Magazine article The Spectator

Loser Lizard

Magazine article The Spectator

Loser Lizard

Article excerpt

A few weeks ago in the New Yorker, Professor Henry Louis Gates Jnr noted that what America calls 'globalisation' the rest of the world calls 'Americanisation'. That may be, but, at least as far as motion pictures are concerned, the American term is the correct one. Americans crank out most of this so-called global culture, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's very American. Indeed, you could argue that, rather than Americanising Europe and Asia, this stuff is actually de-Americanising America.

Take Godzilla. They began showing the trailer last summer - the usual brilliant two minutes, built around one of the film's better vignettes: some old coot, fishing off the end of a rickety wharf, suddenly gets a nibble on his line; as he struggles to hold on to his rod, the sea swells and the jetty begins to vibrate; Japan's most famous movie monster is about to arrive in Manhattan: `Godzilla. Size Does Matter. Coming in Summer 1998.' Audiences whooped and cheered and roared their approval. The studio, having spent $140 million making the film, spent not much less on the campaign: absolutely everyone -- according to the newspapers, magazines, radio hosts and TV shows - was dying to see what Godzilla looked like, but the studio was keeping him under wraps; there were stories about people close to the production trying to sneak out designs, and some fellows leaked models of the action toy tiein which proved to be false. Kodak built its summer ad campaign about a guy trying to get souvenir snaps of the stompin' lizard. And then the film opened. And everyone who went on that opening weekend said actually, you know, it was kinda boring. By the second weekend, it was dead. Godzilla came ashore and fell flat on his face.

Given that he's the biggest dudsville loser lizard of the summer, you'd figure Hollywood would think twice about blowing any more 140 million buck budgets on rampaging monsters, right? After all, you could make a hundred Full Montys for the cost of this thing. But that's not the way Hollywood runs the numbers anymore. Kevin Costner's $200 million Waterworld was a busted flush at the US box-office, but in the rest of the world they loved it. Godzilla will be the same. That's why they're already planning next year's summer blockbusters with the same old monsters and the same old explosions, and why they'll continue to inflict them on the American public no matter how many of them stiff. Americans are now the first victims of 'Americanisation', of Hollywood's dominant position as purveyors of entertainment to the world. …

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