One of the things that filmmakers would do well to take away from this year as an important lesson is that we have reached the point of apocalyptic overload as a collective audience.
It makes sense. One of the things that special effects crews have gotten very good at is destroying cities. At this point, it’s such a familiar image that it almost doesn’t register in terms of how horrifying it would be if it were real. Last night, my oldest son was in my office and a preview for “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” came on before whatever movie I had put in the player. He hasn’t seen the film, but he stopped to look at the trailer, and the big “money shot,” if you will, is the total and immediate destruction of London. Looking at it out of context like that, as a thrown-away bit of mayhem designed to get you to buy a ticket, it struck me as really distasteful.
One of the biggest sticking points regarding “Man Of Steel” for many of you appears to be the way the chaos and destruction of the final battle with Zod escalates and the sheer scale of the destruction. As violent as that fight is, what I found upsetting in the film was the effect of the World Engine, the terraforming device that consists of two machines, one on either side of the planet. The destruction caused by that device is truly horrible to witness, and I don’t think Zack Snyder downplayed that at all. You see cars and buildings and people sucked up into the gravity field and then slammed back to Earth with such brutality that you know nothing could survive it.
The real problem is that we’ve seen so many visions of destruction since 9/11, and so many of those movies seem to be tapping into the raw emotional terror of that day, that we risk being numbed by it. It is harder and harder to shock audiences, and so the only way filmmakers have been able to keep forcing a reaction is by escalating the size of what they destroy and the ferocity with which they destroy it. And it feels like we’ve reached that point where you really can’t make the destruction any bigger, short of just making a two-hour movie called “Stuff Blowing Up.”
I say all of this as preamble to wondering what happens when “Godzilla” finally storms into theaters next summer. I’m going to be bringing you a look at whatever Legendary’s got planned for San Diego this week, and it sounds like they are definitely intending to make an impression on everyone who is there on Wednesday night. To prepare for that event, they’ve been having some fun online with the Godzilla Encounter website, where you can read reports of disturbances in the ocean that seem to be moving towards San Diego. And when you’re in San Diego, you’ll be able to pick up a copy of the special poster that Legendary has prepared for the event. IGN debuted the poster today, and I think it is a striking image…
… that does two things right away.
First, it definitely looks like they’re hewing closely to the classic design of Godzilla, something fans have to be relieved to see. Second, it seems to very directly evoke memories of 9/11, and while I can see how that would fatigue people at this point, the 1954 film made naked reference to the real-world horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and when you watch that film, keeping in mind that it was made a mere decade after those events, it’s hard not to see it as a manifestation of the nightmares that Japan’s citizens must have shared.
As with any film in production, there are stories right now about how “Godzilla” is coming together that range from enthusiastic to fatalistic, and this week is Legendary’s moment to really take control of the buzz. They had that great tone piece last year that they showed which was created specifically to announce the film. This year, they’ve got to show something more, and it seems like they’re well aware of how high the stakes are.
So tell me… what do you think of this design, and are you interested in seeing another movie where cities are laid to ruin by some powerful force? It feels to me like we’re getting close to the moment where audiences reject that outright, and I’m curious to see what happens when we finally do hit that wall.
“Godzilla” opens everywhere in the world in May 2014.