Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Movie Review: Godzilla (2014)

Ever since the first trailer for Godzilla flashed before my eyes, I was totally pumped. The titular monster looked amazing, Bryan Cranston was in it, and it looked like it would be the first Godzilla movie to be taken seriously (and hopefully the one to erase peoples' collective memories of the 1998 flop).

This post is naturally going to contain a ton of spoilers, but for those of you who don't want to know anything about the movie, here's a quick spoiler-free blurb for you.

I liked Godzilla, but I was pretty disappointed with it. Our King of Monsters looked and was animated amazingly, the acting was nothing too bad, and the cinematography was exceptionally well done. Gareth Edwards is a relative newcomer to the directorial world with nothing I recognize in his filmography, but he did a great job making Godzilla seem gargantuan and well, Godlike with his cinematography.

You might be thinking, that all this sounds great and how it could the movie possibly be disappointing for me, but the problem with the movie wasn't the visuals. Godzilla clocks in at over two hours long, and our giant radioactive lizard friend doesn't really make a proper appearance until the very end. While I respect and love the concept of the "slow reveal" in monster movies, it didn't feel like Edwards teased Godzilla throughout the movie. It felt frustrating, because everyone already knew what Godzilla looks like. If Godzilla was something akin to Ridley Scott's Alien, then the slow reveal would work perfectly. Since Big G doesn't get to romping and stomping 'til the last quarter of the movie, we're stuck following around characters we don't really care about for an hour and a half.

Once Godzilla does get his full reveal and gets to do his Godzilla things, the movie gets awesome. They took the Pacific Rim route and made Godzilla move like a 400 foot tall, 2,000 ton beast. Something that is slow but purposeful, and really looks like it has mass to it. The ending of the movie was definitely the best part, overshadowing the previous hour and a half entirely. It's worth the 10 dollars admission just for the end, but be prepared to slug through an entire feature length movie's worth of boring content.

Now that I have that out of the way, here on in there are SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS.

Alright, now I can delve into what actually happens in the movie. I want you to re-watch the trailer at the top. Now, I want you to forget it because the movie I watched was not the movie advertised in that trailer. Here's what I got from the trailer:
  • 0:05 - Oh my God, it's Bryan Cranston. Ever since Breaking Bad shot him up to A-list actor status, I can only hope he stars in more movies in the future. Yo, Mr. White!
  • 0:26 - So this is going to be kind of like a conspiracy theory movie, cool.
  • 0:37 - Obligatory ruined Statue of Liberty.
  • 0:43 - Oh shit! Is Gojira!
  • 1:28 - Are those eggs? Is Godzilla pregnant? Why are they holding on to a missile?
  • 1:30 - Ken Watanabe!
  • 1:32 - Oh fuck, Godzilla can't fly. That means this is going to be a monster mash!
  • 2:00 - Oh my. That's a big monster. Also, since we live in the post- Michael Bay Transformers era, everything big must move via bass drops.
So, looks awesome, right? I have to admit Godzilla's trailers and teasers were all amazing, and the hype for this movie was incredible, so I was doubly crushed when I found out:
  • Bryan Cranston dies in the first 20 minutes. His son, Generic Army Guy With A Family is the main character. Yay.
  • This isn't a conspiracy movie. This is an army/ soldier movie with monsters sometimes in the background.
  • Lady Liberty wasn't featured in the movie. Also, this movie doesn't even take place in or near New York City.
  • That's all you see of Godzilla over and over again for an hour and a half.
  • I will talk about this egg and missile thing in a second because it makes no sense.
  • Ken Watanabe isn't really in the movie too much either, and when he is, all he does is stare past the camera, slack-jawed.
  • This is a monster mash movie, and the battle scenes are freaking amazing. So, good on the movie for that.
  • Again, Gareth Edwards did an amazing job with portraying Godzilla's size, so, no complaints here. Except for the bass drops thing.
Let's explore all these issues, as well as some non-trailer issues, starting at the beginning. The writing for this movie was pretty awful. The acting wasn't bad, but the lines people would say were sometimes cringe worthy. After a scene where GAGWAF has to leave for Tokyo, both his son and wife ask when he'll be back. His responses were along the lines of  "Yeah buddy, I'll be back tomorrow. I promise" and "Of course I'll be back tomorrow, it's not like it's the end of the world" respectively. Holy balls people, this movie is a Godzilla movie. We know that shit is going to go down. Don't fill up screen time with that useless dialogue. Even dialogue later in the movie is choppy and doesn't make sense. GAGWAF needs to get from plot point to plot point by finding soldiers and saying that because he's in the army, he can just kind of join up with them and do their missions or get transportation anywhere. Now, I don't know what the army is like, but I doubt a low ranking officer can just command other people's squads and platoons to do anything. Also, I didn't know they taught you how to airdrop from 10,000 feet into a large city when you become an explosive ordinance disposal officer.

