06/06/2014

Godzilla (2014)

Film: Godzilla
Release: 2014, Theatrical
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: 15 years after a nuclear meltdown that tore his family apart, a homebound soldier is forced to go pay bail for his seemingly superstitious father. However when the fathers theories prove to be true, humanity is faced with a problem that has been resting beneath the earth for millenia.

Hans' thoughts:

In 1954, a Japanese film studio called Toho aped the success of the giant monster genre with their own take: Gojira! (or as it's known in the west, Godzilla! King of the Monsters!) The movie was a tremendous success and ushered in the kaiju genre as well as a long spanning movie series, a reboot in the 80's, and an American remake in 1998. The American remake starring Matthew Broderick and directed by disaster-movie master Roland Emmerich is widely regarded as one of the worst movies not only of the genre, but of that decade. When Hollywood announced they were coming out with a new take on the Godzilla characters, fans were (perhaps understandably) wary of what the west would make of their favorite big screen monster this time. 

Did I tune into a Simpsons live-action movie by accident?
So let's get the obvious stuff out of the way first, one of the biggest problems with most disaster movies is that the human parts are absolutely boring, not just by comparison with what is going on in the rest of the movie but by drama standards as well. The human actors who do the best job are Bryan Cranston as the Captain Ahab like Dr. Brody and whoever played that pleading guy trapped in a crane being dragged into the abyss. I'm sorry, I really am, but I felt little to no chemistry between any of the human characters - including up and comer superstar Aaron-Taylor Johnson whom I've previously enjoyed in his role as Kick-Ass. Most of the characters who spoke in the movie had little to nothing to say besides explaining to the audience what is going on on the screen when they weren't mugging at the camera to try and make us believe that what they were looking at was very tragic and very real. I did not believe the love between the main character and his wife, played by Elizabeth Olsen. As many flaws as the '98 Godzilla movie had, at least I cared a little more about the characters on screen - even if that care was whether they were stepped on or eaten. Frequently the movie would give us a two second shot of the action going on and then immediately cut back to a full scene with nothing but human characters - even long after the focus should've cut completely to just the rampage and the reactions by the human onlookers. A fun addition to the human roster however was Ken Watanabe as this movies version of Dr. Serizawa. However Watanabe got little to nothing to do in the entirety of the film and in the first 25 minutes I was honestly wondering whether his character was supposed to be mute.

All this is really a damn shame because once the movie actually kicks into gear there is a lot of good stuff there. The special effects are really cool, the spectacle-o-meter is going into the red with all the stuff happening - you get what you came for. Senseless meaningless and all encompassing destruction. Once all the key players of the movie are on set (and let's be honest nothing in that sentence includes something human) the destruction is great. A lot of critics has treated the fact that there's more than one monster in this movie as a spoiler, however there being a second monster in the film is clearly shown in the officially released trailer. The interaction between monsters and the animation of the monsters felt more real, than the actual human characters running around trying to survive the disaster. I got more attached to evil monsters in this film than I should've and that's for shame. Godzilla is also fortunately in this movie, as opposed to the '98 disaster that simply but a computer generated T-Rex on screen. He looks like his Japanese counter part, he has the power set of his Japanese counterpart and he actually acted like Godzilla would. It was awesome to see him and his enemies smash themselves through the screen time they got - even if the designs of the new monsters were kinda cliché. The human parts may not be all that good but the people tied to the creative process obviously treated this as a petproject that they really wanted to see succeed. They get what the genre is all about, they get why Godzilla is so awesome, all they really need to do for their next outing is work on their drama skills - or maybe motivate their actors a little better. 

After the success of Del Toro's 2013 kaiju love-letter Pacific Rim we may see more and more American kaiju attempts like this one. I'll be happy if the rest of them will at least hit this level of quality and dedication when it comes to the spectacle and special effects. If the sequel to this movie simply ups its game when it comes to the human parts, we may actually get the great western action blast that the king of monsters truly deserves. 
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