Godzilla (2014) Review
It had me. It almost had me. The whole “why do we HAVE to follow white people in Japan to make this movie?” thing aside, Bryan Cranston and Juliet Binoche did a fine job, and I became surprisingly emotionally attached from the beginning. The reveal was held off, allowing time for anticipation to build, and I loved it. But the story doesn’t follow them for long; they soon are left behind in favor of following their son, an active member in the U.S. army. There are a couple things wrong with this: 1) Aaron Taylor-Johnson (from Kickass) does a horribly bland job, and 2) we lose all REAL reason to follow the human story. Bryan Cranston was the scientist trying to find out what’s going on, to solve the problem of these monsters, and I would have followed him all the way, joyfully. His son just gives us an excuse to jump into ground zero of the fight, and a totally unnecessary excuse at that.
So, fine, we lose the human story, and though they keep trying to shove sappiness in our faces, it lacks resonance, causing most of the audience to laugh at what are meant to be serious moments. Let’s say that’s fine, because Godzilla has always been corny. What about him though? How’s the monster?
Godzilla looks fantastic. He sounds fantastic. He fights fantastically. The destruction is fantastic. If you want to see awesome monsters fight, you’ll get it. The camerawork is clean, the action exciting (though personally I thought Pacific Rim did it better, but that’s not the aesthetic here). All of this is aided by a rousing old-school score, and really well-done, adrenaline-inducing scenes of the public running away from destruction. The monsters are actually scary! But, again, they lose me. I never get invested in Godzilla…it’s as if I’m just supposed to like him as the misunderstood hero he’s always been. He gets no build-up. He’s the freaking title character! He’s supposed to be a symbol for man’s folly, for what can literally come back to bite us if we ignore our atrocities for too long. Where he should be representative of Japan’s fear of the effects of radiation, their chaotic subconscious, he inexplicably fights for the American people. Why does he defend the ones that did this to him? What motive does he have to fight the other monsters?
The film’s paltry answer is delivered by Ken Watanabe, an actor who is far from his finest hour; not only does he play a token Japanese scientist who goes completely undeveloped, but he literally plays EVERY one of his scenes in frowning, mouth-agape disbelief. He says that Godzilla is nature’s way of balancing out the equation of the other monsters. That’s stupid, because he’s an imbalance himself, and wasn’t created by nature. But whatever. I only complain about the human story and “ideas” because the film itself has the pretense of doing these things well. In the end, you wanna see monsters fight, and you will. IMAX and 3D make it pretty cool, but aren’t necessary. A nice loud theater makes it worth it, though. You gotta hear that roar.