Godzilla vs. Kong Trailer

The number of films coming out that I’m actually considering paying money to see might be counted on one hand. These are mostly because they are continuations of stories I’m already invested in somehow, or because they seem to be the very odd exceptions to the usual rules of trash Hollywood that somehow slipped through the cracks.

Godzilla vs. Kong is one of those, entirely because I’m a massive Godzilla fan.

I’ll be honest: I don’t think it’ll be good (and it’s liable to be the last new film I ever bother to see as a new film), but I do hope that it will at least provide some satisfying kaiju moments. That’s really how I think of these things at this point: a two-and-a-half-hour fan-art slideshow.

In any case, the trailer finally dropped, confirming that this film is in fact still coming out despite the lackluster box office of every previous film in the Legendary ‘Monsterverse’ series (for the record: I liked Godzilla quite a lot, thought King of the Monsters was extremely stupid in unnecessary ways, but at least paid most of the monsters their due, and found Skull Island alternately delightful and annoying).

First thought: must every trailer for every action movie open with an explosion and that ominous hum?

So, Kong’s on a barge in chains. That’s a good note to start on: very fitting for Kong.

Kong is friends with a little girl. Eh, that seems off to me. Kong’s story is ‘beauty and the beast,’ not ‘innocence and the beast’. That’s a very different tone and I don’t care for the change. Even Skull Island got that right with Bored Larson (the ‘innocence’ connection more fits with Gamera than Kong).

The story seems to be the Godzilla has suddenly started attacking people for an unknown reason, casting him as the heavy in this film. I will say, I’m glad that they’re pulling back from the overtly heroic role they had him playing in the previous two films. Godzilla in my mind needs to have that air of danger and wildness to him: he’s noble and can be heroic, but he should never seem safe. The essence of his character is to be the embodiment of things that man cannot control: the unexpected consequences that can’t be shoved back into the box. He is a reminder that mankind is not an absolute ruler of the world, but subject to higher laws that we cannot evade or overrule. So I’m all on board with him actually attacking people this time around. The dialogue implies there’s some larger threat at work that will serve as a common enemy to both Kong and Godzilla, which I’m also onboard with (I remember reading a fan-fiction version of Kong vs. Godzilla many years ago where Gigan was the villain. It’s probably too much to hope for that here, but it’s not impossible I suppose. Though I can’t help thinking Kong wouldn’t last long against him).

As for what actually goes on in the trailer, well, Kong seems to be getting the better of things much more than I like to see (is it me, or do filmmakers have trouble showing balanced fights these days?). The action is way over the top to the point of being ridiculous (Godzilla and Kong both actually stand on a ship and fight? Yeah, that’s not happening). I like Kong making crude weapons for himself, but that shot at the end of Kong leaping at Godzilla and ‘catching’ his ray on the ax…well, one, the ax should melt, and two, all Godzilla has to do is adjust his aim a little bit, so…yikes. Not a good sign.

I really don’t like the music either. Rap (or whatever this is) doesn’t fit kaiju at all in my mind. It’s too American and it’s too undignified. The kaiju are warriors, not thugs (well, a character like Gigan might work with rap), especially Godzilla and Kong. Plus, come on: every action trailer has this kind of music in it. Kong and Godzilla want lush, heavy orchestral scores, or maybe metal guitar riffs, not generic gangster tunes.

My biggest worry going in, however, is that I strongly suspect they’re going to give the fight to Kong on the grounds that he’s the underdog. The issue I have with this is very much the same as in Batman v Superman (well, one of many, many issues I have with that film): strong as the meta-fictional rivalry is, the logic of the characters themselves dictates that the fight can only end one way. But instead of following that out, we give it to the ‘favored’ character, thereby cheapening them both and blatantly showing the writer’s hand.

Yes, Kong won in the original King Kong vs. Godzilla. But the thing with that is that Godzilla was still a pretty new character at that point and a solid villain, while Kong was a well-established and fairly beloved figure. The Godzilla ‘rules’ hadn’t been quite worked out yet, and even then it was a close fight that ended on an ambiguous note. That’s not the case anymore: Godzilla is at least as well-established as Kong, and his ‘rules’ have become pretty well set. It’s similar to the difference between Fleischer Superman and modern Superman. And those rules dictate that he should win any fight with Kong hands down.

(Another reason I like Freddy vs. Jason: the writers followed through on this and gave the fight – as far as it went – to the logical winner, even though he was the less prestigious character).

But that still remains to be seen. All signs seem to point to the filmmakers giving it to Kong, but maybe they’ll surprise me.

In any case, I’ll be seeing it, but I’m not recommending it to anyone not already interested. It looks like a big, stupid blockbuster employing characters I love, and my hope is that they at least pay them their due respects.

Call of the CGI Wild

Before seeing Sonic, the only trailer playing was for Call of the Wild, one of the first times I’d even heard that such a film existed.

Honestly, despite the presence of Harrison Ford, I think this looks pretty bad.

The biggest problem is not just that this looks like it only bears the slightest resemblance to the book (which doesn’t lend itself to a live action adaptation in the first place), but more that the dogs appear to be entirely CGI. And not very good CG either. On top of that, but they don’t even act like dogs; they act like cartoon dogs in an otherwise LA environment (and in what is after all supposed to be a rather grim story). That is, they have semi-human expressions and reactions.

