THE INHERENT POWER OF GENRE - PT. 5:
GODZILLA - STILL THE KING (pg. 3)
THE ART & CRAFT OF CREATING EXPECTATIONS, ... AND NOT MEETING THEM:
THE MAIN TITLE SEQUENCE TO "GODZILLA" (1998)
A good Main Title sequence can be a feature film’s blessing or curse. In the case of iconic designer Saul Bass’ stunning work on Frankenheimer’s SECONDS, Preminger’s THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM and Hitchcock’s NORTH BY NORTHWEST; DePatie-Freleng and Richard Williams Studios animated openings to the PINK PANTHER films; Pablo Ferro’s super cool BULLITT, and Maurice Binder’s legendary 60s - 70s era JAMES BOND titles, the “unimportant ” sequence would, in the hands of those and other graphic artist maestros, become the former - a blessing and more: mini-movies in and of themselves which oft times served as inspiration for the subsequent advertising push (think R.Greenberg & Associates’ famous ALIEN “fade-in letters” and “lone egg image” campaign), and ultimately even as the paradigm for the modern music video. In the case of 1998’s GODZILLA - directed by STARGATE and INDEPEDENCE DAY’s Roland Emmerich, it’s opening sequence would in some respects become it’s curse in that it was so damned impressive many felt the film itself never lived up to what the Title sequence promised.
Emmerich’s take on Godzilla’s origin was that the behemoth was born (as was 1954’s original) of the nuclear age, but specifically this time around the result of generations of mutation within the iguana species contaminated by fallout due to France’s 1980s atomic testing in the Polynesian Islands.
The stunning widescreen opening visual montage, a seamless blending of archival and newly photographed film footage, was the (uncredited in the final film) work of animator / special FX technician (… as well as championship skier, cowboy and former oil roughneck) George Merket who, while variously employed by some of the top FX houses of all time (including Colossal Films, Richard Edlund’s Boss Films, John Dykstra’s Apogee Productions, Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic, and Sony Pictures Imageworks) was responsible for some of the most iconic filmic sequences of the 1980s - 90s, including the Oscar winning “SpacePort Skeleton Scan” from 1990s TOTAL RECALL.
sending expectations for the (then) new GODZILLA through the roof was the Holst-like Opening Title Theme by Grammy Award-winning composer David
Arnold, in some respects (time to ruffle a few feathers here!) operatically exceeding the previous musical contributions of the legendary Akira Ifukube (on the 1954 original) and Alexandre Desplat (GIRL WITH THE GIRL EARRING, SYRIANA, THE QUEEN, THE TREE OF LIFE) on the new 2014 film. Now known for his subsequent frequent collaborations with film
makers such as John Singleton (on BABY BOY, 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS and SHAFT -
2000), Michael Apted (on ENOUGH and AMAZING GRACE) and Bond producers
Michael Wilson & Barbara Broccoli (on every 007 film from 1997 -
2008) Arnold's first orchestral / choral success was for GODZILLA
director Roland Emmerich’s 1994 sleeper sci-fi hit STARGATE. He’d later
collaborate with Emmerich and GODZILLA producer Dean Devlin on his award winning
INDEPENDENCE DAY, then wrap things up (to date) with 1998’s
Composer David Arnold
As Arnold was composing for an as yet unrealized
title character (GODZILLA’s FX weren’t complete when he had to begin
work) his principal inspiration came from Merket’s gripping Main Title
“In a way the theme for GODZILLA came from
that instead of the creature itself, because that is what he was born
from. So when you hear the music from GODZILLA after that,
hopefully you will relate to the nature of his conception, which is more
to do with intrigue and interest in nuclear weapons.
was quite heartened when I saw the opening title sequence because it
hinted at a more intelligent film - it hinted that the film you were
about to see was perhaps not what you had necessarily expected - but I’m
not sure the film (itself) actually ever got to the place that the opening
titles kind of promised”.
Hey, whether one likes the film itself or
not, it’s opening Title sequence is a work of true cinematic art, and
one of the finest examples in recent years attesting to the heightened emotional
magic and impact incumbent within the perfect synchronicity of image and sound.
GODZILLA (1998) - Main Title sequence
Designed by George Merket / Music by David Arnold