Godzilla Trailer Shows Hollywood Hasn't Learned From Failed Foreign Remakes of the Past
It's pretty clear that Hollywood is running out of ideas for great films. Every summer we get the same old stuff -- movies adapted from young adult novels, comic book films, rebooted franchises, and some big blockbusters featuring CGI zombies, vampires, aliens, robots, or monsters.
Most of those films don't bother me, but the recent trailer for Legendary Pictures' upcoming Godzilla movie highlights a kind of increasingly common film that I detest: the foreign remake.
Paratroopers descend into a city being ravaged by the new Godzilla. Source: Teaser trailer.
Watering down foreign films for a domestic audience
Ever since the 1990s, there has been a surge in Hollywood remakes of foreign films from Europe and Asia. The logic fueling these remakes is simple -- the original film's concept worked in its home country, and American audiences are mostly unfamiliar with foreign films.
That idea wouldn't be bad if those remakes were labors of love.
However, they're usually not -- they often suck the life out of the original and give American audiences an empty husk of a movie. Simply take a look at some of the critical response to the major foreign remakes over the past two decades.
Original Film (year)
Rotten Tomatoes rating
U.S. Remake (year)
Rotten Tomatoes rating
Un indien dans la ville (1994)
Jungle 2 Jungle (1997)
Infernal Affairs (2002)
The Ring (2002)
Not all of these remakes were terrible. On its own, Martin Scorsese's The Departed is a decent film, although it doesn't match the slick production values of the original Hong Kong film, Infernal Affairs.
However, other films, like The Ring, The Grudge, and other Asian horror remakes are often lazy scene-by-scene remakes of the original films.
That's why we need to ask the following question about Godzilla...
Why Godzilla, and why now?
The recently released teaser trailer for Godzilla doesn't reveal much -- some soldiers parachute into a ruined city, people run around frantically, and we catch a brief glimpse of Godzilla. The film also stars some respected actors like Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass), and Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai).
It's written by three screenwriters, including Frank Darabont -- the writer of acclaimed films such as The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and Saving Private Ryan. Meanwhile, director Gareth Edwards helmed the critically acclaimed Monsters (2010), an alien monster movie htat cleverly obscured the actual monsters until the final scene of the film.
That kind of creative muscle suggests that Godzilla will be a more human-centered, serious film than its Japanese predecessors, which have been in constant production between 1954 and 2004.
That's the biggest problem -- why should Godzilla even be a serious film? People who love Godzilla want to see Godzilla duke it out with Mothra and Mechagodzilla while stomping a city into rubble.
Godzilla shouldn't be about soldiers and scientists planning to take down the monsters to minimize civilian casualties -- it should be about the childish joy of watching big monsters smash things.
We've been down this road before
Hollywood already made this mistake once with Sony's critically panned 1998 film Godzilla. That film, from Independence Day director Roland Emmerich, sucked out all the joy from the original franchise and replaced it with a poorly conceived clone of Jurassic Park.
In Emmerich's film, there weren't any other monsters for Godzilla to tangle with -- it was just a really big "dinosaur" (along with smaller ones that resembled the raptors from Jurassic Park) chasing people around New York.
However, the movie was still profitable -- it grossed $379 million in global box office sales on a production budget of $130 million.
Compare that to Godzilla 2000, which was released the following year in Japan. The film was hilarious, surreal, and absurd, but delivered all the classic scenes that Emmerich's film failed to give American audiences -- Godzilla slugging it out with an imperfect clone of itself, the destruction of Tokyo, and an over-the-top ending with Godzilla continuing his rampage through the city.
The Japanese film only cost $8.3 million to produce, but grossed $15 million during its box office run. More importantly, it was better received by critics than Emmerich's film -- with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 57% compared to Emmerich's 25%.
Some may argue that's merely the difference between a D and an F, but it still shows that critics and audiences generally prefer a hilarious Godzilla to a brooding one. Marvel (now part of Disney ) made these mistakes before as well with its two Incredible Hulk films, which were released by Comcast's Universal Studios. In both films, Bruce Banner kept brooding about the implications of his powers when all audiences wanted him to do was get mad, turn green, and roar, "HULK SMASH!" (which he finally did near the end of the second film).
A final thought
Don't get me wrong -- Godzilla, which is set to be released in May 2014, will likely be a box office blockbuster. Lots of people might even enjoy it.
Yet in my opinion, this is just another example of Hollywood sucking the life out of another storied franchise to generate some easy box office sales. Has the success of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy now made it inappropriate to inject some silly fun into sci-fi, fantasy, or comic book reboots?
What do you think, dear readers? Has Hollywood lost its ability to make "fun" films with an incessant need to ground even the most fantastical films in reality? Let me know in the comments section below!
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The article Godzilla Trailer Shows Hollywood Hasn't Learned From Failed Foreign Remakes of the Past originally appeared on Fool.com.Fool contributor Leo Sun owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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