The Host(2006) vs. Godzilla(1998)

Warning: Spoilers ahead

Ah, Godzilla(1998)....a.k.a. Zilla to most fans. When this film was released in theaters, it was a box office hit, a success not shared in its critical reception. Critics blasted the film, particularly Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. These two were notably harsh on Roland Emmerich's previous two films to the point where he had put their likenesses in this film. This was heavily criticized, with even Ebert questioning why they were put in a monster movie and yet weren't violently killed off. The acting, for the most part, was either over-the-top or just not there, and the monster design failed to resemble the classic design of the monster, or even the 1985 redesign. The greatest offense, however, was to seemingly attempt to remake the original Godzilla whilst completely ignoring the political satire/commentary present in the original film. Unlike some of the silly sequels it spawned, particularly of the late 60s, early 70s era, the original 1954 Gojira was a dark, serious, and harrowing film. Being created by Japanese people affected by the bombings during WW2, it spoke on the dangers of certain military advancements, notably the atomic bomb and the hydrogen bomb. The result of these weapons' abuse was that of an unstoppable beast, one which we were inadvertently responsible for. Aside from the social commentary was the human element, showing how everyday human lives were affected by the sudden destruction caused by this monster. We didn't just see the city being destroyed, we saw the aftermath, how that affected the people, how their lives were disrupted, or even ended. Zilla does none of this, opting for all flash and no legitimate substance. Any atomic commentary that has to do with the title character is simply glossed over, given lip service for about 10 seconds. Also, the storyline is just an excuse for explosions, with the character interactions being extremely 1 dimensional and sappy. Never was there any time to feel sympathy for the characters, as their storylines seem almost superfluous, never achieving the reactionary drama of the original. Instead, most of the "drama" told in reaction to the creature's appearance is about getting the best scoop on it for the paper.

Many could argue that the atomic energy storyline might seem dated when made into a further developed plot point, which is why I would suggest to have made the film a period piece. Even that, however, is an excuse for laziness. One could easily update it to nuclear or some other type of energy, especially nowadays with the recent incident with Japan(mirroring the circumstances that inspired the original Gojira). Even Godzilla 1985/Return of Godzilla, which was a sequel/reboot which started a new continuity, slightly updated the social commentary, adding the Cold war element of the U.S. and U.S.S.R. attempting to "one-up" each other concerning Godzilla's destruction, with Japan caught in the crossfire.

This is where The Host succeeded so well. For those who don't know, The Host is a South Korean film about how a broken family must unite together to save the protagonist's daughter, who has been captured by a large mutant fish-like creature(Gwoemul). Meanwhile, government conspiracy erupts when the creature is said to be the host to a deadly small pox-like virus, with the government attempting to hunt and quarantine anyone who has come into direct contact with the creature's blood. The film is far superior to Zilla on all accounts. The characters, from the nervously cautious sister, the belittling alcoholic brother, to the seemingly mentally handicapped protagonist, are all developed from their initial character status', and their interactions are organic, well-acted, integral, and most of all, INTERESTING. You actually care about the characters and whether they live or die, making the non-monster scenes a joy as opposed to a bore.

Also, the political commentary is ingenious. The event that created this creature was when an American doctor orders his assistant to dump numerous bottles of formaldehyde into the Han river. This is based off of a true event in which the American military did just that. Later, a gas is used against the monster called Agent Yellow, which is obviously inspired by Agent Orange. Also, the virus is later revealed to be nothing more than an elaborate government hoax. The creature's design and physical likeness were inspired by reports of a bizarre mutant fish that was found in the Han river with a malformed spine. Basing much of the film's background on real world catastrophes, notably ones caused the U.S.A., further ground Gojira and The Host into reality, making the situations in the films far more terrifying. The Host in particular is a film many should look at as a way to make a post-modern kaiju film. Even Cloverfield, which promised to be the "post 9-11" kaiju film, failed miserably in this regard when compared to The Host and Gojira, feeling more like "The Blair Witch Kaiju" than a true American answer/equivalent to the Japanese kaiju titans. Hopefully the planned 2014 American reboot of Godzilla try much harder to tell an interesting social commentary/kaiju classic as opposed to just barraging our eyes with helicopters chasing Zilla and sappy Matthew Broderick romance.

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1 Comments
Posted by DoctorOctopus

Zilla 1998 was pretty much what it set out to be. A summer popcorn flick brought to you by Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich. Tri Star knew what they were getting themselves into, same with Toho, and they got what was to be expected.

As a giant monster movie, it's alright. As a Godzilla film, it's downright atrocious. The Host is a very decent film, that didn't have the luxury of having a mega million budget like that of Zilla 1998, and as a result developed the human characters in a more rounded sense rather than focusing on the spectacle. Which was undoubtedly the M.O. Devlin and Emmerich had.