Over the course of writing Lost in Translation, I’ve seen movies that caught the core of works perfectly and I’ve seen movies that missed the target to the degree of not even being in the same ballpark. It’s easy enough in the latter case to point out just what went so horribly wrong. Is it possible to redeem those movies, to take what went wrong and put it right? With some movies, it is, and the Fix-It Shop will explore those possibilities. With this inaugural entry, I will go back to the 1998 Godzilla.
The 1998 Godzilla had many problems, but only really went off the rails when Zilla reached New York City. Prior to that point, the movie played out as the original Gojira had, with the monster being hinted at instead of shown. When Zilla appears, then problems start. The obvious fixes were done in the 2014 Godzilla, keeping the focus on Godzilla. Even with the human element being front and centre, Godzilla’s battle with the MUTOs were still the central conflict. With that fixed, what can be done with the rest of the 1998 film?
The core problem with the latter half of the ’98 Godzilla was the shift in tone and genre. The first half was a kaiju movie. The second half added action and comedy, taking focus away from Zilla. Yet, that element could work in its own movie, away from Godzilla. Having the most famous kaiju off the poster frees up expectations. The entire subplot involving the Direction génèral de la sécurité extérieure* is now available on its own. Jean Reno is too good to waste.
In Godzilla, the French Directorate had a division set up for the research and containment of kaiju and was more prepared for Zilla than either the Japanese or the Americans. The agent in charge, Philippe Roaché, played by Reno, managed to protray himself as an insurance investigator and as an American soldier**. Let’s take him and his team and change their approach just a little. After the events in New York, the existance of giant monsters is no longer a secret. When a major American metropolis with several media headquarters, from television to print, gets trashed and evacuated, it’s news. Even in 1998, the twenty-four hour news cycle existed, with CNN being the major outlet. Roaché needs a new way to research while keeping his connections to the Directorate hidden. Anyone who sees him or his team may remember him from New York.
The solution? A front company, funded by the Directorate, that investigates kaiju sightings. The company can’t be Fortune 500; monster hunting has never been portrayed as profitable in TV or movies. Sam and Dean of Supernatural make money through credit card scams. The Ghostbusters put all their earnings into maintenance and paying fines. Roaché’s company, thus, is a small one, using grants for the most part as it develops anti-kaiju weaponry and hunts giant monsters. Having no official government status means the team must get into sites under attack through subterfuge, allowing Roaché to be an insurance investigator, a military officer, a university researcher, and anything else needed.
Tone will be key. As mentioned above, the latter half of Godzilla changed genre without a clutch, becoming an action comedy. The change was dissonant in the ’98 film, but if the new movie – let’s give it the working title Kaiju Hunters – starts as such, with the team in action against a lawyer-friendly version of a known giant monster, then the audience won’t have a problem with the approach. Ideally, the tone of Kaiju Hunters should be along the lines of Ghostbusters, Arachnophobia, and Tremors; a bit of horror, a bit of comedy, a bit of action, and monsters.
Casting will be important. Matthew Broderick was an odd choice and looked out of place in the 1998 film. Broderick is better known for comedies, not action. Given the change in tone above, he might fit in better, the field researcher brought into the company at the end thanks to the events during Kaiju Hunters. This will give the audience the outsider viewpoint to follow to learn about the company and its secrets. The rest of the cast are company employees, either hired on as staff or assigned by the Directorate.
Will Kaiju Hunters be successful? The ultimate question, with no easy answer. There’s no real built-in draw, unlike Godzilla of any year. Reno and Broderick aren’t household names. It may come down to budget. Is Kaiju Hunters blockbuster material? No. A lower budget may make the movie profitable, though. It will be a balancing act, finding a way to draw in audiences without needing an Avengers-sized number of people watching. What do you think? What would you do to fix the 98 Godzilla?
Next week, the December news round up.
* The French intelligence service, literally, the General Directorate for External Security
** Albeit, based on Elvis Presley.