Is Godzilla a remake or reimagining? Potentials of “Reimagining”
– the term garnering attention among Westerns

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters was released on November 7th, 2017. This movie is slated for streaming on Netflix but viewers are also undoubtedly flocking to theaters to catch the 3D animated Godzilla.

This film serves as the first installment of a new trilogy in which humankind faces the destruction of the world by Godzilla. The film begins with a return to earth after a failed retreat to space in search of safety. While humankind was traveling through space at the speed of light, 20,000 years have elapsed on Earth and a Godzilla is a king of the new ecosystem.

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters © 2017 TOHO CO., LTD

The film provides visions of a mesmerizing world where humankind has traveled far away and into the future through space-time. Godzilla, who used to be an invader of faraway origin, is now shown as king of our own home. Some viewers may appreciate this fresh take on the series. Some may also find a sense of nostalgia with the Rip van Winkle effect, which is reminiscent of Planet of the Apes. The film is heavy on narration but fans of voice actors will surely be pleased with the spectacular cast.

You will get a fresh yet nostalgic feeling from the CG animation and sound effect details of this animated Godzilla. It makes us excited to see what the second and third installments to this new trilogy will bring.

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters joins the long list of titles in the Godzilla series. The 2016 “Shin Godzilla” was another recent addition, and “Godzilla vs Kong” is slated for a 2020 release.

Are these films simply Godzilla remakes? Reboots? Or Reimagining?

■ Remake films account 70% of Box Office Top films

One might call it a remake, reboot, or reimagining, but in the West technically all films that are NOT fully original – without earlier versions or inspirations – are called as remakes. A wide variety of works such as film adaptations of books and comics, games that utilize preexisting characters, sequels and spin-offs are categorized as remakes.

The figure below shows the comparative outcomes for number of original and remake titles ranked in the top 50 of North American Box Office Grosses between 2010 and 2016. (Source: Box Office Mojo)

 

 

Number of Originals and Remakes in the Top 50 of North American Box Office Grossing

35 of 50 titles, a full 70%, were remakes. Among those, terms which trending since several decades ago is “reboots”, and terms that have been increasingly popular around Hollywood is “reimaginings”.

For now we will consider potential of “reimagining” with some other recent Godzilla films as examples.

■ “Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters” is a Reimagining

There are various ways to differentiate the terms remake, reboot, and reimagining, but Western critics and academics categorize them according to the degree of change/follow the original and methods they used.

The following is a table to organize the views of these terms offered by a number of critics and academics. Techniques/Methods without official names have been given provisional names.

 

 

Sorting of Remakes, Reboots, and Reimaginings According to Degree of Changes and Techniques/Method Used

According to this analysis, increasing of the number of techniques/methods used accompanied by a greater degree of change from the original.

The term “Reboots” appeared several decades ago and it’s said that the “The Return of Godzilla” was the world’s first reboot film.

“The Return of Godzilla” was the 16th film in the Godzilla franchise and the first film in the Heisei series. It ignored the events of the Showa films, and went back to the theme of the original “Godzilla (1954)”. This was certainly a reboot film as it used various techniques/methods such as “retcon” and “update”.

 

The Return of Godzilla © TOHO CO., LTD

“The Return of Godzilla” targeted adult fans that grew up with the original “Godzilla (1954)”. As a result, comical moments targeted towards children were removed, depictions of societal issues were updated, and the film showed Godzilla as a symbol of terror.

Reimagining is more flexible to changes so sometimes the characters and even the entire world of the film are change. Recently, there is also the influence of political correctness, the gender, nationality, and other features of characters often being updated as required.

“Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters” follows the original in depicting Godzilla as a symbol of terror. However, the change of visual format from live action to CG animation, and the entirely new setting with changes in story, time period, and location solidifies this work as a reimagining.

■ The Reason Behind the Reimagining Trend

Actually, remakes and reboots are also referred to as reimaginings, and many creators claim their works as reimaginings. Why might that be?

The following are results from a user survey carried out through “Internet Movie Database,” the movie and game online database managed by Amazon.com in the United States. (Source: IMDb “Poll: Most justifiable reason for a remake”)

 

 

Most justifiable reason for a remake (1,520 votes as of 2017.12)

The most commonly selected response was, “Because the original film had a good premise, but was not a very good movie.” followed by, “Because the writer/director has a new interpretation/vision of a classic story or work of literature.”

This shows that viewers anticipate unique interpretation and expression from creators. In particular, viewers are expecting creators to bring new surprises to even familiar storylines.

In the past many remakes focused on updating film techniques while simply continuing or reproducing previous storylines. On the other hand, nowadays remakes use not only updated technology but also new advances to the ideas and imagination of the film. However, we lack the right words to express this nuance.

Saying “remake” may suggest that it is impossible for the creator to express originality or creativity so the new term “reimagining” is used purposefully to avoid these connotations.

■Methods of Reimagining and Popular Titles

There are many examples of overseas brands that have used various forms of reimaginings to reinvigorate a series. Marvel, DC, and Disney can all serve as examples. Disney pulls from well-known fairy tales while constantly providing new surprises through cutting edge film techniques and powerful imagination.

The comic publishing companies Marvel and DC have produced their own series of films within the consistent worlds of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” and the “DC Extended Universe.” Their “universe” building is one method of reimagining.

Recently the Marvel movie series in particular has enjoyed exceptional popularity.

 

 

 

 

Number of films/Box Office Grossing of Marvel films on the Top 10 Grossing films in North America

In order to construct a universe, a few key characters that can pull together the various individual stories are necessary. Of course, a rule of consistency is necessary for cross over to happen between the various settings. One has to align the rules, timelines, locations, and relations between all of the worlds being combined.

Only after this alignment is achieved can a spin off or cross over become possible.

To put it another way, if a universe is perfectly put together then the story easily emerges just from populating it with characters. Furthermore, creators show their skill through how they inject their own individuality while keeping within the core rules of consistency.

One could say the truth is there is nothing entirely new in the world and everything is but a minor departure from what came before. For example, things feeling new to younger people may simply stem from inexperience, while seniors may feel surprise simply because of the expectations set by what they have already learned.
Multiple experiences are possible even with a single work. That reality serves as a basis for Reimaging.

■Recommended Articles

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・”From the 2000s to the 2010s” How is it that the trends of entertainment have changed? Interview with Mr. Sayawaka. Part 1: Entametrend Matome in the first half of 2010
・”From the 2000s to the 2010s” How is it that the trends of entertainment have changed? Interview with Mr. Sayawaka. Part 2: “Doing over” and “Separation of the Masses”

(Author: Nanae Kan)

Fields Research Institute (FRI) conducts research in entertainment.
This article was written by a member of FRI, through the original coverage of his/her interests observed in their daily lives.

 

 

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