The world’s most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.
Year 2, Film #73
THE REVIEW: Long time no see fellow readers. I know it’s been over a month since I last reviewed a film here, but don’t worry; my summer has just started and I plan to get back in the swing of things starting now. Expect to see lots of reviews in addition to some other posts that I’m planning including one about my recent experience participating in the 48 Hour Film Project in Boston.
But I digress. Godzilla (2014) is the subject for today and is a good film to start back with. I haven’t seen any of the 28 films that have been made since the franchise started in 1954 nor am I familiar with any of Godzilla lore or origins. All I knew going into Gareth Edwards’ reboot was that there was a giant dinosaur-like monster fighting other monsters, causing lots of destruction and mayhem in their path. Coming out of the theater, I was thoroughly entertained and fascinated with the premise of this creature, but somewhat disappointed with the execution and implementation in the film.
The prologue of the film was perfect for a newcomer to the franchise like myself. In five minutes, the rise of these monsters was established — nuclear testing in the 1940s and 50s by the U.S. — and an ominous, foreboding tone was set for the film. While I also haven’t seen any of the Batman films prior to Christopher Nolan’s, I think drawing an analogy between the two franchises is apt. Godzilla looks to show where and why these creatures come form, the apocalyptic-tidings the bear, and what impact it all has on our current society. It’s a prototypical antihero story where the bad comes along with the good.
But after this opening, Godzilla pretty much falls flat. Action-wise not much really happens and character/story-wise leaves you with next-to-no connection to anything that you see take place. The only bit of emotion I felt was during the first act during a catastrophic event involving the Brody family — father Joe (Bryan Cranston), mother Sandy (Juliette Binoche), and son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). The nuclear facility where the parents work faces seismic activity and begins to collapse and leak radioactive material, trapping the mother inside the containment door. She looks out at her husband though a glass window as the gas cloud races up behind her; a sign of sure death. This happens within twenty minutes, barely any time at all to get to know these characters, but it is a very powerful scene. Sadly, nothing like this occurs later on in the film. From here on out, all the characters are distant and uninvolved. As the monsters approach San Francisco, where Ford’s wife Elie (Elizabeth Olsen) and son (Carson Bolde), I felt no worry or sadness on their behalf, or for any of the other citizens for that matter. It truly felt like everyone in this film was just a pawn in a giant game of chess minus the strategy. Building collapses, big whoop. Golden Gate Bridge comes tumbling down, don’t care. Millions of people threatened by an armed nuclear warhead, doesn’t matter. The reason is because there are seemingly no consequences to the actions being taken.
Not only do you care very little about the characters, but the character also seem to care very little. Ford only tells his wife he loves her once throughout the entire film and that take place about two-thirds of the way through. It’s the one time in the entire two-hour film that the words “I love you” are spoken. With the world coming to an end, people dying left and right, and cities being obliterated, you’d think people would tell each other how they feel more than once. But that’s just a symptom of this film’s problems. The real problem lies in what I said before about a lack of consequences. Not once was I scared or exhilarated by the action taking place on screen. Explosions, guns firing, and fighting monsters and I felt like I was watching a bunch of insects flying around on a warm summers day. Granted, there are a handful of amazing scenes that give Godzilla value for your admission (most of them involving the titular creature, all of them long-takes where you can see Godzilla from head to toe), but besides these handful of moments, it’s quite a lackluster action-film. And whether as a result of the action not being exciting or simply because of it, seeing cities utterly demolished felt like when it’s time to take apart your LEGOs and put them back in the box — it’s just a matter of time before you build everything again.
Despite my many complaints which have taken up the majority of this review, don’t be too wary about seeing Godzilla. My appreciation for this film lies heavily in the fact that it enlightened me on a new franchise and a new set of mythology surrounding this gigantic creature. While the story may have faltered quite a bit, the building blocks were all there giving the film some semblance of structure. While the cement may not have fully dried and left both the action and the character very lackluster, boring, and distant, it does provide some moments of spectacle and entertainment. If you’re already a fan of the franchise, you may like this more than I did. The audience I saw it with erupted with cheers and applause the first time Godzilla appeared on screen and roared. If you do decided to see it, I would shy away from seeing this in 3D. The cinematography of the film is very dark and you’ll want all the light you can get to see the film and putting 3D glasses on won’t help with that.
Godzilla opens in theaters this Friday, May 16, 2014.
THE RATING: 3 out of 5