The writing continues it's stinkfest with most of the explaining they try to do for the monsters. Apparently Godzilla and the MUTOs (the bad guy monsters in this movie) are ancient species that used to roam the earth when the Earth was forming and was extremely radioactive. They feed off of radioactivity rather than meat or calories or anything like that, so as the planet formed and became less radioactive on the surface, these creatures moved further and further underground or into the ocean to get closer to the Earth's core. As far as that goes, I have no problem with their origins because if they aren't going the "we played God and created these monsters", they have to shoehorn them in somehow. Ancient radioactivity eating alpha predators, cool. I can dig that.

I have a problem with two parts of the monster-science the movie employs. First, they call Godzilla the "equalizer". When things get "unbalanced" on the Earth, like say when a creature comes along and starts smashing everything to bits, Godzilla awakens to destroy it and restore balance it back out again. This is exactly the reason why Godzilla appears in the movie, to destroy the MUTOs because he believes they are unbalancing the Earth. Hey, you know what else unbalanced the Earth? Fucking humans. The movie even takes a pro-environmental stance, and doesn't acknowledge that humans have done more damage to the planet than the MUTOs did. If anything, the MUTOs were properly equalizing the planet by destroying humans.

The second bit of science I didn't like was how MUTOs had to swallow atomic bombs to feed themselves. Atomic bombs themselves aren't really radioactive. Once they explode they sure as hell are, but when disarmed bombs are just laying around, I doubt they're oozing tons of radiation. If they were, the U.S. military has some serious improvements to make in the health and safety of their soldiers because those poor souls were hauling around bombs for the better part of the movie. They make a point in the movie to say that a modern atom bomb could easily kill either a MUTO or Godzilla from the blast and shockwave alone, so there's no way a MUTO could eat a bomb and then somehow have it explode inside and absorb the fission radiation. Similarly, that bit in the trailer with the eggs wrapped around the nuke, that wouldn't work. The missile was there to bask the eggs in radiation, which it won't, and if it did, that would mean that is exploded. If a nuke could destroy both mama and papa MUTO in its blast, it could sure as hell wipe out every single egg in the nest.

The final frustrating part about Godzilla is that they could have dropped the whole Pacific Rim-esque "we need to nuke the shit out of these monsters" plot because it was totally unnecessary. When you go to see a movie like Godzilla and you know it's going to be a brawl between monsters, the movie has to end with Godzilla beating the monsters. Nobody would watch the movie if the King of Monsters wore down the bad guys and then just backed off and let humans steal the kill with a nuke to the face. That would be awful. So the hour and a half long "GUYS WE HAVE TO GET THE NUKES TO SAN FRANCISCO RIGHT NOW TO DEFEAT THE MONSTERS" stuff in the movie was useless because the audience knew that it wouldn't work and that Godzilla would be the one to win the fight and save the day.

That being said, the fight scenes between Godzilla and the MUTOs were 100% pure awesomeness. You just couldn't look away whenever he was on screen, and both kill scenes Godzilla had were some of the best that I've seen in modern cinema. That final radioactive breath down mama MUTO's throat was enough to warrant seeing this movie. It's one of those scenes that everybody in the theater will cheer for and that you'll talk about and act out to your friends for the next couple days.

So, my feelings towards Godzilla lie just above lukewarm. Overall, I enjoyed it, and I definitely recommend seeing it on the big screen for the final fight, but it feels like watching a feature length soldier movie with a 30 minute Godzilla short at the end. There are holes in the plot and writing, but again, that last quarter of the movie, along with the great cinematography is well worth the price of admission.

That's all for now, folks!


1 comment:

  1. Nice review David. No, this film is not great, but it is very very good. Which is all thanks to the tension it builds up, while still forgetting about its human characters.