Friday, May 16, 2014

Godzilla (2014)

Godzilla is the coolest creature to every walk the face of cinema.  For thirty movies now, the King of the Monsters has fought proudly for audiences around the world, battling weird aliens, giant bugs, and Matthew Broderick.  The big green radioactive beast has smashed cities for fun, saved the world from cockroaches from beyond the stars, and warred with King Kong for supremacy of the giant monster realm.  He has been a dark consequence of the nuclear age, a dancing champion for the children of the 1970s, and a living incarnation of nature itself, smashing mankind's hubris.  This creature is our punishment for our arrogance, nature's revenge for the sin of atomic bombs.  Or maybe he's just a big silly monster out for a fun brawl against any of his iconic pantheon of monsters, both friend or foe.  This was a monster with his own character, his own awesome presence.  Truly a classic icon.

Gareth Edwards'* "Godzilla" is a movie that completely misses the point of a Godzilla film.  Godzilla has been many things for many ages, but one thing he has never been - at least not until 2014 - is boring.  Edwards creates a depressing miserable experience, one which repeats the greatest cardinal sin of Michael Bay's "Transformers" movies:  it forgot to be a movie about the magnificent giants of the source material, and instead focuses on boring humans.  Lacking either the pulpy SciFi silliness of the classic Japanese film series, or the wacky tone of the messy 1998 Roland Emmerich adaptation, Gareth Edwards makes a movie that is painfully dreary, with no sense of fun, and barely any Godzilla.  He wants to conjure up the cataclysmic terror of the 1954 original, "Gojira", but fails even at this, as the mediocre characterization of the humans and terrible pacing makes this movie a battle of patience.  How does a movie manage to pre-occupy itself with the human perspective, when it cannot even care for a minute to make that human perspective interesting?

Rather than playing to the strengths of the Kaiju genre, this Legendary Pictures reboot Americanizes the creature in a disaster movie, just as the 1998 TriStar attempted.  And still following the 1998 version, this Godzilla is a computer-generated monster, thus losing the charm and personality of the Japanese style of human actors playing the characters within suits on miniature model city battlefields.  As a typical disaster movie, most of the plot involves a White Dude working his way through the wreckage to save his family, which unfortunately massively overshadows the titular monster.  Edwards becomes so wrapped up in his dull human characters that "Godzilla" often makes the horrific decision to cut away from battle scenes to show more homo sapiens.  The human actors constantly interfere with the battle, never letting the creatures just have their time in the spotlight.  "Godzilla" is a movie too wrapped up in its own dreariness to ever let go and be fun.

The new Godzilla is not the mighty creature of old, but a lumpy gray mass of bulk and CG, ignored by his own movie, and worse, lacking any of the charm and presence of previous adventures.  Even the lizard creature of 1998, so hated by the fanbase and Toho, that it has been officially renamed "Zilla" (for taking the "God" out of "Godzilla"), had more to offer, more magnetism, and more emotional weight, then this slab of nothingness Edwards is trying to pass off as my childhood hero.  Practically mute, this Godzilla never expresses himself beyond a few roars, weakly trying to generate an applause from the bored audience.  He's an afterthought inside his own movie, showing up after his opponent monsters, and helping save the world for no established reason at all.  There's no motivation for the poor King of Monsters.  This lurching fat ungainly creature just blunders its way slowly from fight scene to fight scene, forgetting of course, to actually be entertaining.  Am I still talking about the monster, or Gareth Edwards' entire film?

Gray on more gray.
Godzilla is made the heroic monster, fighting two forgettable new kaiju with extremely unoriginal designs.  With a movie this over-serious and self-important, it is unimaginable that we could be allowed to have the classic monsters of old.  A three-headed golden dragon that shoots lightning?  A giant butterfly with two tiny twins as its priestesses?   Those are far too silly, far too much fun.  We need something "darker".  These creatures are the same hunched-over design recycled from just about every American giant monster movie of the last ten years.  Be it "Cloverfield", "Super 8", or "Pacific Rim", they all look identical, and these new monsters, the "Mutos" get to be exactly the same thing again.  Fight scenes are locked at nighttime, probably to make the special effects more convincing, but unfortunately force us to endure the visual nightmare of a gray Godzilla fighting another gray monster against gray buildings.  That is, when Edwards even lets you see a monster fight, which, distressingly, is not often.

