Movie Review: Godzilla (SPOILERS!)Posted: May 28, 2014
Everybody craps on the 1998 Roland Emmerich version of Godzilla, and it is a deeply flawed movie, but at least it’s fun. There are daft gags and likable characters played by Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno and Hank Azaria, and for that reason it is infinitely better than the latest reboot.
Which is disappointing because director Gareth Edwards had really impressed me with Monsters, his first flick. It followed a pair of characters as they attempted to navigate their way through a world where giant monsters were constantly a background threat, appearing in the distance or briefly glimpsed. It was a great movie based on two characters you invested in and the mysterious creatures were interesting.
The problem is, with Godzilla we know what’s coming and the audience wants the giant lizard to start smashing stuff up early, but Edwards still goes for the slow reveal, with a few quick glimpses of Godzilla’s fins before he turns up. Apparently big G was knocking around in the ’50s and the reason the Yanks nuked the South Pacific so much, and he’s lain dormant since (here Godzilla is prehistoric, not radioactive in origin).
There are other monsters too, the MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) who are the bad guys. They feed of radiation and are responsible for the tragic backstory of our heroes Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Joe works at a nuclear power plant and in ’99 it’s attacked by one of the MUTOs which has awoken from it’s cocoon, with his wife buying the farm during the attack. In the intervening period they’ve become estranged due to Joe’s obsession with finding out what really happened, knowing it wasn’t caused by an earthquake and curious as to what’s being hidden in the quarantine zone.
Ford, meanwhile, is a bomb disposal expert for the US Navy and lives in San Francisco with his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and young son. Ford is just back from 14 months away, but has to leave after Joe is pinched in Japan. He gets Joe out and invites him back to the US, but Joe wants to go visit one last time to test a theory that something is “talking” from there.
In the quarantine zone they get pinched and witness the MUTO awaking and killing a bunch of folks, including Joe. The MUTO has apparently been calling it’s mate who’s been stashed by the Americans in Nevada and is also ready to get it on. But there’s a third voice in the monster mash- Godzilla.
Expert Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) believes that G is en route to lay the smack down but the problem is the military don’t believe him and want to nuke the MUTOs and Godzilla in the middle of the ocean, which is dumb as they feed of radiation. Whatever, Ford travels home but is present when MUTO 1 hits Hawaii and then MUTO 2 smashing its way through Nevada. They’re all heading to one place- you guessed it, San Francisco.
Bored yet? Because I was. I almost fell asleep half way through.
Good gods almighty, there is no excuse for a monster movie being this dull. You pay your money to see Godzilla smashing stuff up, and with the promise of other monsters you expect a fun ride. But Edwards approaches it all too seriously, there’s an overdose of slow mo in the Godzilla vs MUTOs handicap match which I think was meant to get the audience to feel bad as the King of Monsters takes a pasting, but as we’ve barely met the critter and it just looks like a giant lizard I wasn’t feeling it.
One of the major criticisms of Emmerich’s effort was that the beastie had no character, as the old rubber suit ‘zilla had an odd likability to it, but the new version is just as hard to warm too. There’s a moment where a knackered G makes eye contact with Aaron Taylor-Johnson and it’s clearly meant to be an emotional moment of connection, but it doesn’t work as it’s just four lifeless eyes staring back at each other.
I can’t remember a lead performance as wooden and uninteresting as ATJ’s work here. The character of Ford drifts along being present at all the major events, with terribly bad luck, and I get that they need a connecting presence, but I didn’t give a damn about Ford and his family. ATJ, who was charming as KickAss and even made John Lennon likable, is painful to watch here. The character has no defining qualities, we’ve had barely any chance to meet him as an adult, and aside from one evening with his family which felt so hackneyed it could have been an advert for John Lewis.
To illustrate how bad he is when his nipper asks “Will you be here tomorrow?” ATJ responds with a look that seems to say “Is this kid an idiot, course I’ll be here in the morning” where I’m sure he’s meant to look hurt/sad/upset. Also, while he’s broadly heroic in the end he just drifts along for most of the film, and never engages. I might be showing myself to be a child of the 80s but would it have killed the scriptwriters to throw in some banter or quips into the mix? Something to give the illusion of character.
How bad is he? Taylor Kitsch was better in Battleship.
The film is doomed as soon as Cranston bites the dust, as he’s the only interesting on screen presence and his character’s fire is the closest it comes to genuine emotion.
Ken Watanabe is screwed over by having very little to do, which also does for Elizabeth Olsen and Sally Hawkins’ Watanabe’s partner in science. The rest of the cast are equally dull and underwritten.
I can only think of two decent moments in the whole flick- casino customers in Vegas oblivious to the news coverage of MUTO 2’s rampage until it bursts into the room and Godzilla taking out MUTO 2 by blasting her with flame breath right into the mouth and tearing off the head. That’s it. Two moments in just over two hours. I gotta say I was surprised it was only two hours, because it felt a lot longer.
A clearly talented director and cast are wasted, and what should have been a big fun blockbuster vanishes in a haze of mediocrity and poor pacing. Woeful stuff.
Just watch Pacific Rim, it’s a lot better. Hell, watch the ’98 flick again.
Verdict: Edwards fumbles terribly, with this a dull, overlong mess. Cranston’s death deprives us of the only interesting character as Taylor-Johnson sleepwalks his way from one underwhelming set piece to the next. Godzilla is revealed too late and the design makes him hard to warm too. Never has a monster mash been shot with such po-faced monotony. 3/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.