Like the catchphrase says, “haters gonna hate”, but the King of monsters couldn’t care less. Gareth Edwards’ reboot of one the most popular franchises in the history of Japanese sci-fi films has already destroyed the box office using its signature atomic breath (and some brand new marketing tools). As for fans and detractors, they are busy comparing Godzilla and Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim in endless flame wars, and keep on arguing about which is the best fight among those involving kaiju.
Watch out! Landmine of SPOILERS ahead.
To be frank, I think that the film faces several problems related to the script. Some are listed here, others specifically involve the space characters are given on screen (see Brian Cranston/Joe Brody’s early depart) or how ineffectively the actors play their roles (I guess Ken Watanabe/Serizawa’s dazzled gaze will be remembered for years). Despite this, Godzilla maintains its promise: absolutely credible CGI monsters that suck radiations and wrestle as if there were no tomorrow.
The flaws have not stopped the buzz around the film, they might actually have fuelled it further. The promotional campaign has indeed been designed to share all things Godzilla, and just when everything seemed to be cleared and uncovered, tireless fans have started to hunt for more hidden details. All eyes are currently on the redacted opening credits, but the buzz has cleverly been fed over the past few years. It reached a peak with the viral marketing campaign, when mysterious short videos carefully spread online were gathered on the M.U.T.O. Research project.
The campaign also exploited the launch of the Godzilla Encounter website, which in a first phase provided some teasing news about anomalous activities taking place in the ocean, and then worked as a place where fans could show some love for their beloved “gorilla whale”. Images also played with real events in a timeline linked to Godzilla’s sightings, such as the following:
Content related to the film was then designed to be spread online at all levels: gamers could easily share their experience playing Godzilla-related games, such as Strike Zone, Crisis Defence, or Smash 3; the monster’s voice was sampled on Soundcloud; fans could customize their own posters or perform the infamous “roar”. Let’s not forget remixes (here is Mike Relm’s version), and cross-promotional campaigns (I guess you’re at least familiar with this spot for the Fiat 500L). Major late-night talk shows also played with their audience by pretending that Godzilla really existed – with these exhilarating answers:
On a less playful level, Edwards’ film is more mindful of Fukushima’s recent nuclear disaster than of WW2’s atomic bombings, to which the awakening of the monster was traditionally linked. Yet this Godzilla has managed to pay homage to the origins of the iconic creature by incorporating footage depicting nuclear tests, which, we are told, were covered attempts to kill it.
In so doing, recent history is re-written under the light of an external player (the monster) that shaped the destiny of mankind, removing the moral consequences of using weapons of mass destruction from the hands of human beings (we are allowed to nuke it because it is a monster).
This is a choice of storytelling that Godzilla shares with another hot blockbuster of this cinematographic season. I’ll discuss it in more detail in a dedicated post on X-Men: Days Of Future Past, so stay tuned.