Monday, June 16, 2014

Godzilla (2014)

Or, Fat Godzilla vs. The Cloverfield Twins

Or, why can’t an American film studio do a decent Godzilla flick?

[mild spoilers]

Yeah, Godzilla 2014 is getting a lot of positive reviews.  Was the main reason, all these years after surviving that 90s Godzilla thing, that I wanted to see this one.  Turns out I lost gigabytes of street cred convincing my buddy to see it with me (thinking it would be too intense for my nine-year-old Little One).  I felt obligated to apologize to him as the final credits rolled up the screen.

Main complaint: You don’t see Godzilla until nearly an hour into the film. 

Secondary complaint: Yes, he’s fat.

Tertiary complaint: Everybody but the Breaking Bad guy is a one-dimensional product of lazy boring screenwriting, acting, and directing.  Even the Japanese scientist guy, who every critic seems to be praising, fails us.

Let’s address these, shall we?

Sometimes it’s good to hide the  monster.  Think Arnold’s Predator, Cameron’s Aliens, even Pitch Black’s carnivorous flying thingies.  It all works very well – ramps up the tension, magnifies the scares, delivers a satisfying “reveal” that makes us root for our beleaguered heroes fending off their foul, disgusting nemeses.  But what if your creature is several hundred feet tall, and is more interested in knocking a building down than ripping out your larynx?  Do the same rules apply?

I think not.  In the case of the city-size monster, you want to see him.  You want the visceral terror of fleeing, antlike and powerless, from something towering over you that can blot you out of existence without even acknowledging you.  It’s one reason why I think Spielberg was absolutely correct and a hundred percent effective showing his fifty-foot tall tripods in Act I of his War of the Worlds remake.

Here we see footprints.  We see 1950s stock footage of something rising on the ocean horizon.  Eventually we see news helicopters broadcasting a few seconds of footage of Godzilla bodyslamming another monster – then we immediately cut away to reaction shots of fleeing citizens.  Screw the reaction shots.  I want to be the one reacting, in my movie theater seat with the goofy 3D glasses on, thinking that if Godzilla doesn’t see me and eat me, step on me, or nuke me with his fire breath, I still court death from collapsing skyscraper.

And why is it so hard to reimage Godzilla?  The 1990s beast looked more like a cross between an iguana and Stan Laurel (that overinflated lower jaw they share is what I’m getting at).  2014 version looks like he needs to take in a couple of Weight Watchers meetings.  He’s husky.  Stocky.  Big-boned.  Okay, he’s fat, and probably obese if you extended that BMI table out to five hundred feet and five thousand tons or whatever.

The movie makers seem to think the best way to make a movie entitled Godzilla is to spend the majority time on two different giant creatures, called MUTOs.  (It’s an acronym for something or other.)  One’s bigger than the other, one’s a female, one’s a male, they eat radioactivity or something.  To me, guy in the chair in the theater, they just looked like Cloverfield’s cousins – gangly spindly legs, ferocious attitude, confused and not quite at home in our world so bam! there goes the neighborhood.  Godzilla saves us somehow or someway, but don’t let down your guard cuz he’s not good either, maybe, we’ll have to see next sequel if there is one if it makes enough money.  The backstory kinda made sense when I was watching it, but dunno if I can repeat it a week later.  Also, they killed Bryan Cranston way too early, so right then and there I rooted for their demise (the monsters, though I can understand if you thought I was talking about the movie makers).

Which brings me to my third complaint: I am patriotic as the next conservative, but these square-jawed military men, especially the vanilla hero of our movie, are all just plain boring.  Ditto the other extraneous characters: the wife, boring, the little tyke, boring, the obligatory Japanese tyke, boring.  The only interesting guy they kill off a half-hour in and leave us with these bands of bland beige banal boredoms.

All that being said, I still like Godzilla, still want him to come to the big screen in a way that does honor and homage to the two or three hundred hours I spent as a kid, mostly on Saturday mornings, glued to the teevee set watching the big rubber-suited reptile fight all those other big rubber-suited reptiles.  And apes, robots, pterodactyls, caterpillars, three-headed alien monsters, and whatnot.  I’m looking for cosmic justice here, cosmic justice in the form of a decent flick, not just a whole building of computer animators doing this and that with the pixels to try to make me think I’m watching a giant green lizard on the big screen.  They owe me, and after failing now for two major movies, they get one more chance.

Grade: C-minus.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Accurate review, some funny spots in the review.
I like your selfi picture!

Steve G