Godzilla and Hollywood never really gelled in the way you’d expect. One’s a skyscraper-sized dinosaur with a penchant for punching other monsters in the face; the other’s an industry that adores skyscraper-sized dinosaur punches. Somehow, the two never had that perfect meet-cute. And the one time Hollywood (and Roland Emmerich) got a shot at the big green guy, the results were, well, less than stellar. As it stands, our greatest contribution to Godzilla lore is probably the 1992 Nike ad, “Godzilla vs. Charles Barkley,” and the later comic book adaptation that followed.
But all that will change (hopefully) with Gareth Edwards‘ reboot of the classic monster franchise, the simply titled Godzilla, which today gets its very first teaser trailer. As a tease, everything comes together in a concise, 500-foot tall package. It may be a little lengthy as far as teasers go, clocking in at two minutes and twenty-one seconds, but the majority of the trailer is a single sequence – a group of soldiers making a HALO jump (think military parachuting) and promptly freaking the hell out as they see how much destruction a single Godzilla can wreak. From there, we’ve got quick cuts of each cast member looking up in horror at something off-screen, and then…well, just see for yourself.
Edwards describes his take on Godzilla thusly: “To me, he’s like a force of nature, like the wrath of God or vengeance for the way we’ve behaved. If this really happened, it would be like Sept. 11.” And in this trailer, the September 11 imagery comes in loud and clear – demolished buildings, children being evacuated from schools (something I’m intimately familiar with, having been in elementary school in 2001), and plenty of military imagery. The bodies littered around the demolished train are an especially nice touch, promising to show the human cost of a catastrophic monster attack.
We’re at a point where every other movie that’s released gets a gritty reboot, but in Godzilla‘s case, it works. In the original, the monster represented the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Now, the American Godzilla’s become a fitting metaphor for an American tragedy (although set photos hinting at a Japanese power plant suggest that the creature has ties to the 2011 Fukushima meltdown as well).
But wait, there’s more! In honor of the G-man’s new American debut (and his first new film in ten years), a viral marketing campaign has sprung up along the furthest reaches of the internet. Found here, one can access something called a M.U.T.O. Terminal, and click around in some kind of top-secret network grid. There’s not a whole lot to be found besides a lot of ominous secrecy (and a few references to something called “monarch” which may or may not be relevant at all), but typing in “Ken Watanabe” redirects to “Dr. Serizawa,” so the Japanese actor might just be playing the same scientist who destroyed Godzilla in the 1954 original. Typing “Jet Jaguar” and “SKREEONK” into the terminal is also worth a chuckle or two. There’s also a series of M.U.T.O videos that can be found below, although each one is little more than a shot from the teaser trailer outfitted with some fuzz and transmission errors.
There are also a few images that have been making the viral rounds as well, but again, there’s not a whole lot to be seen. Just sinkholes and the occasional M.U.T.O. logo.
By going the viral marketing route, Godzilla draws comparison to a couple of recent monster flicks – Cloverfield and Super 8. Both had labyrinthine marketing campaigns that weaved whole films’ worth of material into obscure websites, soft drink manufacturers, and a blog about rare fish that’s since been taken down. For Cloverfield and Super 8, viral marketing was a way to build up excitement for a disappointing product. Cloverfield was too found-footage heavy, forcing us to spend far too much time with its thinly-drawn characters and almost no time with the sea beast stomping around NYC. Super 8, at least, had a cast of charismatic Goonies-like youth adventurers, but the monster was a mess; a ravenous flesh-eating creature that could also psychically will people to let go of their grief over a dead mother. More importantly, neither monster was particularly innovative- both were a similar take on some kind of bat/spider hybrid thing.
Godzilla, at least, has a tried-and-true monster. The 9/11 imagery and the updated design seem to be up to snuff, so even if we have no idea if the movie’s actually any good, one of the key failings of previous virally marketed monsters – that the monster itself was no good – has already been avoided. Now all that’s left to do is wait: for another trailer; for another vague and unsubstantial viral marketing clue; for the sound of giant monster footsteps in the nearest large metropolitan area. To pass the time, let’s look back on the USA’s last great Godzilla film.