
“Hey honey, I just realized, I’ve got tickets for Horsey Craze on Saturday with Dennis. Would it be OK if we went and saw Godzilla on Sunday instead?” I asked.
“Sure! No problem at all!” she said. “Does that give you enough time to write your article?”
“Oh yeah, I’ll be fine. What could go wrong?” I smiled sweetly, stupidly, dumbly.
“OK, so when should we go?”
“It’s on at 6:50 at Yonge and Dundas? In IMAX!”
So we walked to Yonge and Dundas. The weather was fine, all was right in the world. We walked in to… absolute mayhem. Literally every human being still in the city had the same idea. Lines were significant. We arrived at 6:15, thinking we had plenty of time. 20 minutes of waiting later, we were finally at a self-serve screen, punching in our selection. IMAX has assigned seating, with blue seats as those available and red as those already sold. Quickly scanning the available seats, we were limited to the front row. We took a minute to discuss this. A gentlemen behind us in line did not appreciate out indecision
“Hey guys, move it along! It isn’t rocket surgery!”
We ended up going for it… but too late.
‘The seats you have selected are currently unavailable”
The next show wasn’t until 9:50 and we needed to get out of that meat market. I won’t bore you with details but tensions were running high. Married life!
“OK my dear” my extremely understanding and supportive wife said. “I know you need to see this movie, so why don’t we go home and get the car and then we can drive up to Fairview Mall or Eglinton Town Centre and see it later, at like 8.”
“OK great idea!” I said stupidly.
So we hopped in the car and we got to Eglinton Town Centre for 7:30. The movie was starting at 8:15, so we thought we’d be fine for time.
Sold Out. Next show at 10:45
This was no longer funny.
We scanned movie times again. There was a 9 o’clock show at Fairview Mall but we didn’t think we’d have time. It was showing in IMAX at North York Center at 9:30; we decided to go for it.
We call ahead. “Yes, they are plenty of seats available!” the cheery employee said over the phone.
We get there, pay for parking, take the elevator up.
“Two for Godzilla in IMAX at 9:30 please”, I said, somewhat brusquely.
“Oh. I’m sorry sir, but didn’t you see the signs?” The employee said nervously, perhaps sensing my barely contained rage.
“Noooo? What signs?” I asked, trying to keep calm.
“Our IMAX projector has actually broken down. They’re not sure what’s wrong with it. Unfortunately, we can’t show the IMAX version again tonight”.
A collective groan from the married couple.
“OK, are you showing a regular version?” my lovely wife asked.
“Well yes ma’am, but I’m afraid that’s sold out”
The clock read 9:15.
“Should we head back to Eglinton Town Centre? There was a 10:45 show there” I ask feebly.
“OK my darling,” my extremely understanding, supportive and attractive wife acquiesced.
So we jump in the car and make it back to Eglinton Town at sonic speed. It’s 9:38 after we park. We haven’t eaten in hours. Tensions are again running a bit high, to say the least. We were an hour early. It was a super late show. This should have been fine. That was when we walked in and saw the flashing red sign next to Godzilla:
6. Have your editor read your article and offer his thoughts and opinions.
‘So wait, you didn’t actually see the movie?!” Daniel Reynolds asked incredulously.
“Well, I was trying to work an angle. I think this review really has everything!” I sputtered.
“But you didn’t see the movie!” He said again, disbelievingly.
“I know. A minor oversight” I looked away.
“OK Dan. I think we’ll leave the movie reviews to me in the future”. He said, disgusted.
“I think that would be best.”