23 May 2014 | jadepietro
Godzilla, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Hate the Bomb
This film is recommended.
True or False: Godzilla has its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in California. Believe it or not, it's true. The King of Monsters is ultra famous, an icon of epic proportions loved and revered by many. Yes, the big guy is back big time in Gareth Edwards' updated reincarnation of the super beast, aptly titled Godzilla.
There have been many versions of this reptilian wonder, over thirty sequels since the first successful film in 1954. As a child, I watched that original Godzilla movie on my black & white Zenith TV in awe. I remember going to the movie theater with my buddies and seeing him fight the likes of King Kong, Mothra, and Ghidorah back in the early sixties. I enjoyed the rampaging of Tokyo as the creature lumbered his way across the miniature city models, shrieking and wailing as he gracelessly stomped the citizens and architecture of Japan. No, I didn't get the anti-nuclear message then, nor did I even care as a teenager. It was a group event, a monster movie, badly acted and even worse, badly dubbed, where you could root for the monster and take in all the destruction on the big screen. It was totally cool and mindless fun. This new and improved 2014 version is that too and more. (I also saw the most recent American remake by Roland Emmerich in 1998 which was ravaged by the critics and I didn't love that film, but I didn't hate it that much either.)
Godzilla (2014) is a different creature entirely, more refined than crass, a monster with a mission. Even the creature's look and movements are streamlined and adroit. The film also brings in top name stars to add some prestige to the project, trying valiantly to remove the schlock and deliver the shock: Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, Elizabeth Olsen, and David Strathairn are here, albeit in minor roles. (There are also many monsters-in- combat scenes, but actually, the most frightening creature in the whole film is Cranston's hideous wig which tends to upstage everyone including the main star of the film. No, not Mr. Cranston, I mean Mr. G. himself! And yes, no doubt, I will be having many restless nights from the recurring nightmares caused by that toupee.) Nevertheless, these actors' presence is felt as the director and the writers weave a more personal story into the mayhem, still paying homage to the creature and its radioactive origins.
Besides Godzilla, this reboot focuses on two human characters who fight the monster and their own personal demons: Aaron Taylor- Johnson is Ford Brody, a soldier with an itchy trigger finger and Ken Watanabe is Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, an earnest scientist who views Godzilla in a savior rather than destroyer. The sub-plot is slim and formulaic, but both actors do a solid job of conveying the film's preachy message about man's foolhardy attempt in controlling nuclear power. Much time, perhaps too much time, is spend on the human back-stories and the interrelationship of the film's non-reptilian characters prior to Godzilla's entrance. (The creature doesn't even surface until an hour into the film.)
Still, as always, it's the action sequences that matter most. These creatures get around as the film globe-trots from China and Hawaii and California and Nevada, specifically Las Vegas (well, they are high-rollers), to where else but that iconic landmark of monster movies, the Golden Gate Bridge, for a climactic smack-down. This Godzilla uses state-of-the-art visuals to keep interest high. (The tsunami sequence is thrilling.) The CGI work is very impressive. However, the 3-D effects scattered throughout the movie don't really amount to much and the MUTO monsters (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism), lack real menace or originality and are inspired too closely from Aliens, Starship Troopers, and Transformers. Production values are strong, especially Seamus McGarvey's imaginative cinematography and Alexandre Desplat's dramatic musical score which helps to contribute to the film's success.
As the director, Edwards' unique vision incorporates shadows, aerial perspectives, and clever point of views via masks and goggles to bring some needed tension. He efficiently shoots the film with a minimum of story and a maximum of tightly staged battles, keeping the action at the forefront and making Godzilla (2014) an unexpected guilty pleasure. This film will do serious damage at the box office with, I'm sure, another sequel in the near future. Godzilla lives on! GRADE: B
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NOTE: The opening credits are particularly well done, with a montage of 1950's archival footage of nuclear bombings and redacted text highlighting the cast and filmmakers. It helps to set the right tone for a more serious monster film right from the start.