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Godzilla will return to Japan!

In my review of the recent American Godzilla movie produced by Legendary Pictures and directed by Gareth Edwards, I said the following:

This film is cleaning up at the box office and a series of films — the “Legendary Era” I mentioned above — seems assured. But I have to wonder — what does that mean for the prospects of ever seeing a Japanese-made Godzilla film again? Could Toho ever match the level of money and technology that went into this movie, and if not, would audiences be interested in a smaller-scale Godzilla movie ever again? Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad this movie succeeded and that there’s finally a viable American Godzilla series. I just wonder what the cost of that success will be.

Fortunately, it looks like my fears were groundless. Variety reported the other day that Toho is getting back into the Godzilla game, developing a new film for 2016 release:

The inspiration is the success of Gareth Edward’s 2014 “Godzilla,” which earned $525 million worldwide and JPY3.2 billion ($26 million) in Japan, with Toho and Warner Bros. Japan co-distributing.

Toho has launched what it calls the Godzilla Strategic Conference (Godzi-Con), a committee of studio executives and directors whose aim is to reboot the Godzilla brand, including the new “Godzilla” pic.

They admit they won’t have anywhere near the budget of the Legendary version, but still hope to make something that can be competitive with a Hollywood feature. It remains to be seen whether they can live up to that goal, but, well, I gather there is an enormous amount of inefficiency in Hollywood that causes a ton of money to be wasted. So who knows?

But it’s interesting… The last time we had an American Godzilla film, it was the failure of that film that prompted Toho to resume making their own. As I mentioned in my Millennium-Era review, their plan had been to leave their Godzilla franchise dormant until 2004, long enough to let TriStar complete a trilogy, but when the TriStar film bombed, Toho hastened to resume production. This time, though, it’s the success of the American Godzilla that’s prompted them to get back in the game and resurrect the character domestically after more than a decade’s absence. They’re not content to let America retain sole responsibility for Godzilla’s development this time. Or, more likely, they just want a piece of the huge profits that Godzilla’s latest rebirth has brought.

Anyway, I’m glad to hear this, because it means the scenario I was worried about won’t happen. Although, granted, there’s no way to be sure Toho’s endeavor will succeed. What if it just can’t compete with the level of spectacle that Legendary can provide? Honestly, I’d be happier with a full co-production, with Toho having control over the creative process and Legendary bankrolling the visual effects. Don’t get me wrong — personally, I wouldn’t mind the return of a cheesier, rubber-suited Godzilla. But would the general audience have the patience for that anymore? And even I admired the amazing VFX in the Edwards film, so it would be really something to see comparable visuals in an authentic Toho Godzilla movie.

Of course, this means I’ll have yet another universe to add to my growing list of Godzilla continuities. And I do love my lists. I look forward to seeing how Toho’s new universe will differ from the Legendary Universe and the earlier Toho continuities. Ooh, wait — that’s assuming I’ll be able to see the film. Hopefully I won’t have to wait too long before it gets a US release, either theatrically or on home video. It’s been a long time since a Japanese kaiju film has had a US theatrical release; the last one was Godzilla 2000: Millennium, which TriStar distributed in the US in 2000 because they still held the rights at the time. So now that Legendary has the US rights, maybe they’ll provide the same service. We can only hope.

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