Between the various cockteases of great kaiju action, we have the true stars of this movie.  No, it is not Godzilla, he has never been more of a weak supporting role.  And no, the hero is not Bryan Cranston, who is featured prominently in all of the marketing and advertising - because he's a bankable star who people want to see in a movie.  But Edwards, never one to give anybody what they want, instead focuses his camera upon Aaron Taylor-Johnson, a name and face which will make you respond with a resounding:  "who?"  Oh, this young man is the star of "Kick-Ass", where he proved himself a veritable storm of charisma, correct?  Nope.  Taylor-Johnson blankly stumbles through his movie, playing a thankless role of an amazingly dull father, Ford Brody, trying to work his way across the Pacific to return to his family, but constantly having his travel plans ruined by pesky giant monsters.  Bryan Cranston plays Ford's father, Joe, a former nuclear physicist, now obsessed with giant monsters ever since one killed his wife in a mysterious nuclear plant meltdown.  Cranston is fun, emotive, and adds a desperate energy to the proceedings.

Of course, Cranston cannot be the main character.  Because nobody wants to see a fascinating actor putting together a strong performance.  Nobody wants to see Godzilla either.  We want to see a boring white guy doing boring white guy stuff.  Right?  Between Chris Hemsworth, Joel Kinnaman, Kit Harrington, Sullivan Stapleton, and Chris Evans, 2014 has been lousy with Boring White Dudes as leading men in action movies, it is almost as if Hollywood cannot find charismatic young men anymore to star in their movies.  Its bad enough that every fucking First Person Shooting has to star a Boring White Dude, now its infected our movies too?  Well, congrats, "Godzilla", you get to add Aaron Taylor-Johnson's name to that list.  What about green actors?  What about Godzilla??

See that forgettable thing to the right of Cranston?  Yeah, he's our star.  Fuck me.
The other actors are all badly underused in a script that has as little room for its human players as it does its monsters.  Elizabeth Olsen is Ford's wife, Elle, who does nothing in this movie but be a wife.  A new Dr. Serizawa, named for the one-eyed creator of the Oxygen Destroyer weapon from "Gojira", is played by Ken Watanabe, who is the resident expert on giant monsters.  Unfortunately Watanabe is given one note, and that is to say vaguely Eastern-sounding lines of minor menace, and look constantly shocked.  His sidekick is Sally Hawkin's character, who may or may not have actually been named in the film, who literally does nothing at all.  I have no idea why Sally Hawkins was in this movie.  And unfortunately the remainder of the cast are nothing more than anonymous victims, running for their lives.  Not one person had presence of mind to yell out "Godzilla!" while fleeing either.

Say what you want about Emmerich, but at least Mayor Roger Ebert, Hank Azaria, and Godzilla babies slipping on gumballs added color.  There is no color in this movie.  Even Godzilla is fucking gray.

To admit some good in this otherwise wretched movie, Gareth Edwards knows how to point the camera.  He can frame really tense scenes of small humans hiding away from greater monsters.  This is a competently made movie.  His indie giant monster film from a few years ago, "Monsters", showed his strengths far better - mostly because that movie did not star the blandest and most boring of the bland and boring White Boy invasion 2014 has been.  Edwards even frames the monsters well from below, you get a great sense of human helplessness as they are trampled upon by massive nuclear animals.  But unfortunately he can't stop cutting back to the humans, he can't just pull the camera back and let the kaiju brawl take place.  This could be awesome.  But I get the sense this whole movie is some cinematographer's exercise.  While fancy shots and "clever" reversals happen (we miss an entire battle in Honolulu because Edwards wanted to make a joke about a little kid watching it on TV) we miss actually seeing the spectacle that this movie was banked upon.  I didn't like "Pacific Rim" much, but at least that delivered the goods!