Now, there are a couple things to be said. I gave Midway a qualified pass for its equally obvious CGI, but that was for two reasons; one, the film was strong enough apart from it to survive the distracting effects, and two because, ultimately, the cg was just set-dressing. It would have been preferable to use models, but some intensive effects were necessary to create the world.

But here, the CG is being used to create dogs. Real dogs are slightly easier to come by than the Imperial Japanese navy. People are very, very familiar with what dogs look like and how they act. So, when faced with such an obviously fake article, I don’t see how you can react other than to be taken out of the story.

Apparently, the reason for this is partly because they wanted to avoid charges of animal cruelty or endangerment. Okay, but is using obviously fake dogs the only way of doing that? Was it really so impossible to make a movie with dogs without being cruel to the dogs? I mean, most of the book, as I recall, is about dogs pulling sleds, which dogs love to do (from what I hear, when their owners  come to pick dogs for their team, the dogs go absolutely nutsit’s like the mother of all walks to them). There are also some fights, which, okay; cg those if you can’t train the dogs to play-fight. Otherwise, I really don’t see this as a valid reason.

Except that the film has Buck fighting a bear and escaping an avalanche, and other bits of over-the-top action, which obviously they didn’t want to do with real animals (and, again, this apparently made it necessary to have the dogs be CG the whole time, because blending animation and well-trained animals wasn’t an option I guess). So, they first throw a lot of extraneous action scenes, then use that as a reason for making a massively bad choice at the very heart of the film.

The other reason seems to be that people didn’t like the blank, expressionless characters in The Lion King. Except that, again, people are rather more familiar with dogs and their mannerisms than they are with lions or hyenas, not to mention that dogs are generally more appealing and expressive in real life than the aforementioned wild animals. In short, people like dogs, and they like them for being dogs; not for being people in dog suits (I mean, how many films have there been centered around dogs that people watch and enjoy? Just consider Homeward Bound, which was nothing but dogs – and a cat- for most of its runtime). A cartoon is one thing, but a live-action film with semi-cartoon dogs is another.

On top of that, the film seems so different from the book in tone and content (again, the book isn’t really a lighthearted or exciting adventure story but a somewhat grim tale of a pet dog reverting to wild ways under increasing hardships) that I have to wonder what the point was. They probably would have been better off just telling an original story of Harrison Ford and his dog having an adventure. Absent the distracting animation, that sounds like it would be a really enjoyable story. Instead, we have this bizarre and misguided amalgamation of Jack London, Michael Bay, and Industrial Light and Magic’s B-team. How tiresome!

Presenting my ‘Must See’ List for 2019

A whole lot of trailers dropped this week, but for my part, I only really cared about two.

First, obviously, is Avengers: Endgame

Yeah, this looks pretty fantastic. They’re not showing much yet; this trailer is mostly about letting the audience know that yes, the Avengers are going to keep fighting. Love the logo reassembling at the end. I’d also like to point out that the opening scene of the trailer to this movie, with Tony Stark recording a message for Pepper, is more honestly human than most films these days are in their entirety. Also, the fact that the big moment in the trailer involves Ant-Man just warms my heart. I really hope he gets to play a crucial role in this film.

As I was saying at a friend’s blog, the thing I most want from this movie is for Thanos to receive a ‘Nightmare-on-Elm-Street’-style comeuppance, where he gets to see his mad vision being undone and know that all his sacrifices and all his crimes were for nothing. If they get that right, I’ll allow almost anything else.

The other is the second Godzilla: King of the Monsters trailer.

Wow!

Lots more kaiju action, and it’s clear they’re still holding back most of it. We get clear views of all four monsters this time around, and a lot of King Ghidorah. I said last time that he was the one I was most hoping they’d get right, and from this it looks like they’re absolutely nailing it. I want a Ghidorah who can pound Godzilla into the dirt, and whom the three greatest monsters on Earth – Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan – will be hard pressed to bring down, and that’s pretty much what we seem to be getting. The two scenes of Godzilla and Ghidorah facing off are practically a dream come true (though I might wish they had been done in daylight).

Meanwhile, we get a full-view of Mothra this time. She’s definitely been given quite the makeover and resembles her ‘Mothra Leo’ form. I probably would have gone for more traditional designs, but that’s just me; they’re clearly keeping the important points. I like that they’re definitely playing her up as a heroic figure, which is proper.

Similarly, Rodan seems to be exactly in character as well; not strictly evil, but terrifyingly destructive and even more indifferent to mankind than Godzilla. We’re supposed to have a fight between Rodan and Godzilla at one point, but I’m also kind of hoping for one between Mothra and Rodan, since that’s something we’ve never seen before (Rodan and Mothra’s imago form have only shared one film – Final Wars – and they never interacted). Plus, if you have two flying kaiju, it only seems to make sense to make them fight.

I do have to wonder what’s with the scene of something bursting out of the ground. I presume it’s Godzilla, but why is he underground? I suppose we’ll find out (unless they just wanted to go above and beyond the call of duty by giving Anguirus or Baragon a cameo).

So, yeah, I think this looks fantastic. Again, there’s real respect being shown for these characters and this franchise, and in today’s world that’s something to be thankful for.

By the way, look closely at the clouds in the early scene of the devastated Washington.

(And I just found out; apparently, this film will feature Akira Ifukube’s immortal ‘Godzilla March’. Nothing else needs to be said.)

So, basically these two films are at the undisputed summit of my list of things to see next year.