What's green and scaly, breathes fire, and eats raw fish?
No, not Lady Gaga. (Not yet, anyhow.) Alert the coast guard, Mothra, and monster-movie aficionados because ... Godzilla's back! Again.
Since 1954 the Toho Company's Godzilla franchise has spawned 28 films. Now Legendary Pictures has struck a deal with Toho to produce a 21st-century Godzilla reboot due out in 2012. It will pay tribute to the pop culture icon's Japanese Gojira roots rather than 2012 director Roland Emmerich's much maligned 1998 Godzilla (starring Matthew Broderick, Hank Azaria, and Jean Reno). Said Thomas Tull, Legendary CEO, "Our plans are to produce the Godzilla that we, as fans, would want to see."
While that sounds spectacularly promising, with the Emmerich flop in mind we'd like mention a few 1998 Godzilla mistakes to avoid (in case anyone at Legendary is listening).
1. Murderous or misunderstood?
Godzilla's an asexual reptile who only squashes people when provoked -- any real estate damage is accidental. More maternal than murderous, his instincts drive him to score a nest and some sashimi for his brood. Then again, his raptor-like little 'uns seem set on devouring every fishy-smelling human in sight. So ... which is it? Are Godzilla and his kin misunderstood monsters or bloodthirsty menaces? Ideally Godzilla 2012 will have more clarity.
2. More fireball.
It's his trademark. So why does Godzilla '98 hardly blast his fiery breath? And are his kids too tiny to cough up a fireball or two?
3. Less Jurassic Park.
True, Godzilla's from the Jurassic period (according to Gojira) but does that excuse his uncanny resemblance to Jurassic Park's T-Rex, or the goofy gumball scenes that seem to pass raptors off for Godzilla toddlers? Especially now, with Hollywood's CGI skills as good as they are, we expect a uniquely fantastic 2012 Godzilla.
4. Get Godzilla a lawyer.
Well, maybe not a lawyer, but at least a scientific advocate. Even if the military hadn't deduced he was intelligent (he inherently knows how to redirect submarine missiles), wouldn't ANYONE lobby to study him? A needed foil to the military's pugnacious perspective, such a champion would bring ethical conflict to a movie that's pivotal moral question is whether or not it's cool to double-cross your ex for a news scoop. A Jerry Lewis-esque "Worm Guy" that's too wussy, oblivious, and under-qualified to defend the colossal creature doesn't count.
5. Atmosphere's essential.
Despite the now laughably cheesy special effects, 1954's WWII-inspired Gojira oozed dread and terror, etched in the expressions of shipwreck survivors and children cowering from Godzilla's wrath. 1998's redo, however, vacillates between corniness, astonishment, and confusion -- none of which manages enough traction to cultivate a captivating atmosphere.
6. It's Godzilla, not When Niko Reunited With Audrey.
This is Godzilla's star vehicle, so stop blocking his spotlight with mundane rom-com side stories, cardboard caricatures, and lukewarm coffee jokes. Tell us more about the beast behind the guttural roar. Or simply dazzle us with more of his devastating abilities.
7. Size matters.
Godzilla's as tall as a skyscraper, yet he can squeeze into a subway tunnel? Scale that makes sense matters.
8. Work the landscape.
What, no Godzilla clash with the Statue of Liberty? Wherever Godzilla 2012's stomping ground is, filmmakers, please make the most of it.
9. Tribute with a twist.
Lastly, here's a suggestion: As much as fans adore old-school Godzilla, perhaps it's possible to stay true to the soul of the franchise while shaking things up a bit. Perhaps introduce a radioactive Big Man Japan? Or use Godzilla as a green energy source (with Al Gore as the Godzilla whisperer that tames him).