I hate both you!  You are so goddamn boring!!
Here's the thing:  "Godzilla" is incredibly boring.  There's just no excuse for a movie to be this slow and to have so little of its main character within it.  Every character is flat and underwritten, except for Cranston, who is barely in the movie.  There is no suspense, there is no build-up.  "Godzilla" is a movie of constantly cocktease.  You get the sense that finally, finally we'll get a kaiju fight, and it never happens.  The old Japaense films were slow and somewhat dull too, but when it was time for Godzilla to fight, Godzilla fought, and it was awesome every time.  This is a movie that gets in the fucking way!  Sorry, guys, having a movie almost show the spectacle it promised is not tension or suspense, it is just a movie fucking with you.  Even when the fighting does happen, Godzilla is so poorly established as a figure, the humans are so badly written, that you won't care who wins**.  Out of any movie in 2014, "Godzilla" was the one I was most looking forward to, and it was the greatest disappointment.  It may not be the worst Godzilla movie ever - there's still "Godzilla's Revenge" - but it is still abominably awful.  I don't think Gareth Edwards actually liked Godzilla, this is a movie made with no love for the character, no love for kaiju films, and no love for the audience.

Stop fapping with the fucking camera angles and just SHOW ME GODZILLA.  Goddamnit!

* A name annoyingly similar to Gareth Evans, the director of "The Raid" and "The Raid 2".  I mean, come on, how many people in the world are named "Gareth"?

** If anything, the most sympathetic characters are the bad kaiju, the bat-things ripped-off from the mind of JJ Abrams.  All they wanted to do was cross the Pacific and have sex in San Francisco and have little babies.  Then Aaron Taylor-Boringasfuck burns the babies to death - it's the death of Godzilla's babies in the Emmerich movie all over again!  Hey, the monsters might be unoriginal and bland, but they kissed once with a nuclear bomb between their mouths.  And that's something.  Something is more than nothing, which is what the rest of the movie offers.



    I was afraid this was going to happen. Where I live they keep playing that trailer with the two leads talking on the phone before cutting to the title. That was a warning sign of what was to come. *Sigh* This really killed my hyped for the movie. I'm still going to go see it, but only because I pre-ordered the tickets.

    You know I think this might be the beginning of a new era. The era to put Godzilla to rest. I know that's a cruel thing to say, but I think it's for the best. Godzilla is a combination of nuclear fear, nature's revenge, and at the time, awesome effects. Almost all three of those things don't exist and this makes it harder to connect with today's audience. Godzilla is a product of his times and maybe it should stay like that. I look at the screenshot above and see he just isn't made to fit with today.

  2. Mr. and Mrs. Muto were so cuuuuute!
    Wikipedia says that a potential sequel would have Monster Island in it.

  3. Aw this makes me sad. This was the film I was most excited for this month.
    Sigh, oh well.
    Sword Of Primus

  4. So the Mutos were feeding off of radiation, but instead of the planet's radiation, they went for either radioactive creatures or man-made nuclear shit. Could they have been trying to weaken what's on the Earth, but not the Earth itself? Also, they got hooks for arms and visor-like eyes. Gigan has hooks for arms and visor-like eyes. Could the Space Hunter Nebula M have sent the Mutos to our planet to pave the way for their colonization?

  5. Blue, I agree with most of your reviews and I understand where the criticism in this case comes from but come on, the film wasnt THAT bad. Im not saying this for the IMDB review (7.5 I think, wich isnt bad at all) and I agree it will not age well, much like other blockbusters, but for the solid beggining. Bryan Cranston delivers, as always, and I still cant figure it out why he wasnt the star of the film, budget? Anyway thats bad advertising, thats f**** lying right there...and so yeah you get the dull insensitive star of Kick-Ass and Watanabe its a total waste. Hes one of my favorites since TLSamurai and its a shame that he doesnt has much to work on.
    Its true we could have seen more action, more fighting, more monsters, because thats a Godzila film, you can call me ignorant but I think one of the strenghts of the trailler was that you never truly saw Godzila, the suspense, the tension was amazing, "Where the f*** is he?" "How big is he?" "Holy sh** its gonna destroy us all!". I was glad I saw it on IMAX (in Portugal you only have 1 cinema with it) because the sound was perfect and in the end I thought it was a good effort of transporting the viewer to a devastating battle city (Snyder should take notes, MoS was disaster at this). Absolutely, It could have had more colour, more of Godzila I admit but overall I think it has better moments than bad ones.