Trampling down memory lane with Godzilla. The more the King changes the more boys stay the same.
May 19, 2014
Upon leaving the new Godzilla movie, my wife and I found ourselves walking behind a couple young boys, perhaps 15 or 16 years old, and we could easily hear their conversation. Excitedly, they were discussing the pros and cons of the film we all just saw. One lamented how relatively little of the monsters actually comprised the movie. “I would have been happy if they spent more time on Godzilla and less time on the father-son stuff,” he said. (Which, by the way, is a fair assessment.) What I loved was his friend’s reply: “Well,” he said, “there’s only so much of the Godzilla story you can tell.”
I remarked to my wife that his was a surprisingly articulate and even witty reply. As they were just steps ahead of us, I could easily discern the Led Zeppelin tour shirt, circa 1977, he was wearing. (How pleasing to know Zep is timeless, like Godzilla.) Unruly long brown hair flowed over the boy’s shoulders. Along with his black concert tee shirt, he had on the obligatory pair of blue jeans and converse sneakers.
That’s when it hit me. I was that kid once! I had that tee shirt. I had that hair. And most importantly I had those opinions. When I was a kid his age I too was first in line for the latest Godzilla movie. I can recall walking with a buddy up Clark Street in Chicago, dissecting the film we just saw. Maybe it was Destroy all Monsters. A classic. We analyzed the plot, giving thoughtful consideration to the many (I supposed) understandable holes in the story. Of course I knew Godzilla was fake, especially the campy Godzilla of my youth. I wasn’t delusional. Far from it. However, I still wanted the movie to be plausible. Or said another way, to not be ridiculous. I was interested in the film’s craft, the special effects, and the ways in which the monsters behaved. Their hierarchy. If there was a “Monster Island” I needed to know how it worked.
What did the creatures eat for example, if not each other? To this day I can’t recall seeing a single Japanese movie monster (called Kaiju) actually eating another one, let alone a person. How could that be? What sustained them? In the current reboot they provide a somewhat plausible explanation. But back then? I could go on forever…
Revelation number two (which will come as no surprise to anyone reading this), I was a nerd. Like the boy in front of me, I’d been captivated by these monsters (however silly they were), and was determined to make sense of their universe. At 15, I certainly didn’t understand mine. What with gas rationing, The Ayatollah and the haunting specter of g-g-girls. I needed that dark theater more than it needed me.
To a certain extent, I actually appreciated my glimpse at these two lads more than the movie itself, which, though it had its virtues, was frankly a let down. I was reminded of the strange circle of life and how true that old cliché really is: the more things change the more they stay the same. For one thing, I am still a nerd -even if my wardrobe choices are suh-weet!