This blog has always been known for its tendency to go against what most mainstream critics agree upon. Other times, it definitely agrees with them. Most times, it stumbles like an extremely indecisive dude who can’t seem to agree whether he will buy a pair of rubber shoes or a booster box of a Magic The Gathering cards. This entry feels somewhat in between because while I understand what the critics are positively saying about the latest Godzilla film, I still can’t over the fact that those critics seem to be deliberately ignoring certain problematic elements about the movie.
“Enough with the teasing, Evil Dr. Bok, you harlot you; did you like Gareth Edward’s Godzilla?” you mindless minions groaning in frustration as I make a long winded introduction to this entry. To that I reply, “If you were expecting giant monster fights ala Pacific Rim, then you will be sort off disappointed. If, however, you belong to those who have an excellent knowledge of the Godzilla lore from the original 1954 film to the more recent ones, who jizz at the very sight of Godzilla charging up for his radioactive breath attack, then yes, you will enjoy this movie IF (that’s a big if) you can forgive the fact that Godzilla has less screen time than the human characters.”
You see, one has to be in a certain mindset before watching this movie. Those expecting the kind of film where Godzilla fights other giant monsters might feel pretty underwhelmed when watching this movie because this film takes off from the 1954 version. And no, I’m not referring to the American re-edit title Godzilla: King of Monsters, but rather to the original Toho film starring Kurosawa veteran, Takashi Shimura. That Godzilla film was meant to be more of a sci-fi horror/disaster flick where Godzilla was indeed a monster, an unstoppable force of nature. It was meant to reflect the Japanese anxiety towards nuclear weapons and, for the time, one can only imagine the film to be extremely effective considering that it was released a mere 9 years after World War 2 ended.
Kaiju Battle Royale
So there we have it; the 1954 Godzilla was meant to address a present anxiety among the Japanese. It was with the sequels when the movie started to embrace the inherent ridiculousness of a guy in a rubber suit fighting other monsters; that was when the films supposedly became more fun. In other words, it was a film that didn’t take itself too seriously. Now, the first “true” Godzilla film I saw was the one film where Godzilla first teamed up with Mothra to defeat this alien monster. I was too young to remember precise details but I was pretty sure I was laughing my butt of with the sheer awesomeness of Godzilla drop-kicking the other monster. That’s the fun kind of Godzilla. To an extent, and I know some of you might violently disagree with this, but I actually enjoyed watching the terrible 1998 Godzilla. Yes it is the poor man’s Jurassic Park, and it was just a huge mess, but it is the kind of fun mess that I would want to watch drunk with my friends just so we can make fun of the film’s stupidity. In a sense, despite it having no relation to the Japanese Godzilla, at the film can still be enjoyed ironically with the help of a couple of beers and some boorish company.
Godzilla 2014 (SPOILER WARNING)
Which leads us now to the new Godzilla. I understand that it was meant to follow in the footsteps of the 1954 original, and for that, at least I can applaud them for echoing some of the post-nuclear anxieties of the 1954 film (the film’s prologue echoes the Fukushima disaster a few years ago). And the climactic Battle Royale with the two other monsters, was pretty satisfying (the radioactive breath’s introduction was pretty cool). However, this is where the audience’s patience will be tested for between the monster appearances and their fights, we are subjected to the human element of the story.
Now I know that I have said before that for a film to be effective, one needs the human hook; the investment towards the characters. This hook worked to an extent in Inception, The Expendables, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. These are summer blockbusters, but one they had which the current Godzilla didn’t are well developed characters (or at least, developed enough that they do not upstage the more brainless part of a summer blockbuster). Inception had Cobb wanting to return to his kids, The Expendables had Barney and Tool’s inner demons, and The Winter Soldier had the chemistry between Steve Rogers and Agent Romanoff. Godzilla, unfortunately only had Bryan Cranston who dies roughly 20 minutes into the film. Even if the writers’ intentions was to focus on the human element and their actions during a kaiju invasion, at least let the story have memorable characters that MAKE major and believable contributions to the plot. Other film reviews also mention Jaws and the Spielberg influence in Godzilla. I thought that the reference was invalid as Jaws had Chief Brody, Hooper, and Quint. Aside from Heisenberg, which human character stood out in Godzilla? If I were to summarize this portion in phrase, I would echo what my friends and I said about the first Transformers film, “More Godzilla, less humans.”
I may have been a bit harsh on the film as I enjoyed certain portions of it. The three-way climactic fight between Godzilla and the MUTOs was pretty fun. It was just unfortunate that the film had us wade through the sludge that was the boring human story elements for almost 90 minutes before we got through the kaiju fights that have been teasing us since Godzilla’ arrival at Hawaii. But heck, I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings book even as it had me go through 2 to 300 pages of walking, unpronouncable names, and scenery descriptions so who am I to condemn this film. That said, if you are indeed one of those hardcore Godzilla fans, or is simply willing to wait for 90 minutes for the giant monster extravaganza at the end, then consider this a recommendation on my part. Otherwise, stick to Pacific Rim or even the old Godzilla films if you want more no-holds barred kaiju action.