"There is so much writing in English on Japanese cinema that can't be accepted at face value — not because the writers are careless, but because the differences in culture and language are just too intricate. When I see August Ragone's name on a piece of writing, it gives me permission to place my faith in it completely. Among Japanese fantasy film historians, he's the best working in English." —Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Will G's Japanese Heart Be Lost In Translation?


Fan-made poster where 2014 is seen via 1954 eyes by Ivan Griscenko.

Now, I can be pretty outspoken because I generally have a very well-informed opinion when it comes to Japanese Cinema & Pop Culture, especially in considering their Fantasy Films, and while I certainly do champion them, I also bare no outright distain for their Stateside counterparts, either (well, mostly). As I've said numerous times, both publicly and privately, the reason why I enjoy these films, is because they are Japanese to begin with. And at the core, it is their inherent Japaneseness that which appeals to me the most.

Many American Godzilla fans, but not all of them, tend to latch on to anything stamped "Godzilla" (be it a stilted animated series or some horribly sculpted hunk of plastic), because they are hungry for any and all things related to the Big G. Yes, I do realize that the Japanese have already metamorphosed and anthropomorphized the character over the years (but it's their character in the first place). The same fans, meanwhile, are seemingly intolerant when it comes to the Japanese doing the same (i.e., Toei's SPIDER-MAN series).

Recently, I have been asked, over and over, what are my thoughts on the upcoming Legendary Pictures production. Firstly, I'm reserved (or "optimistically cautious"), because I like my kaiju eiga to be Japanese productions; even if it's the godawful, unwatchable GODZILLA FINAL WARS. I have no doubt that everyone involved on this production is doing their damnedest to make the best film possible, and technically and visually, it will be phenomenal. But, the strike against it is, that once removed from being Japanese, will the beast lose the heart of what makes it tick? The 1998 disaster proved that in spades.

With all that being said, I'm not close-minded nor stodgy enough to refuse to see it. Of course, I will see it (I'm hosting an opening night screening at Big Wow! ComicFest). The only thing that matters is what's up on that big screen, and no hopes or wishes can change that. Yes, Virginia, 10,000 American Godzilla fans can be wrong. As they were 16 years ago. Gareth Edwards is a good man, and is an up and coming director of talent, of this no one one deny — but we must also remember that this is a big studio picture and he doesn't have full creative control. Hollywood kitchens today have too many cooks.

So, what about the average Joe Blows out there? Are they ready for a mega-budget Godzilla film in the first place? Or does the Emmerich & Devlin Debacle still have a stranglehold on the public's consciousness? Is it still "too soon"? One thing's for certain, the people behind this new film have not only the legacy of Ishiro Honda and Eiji Tsuburaya to uphold and respect, but also they have to supersede and remove the blemish left by the horrendous Tristar Disaster. So, the task is nothing less than monumental for all concerned.

No matter what happens, be it glorious or apocalyptic, I'm not placing all of my hopes and dreams on this one film. Would I like to behold something as creatively and spiritually successful as Guillermo del Toro's PACIFIC RIM? Yes, of course I would. Still, for better or worse, the original Japanese films continue to capture the imaginations of new generations — the world over — and will continue to do so for years to come, regardless of what future Godzillas may bring.

1 comment:

Daniel "Dax" Books said...

I know how you feel, I am going to have a wait and see attitude and go see the film with out any preconceived expectations and with out having the previous incarnations prejudice my opinions. I think Godzilla,much like Doctor Who has evolved to where it is now a cross cultural icon.