Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Review - Godzilla, King of the Monsters / 'Cozzilla'

Godzilla's long, varied career began in 1954 with Ishiro Honda's film Gojira; a murky, intricately designed allegory for the terrors of the nuclear bomb. Focusing heavily on the titular monster's reign of destruction and it's various metaphorical implications, while consistently proving itself to be far more than the typical B-Movie common to the era, Gojira grew famous among audiences and critics alike with quite the fanfare.

Drawn by this excitement, America quickly created it's own edition in '56 - entitled Godzilla, King of the Monsters. Severing both World War Two connections and indirect Western criticisms while adding various English additions, this version is essentially a watered-down, decidedly more 'accessible' interpretation of the original's core plotline.

Years later, in '77, the aforementioned recut was colorized, translated, and minorly edited for Italian audiences by director Luigi Cozzi - creating the strange technicolor explosion known lovingly as Cozzilla.

For all intents and purposes, this is a review of King - as, beyond the occasional added stock footage and obvious technical differences, Cozzilla is the exact same film. Also, this review is written with a general understanding of Gojira in mind.  

The primary addition made in King is the character Steve Martin, a reporter accidentally caught in Godzilla's rampage. Through clever editing, the new cast member interacts with the original Japanese lineup various times through the runtime, serving mainly as an alternative to the character-driven exposition seen in the original film. 

Though a smart concept, his inclusion unfortunately neuters the various side-plots that structured the source material. Beyond some vague background given to Martin, no other character has any exposition. I can't help but feel that the movie is actively battling it's Japanese core - the American directorial choices clearly opting for a more upfront narrative perspective than one that directly impacts it's characters. 

Because of this, Martin's singular scenes work rather well, shedding a light on how unpredictably horrific the events are projected to be. A great example of this is the classic narration gave by the character during Godzilla's Hiroshima-esque destruction of Tokyo.

The rest is rather dull. Beyond Martin's experiences and the various monster effects scenes, there's little to latch on to - even the climactic choice between two evils (a new military-grade weapon and the monster himself) made by Doctor Serizawa carries a bit less weight than in Gojira.

As previously stated, King is very blatantly cheap-ified, transitioned from a frightening, thoughtful film to a much more Hollywood style horror flick. Again fighting the original film, one can sense that the filmmakers much preferred Godzilla himself to the metaphors clouding him (hence the very celebratory title) - building the film specifically toward his appearances, and doing very little of substance between them.

That's not to say the similes are no longer intact; with some thought, it's very simple to find the morality discussions buried below the screen. There's still a certain strength to at least the imagery - especially thanks to Cozzilla's additions of actual news footage showing mass death and destruction caused by similar situations as seen in the film - but, without the darker tone and stronger undertones of the original, it's hard to argue their particular importance beyond speculation.

On that note, let's look at what makes Cozzilla unique; the colorization. Though it can be very well argued that Gojira (and King) work best in their native black-and-white, I'd hardly be against a competent layer of paint added to the work.

Sadly, the very primitive technique used here almost never looks good. Glossy, mismatched, and near psychedelic, the visuals are sometimes more confusing than fitting. Far too often, the globs of solid color obscure basically everything from recognizability. 

Despite its rainbow of color, King/Cozzilla is quite washed out. Though not exactly bad as a midnight movie, it definitely doesn't hold a candle to the movie it means to create an alternate version of. Though the minor additions made in Cozzilla admittedly do give the film slightly more weight - thus technically putting it slightly above King - neither are especially notable, beyond their relevance to the franchise. 

I suppose that's the simplest way the pair can be argued against; neither leave much of an impact, with hardly any characters to observe, thoughts to consider, and in Cozzilla's case, visuals to enjoy. Leaning far more toward bad, but not particularly terrible, either.

Rating - 2.5/5

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