"Godzilla" (2014)

Godzilla (2014)
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Running time: 123 minutes

So I did it, I finally got to see Godzilla! After the train wreck the other week that was The Other Woman, I was so excited to see this film and I am even more excited to write about it. But first, I feel I need to put up a mild spoiler warning here. No, I’m not going to spoil the ending or anything like that! Godzilla had a very interesting kind of marketing campaign, where what the story they are implying in the trailers is not exactly the story you get in the film. I love it when movies do this, as it means the trailer hooks my interest but does not spoil the movie for me. Having said that, to actually talk about the film at all will require me to explain the basic plot and that would undo any sneaky trailer magic! Sorry guys, I don’t make the rules.

You have been warned, now on with the show!

Now Showing this week is Godzilla, directed by Gareth Edwards. Fifteen years ago (which is 1999, that made me feel old!), a power plant in Japan starts to suffer some serious seismic activity, causing the plant to implode and the surrounding suburban areas to be bathed in radiation. Scientist Joe Brody (Bryan “The Cran-Man” Cranston) survives the implosion, but sadly his wife does not. Fast forward fifteen years, Joe is a depressive wreck, obsessed with the idea that the government is hiding something out in the quarantined radiation zone, and his now adult son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has been dragged into his plans to find out what. What they discover is that the power plant meltdown was caused by some kind of chrysalis, and that it is being studied by a man named Dr Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), who discovered the chrysalis back in 1999. The chrysalis soon hatches to become a large, radiation hungry creature known as a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Object), and begins to wreak havoc across Japan. As the creature heads towards the United States, and all attempts to kill it have failed, Dr Serizawa unveils his greatest theory: that  gigantic monster briefly glimpsed in the 1950s code-named “Godzilla” might be the MUTO’s natural predator and he could be humanity’s only hope of survival.

Do you see why I needed to put the spoiler warning up at the beginning? Did the trailers for Godzilla lead you to believe that the film was about the dangerous threat of ANOTHER creature to the human race? And that Godzilla was just a separate entity, and that human kind may have to just let him take care of business? I certainly didn’t think that was the premise of the film going in, I assumed it was the same old “mutated-lizard-starts-destroying-New-York” shtick again. Well, well done Godzilla, you successfully surprised me! I really liked this concept, the concept that Godzilla himself was not a mutation from nuclear testing but instead an ancient beast and the natural predator of these MUTO creatures. It made the film feel a little more fresh for me.

Sadly, the rest of the film didn’t quite reach the level of quality that this new premise gave to it.

The first half was really good, namely due to the pacing of the film being so much like the classic monster movies, such as Jaws. In those days, the filmmakers couldn’t just show off the monster because of budgetary constraints and crappy special effects. So they cleverly hid the monster, teasing us for the entire film until “shit-gets-real” (that’s a technical term) in the final act. Godzilla follows this structure, playing up the human characters at the beginning before unleashing some full-on monster fighting in the second half. But what made that first half good was really down to one thing:

The Cran-Man.

Bryan Cranston dominates this movie. He is the true behemoth of the whole production, and the fact that he is really a minor character is just disgraceful. He had all the best dialogue; and even when his dialogue wasn’t so good, he sold it with such conviction and talent that he made it sound a lot less not-good. Every other character was so flat and lacklustre, with Taylor-Johnson’s Ford having all the personality of a department store mannequin, and Watanabe’s Dr Seirzawa mumbling his way through expository speeches. The Cran-Man was the true star of the show, and he really should have been the main protagonist.

As for Godzilla himself, well…

Gee, I don’t know how to say this. I’ll try, but no promises that it will make much sense! …I liked Godzilla, but…I really wanted to love him? Does that make sense?

What I’m trying to get at is that Godzilla fulfilled his purpose in the film: he was big, awe inspiring, brought destruction in his wake and also he was BIG. And as I said, the idea that he wasn’t some man-made mutation but an ancient being and the natural predator of the MUTOs was pretty awesome. But I just didn’t like his personality so much; the way he just wandered in to various cities, fought monsters and then swaggered off into the sunset like he’s John Wayne. I don’t know, it just seemed so…funny!

The full-on monster battle in the finale was just hilarious! I mean, Godzilla can perform round-house kicks! It reminded me of Peter Jackson’s King Kong, only Kong was established and developed as a character of some base intelligence, whilst Godzilla wasn’t. Ah ha – I take back what I said in the last paragraph! I don’t not like Godzilla’s personality, I don’t like that he doesn’t have one yet the film behaved like he did for the sake of setting up impressive “take-downs”. There, I finally made sense of my scrambled brain.

Look, the bottom line is that Godzilla was a lot of fun. But it was fun because it had a really interesting first half and then a knee-slappingly hilarious second half, which I guess is OK? I don’t regret the time I spent watching it, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I just couldn’t take it seriously once the characters became boring and the narrative became ridiculous. And there was already a giant, city-destroying lizard so it was pretty ridiculous from the outset! Without listing specifics I can’t justify that statement, but trust me when I say that the story became very silly. But the film was fun, and sometimes “fun” is all we need. I guess you’ll have to make up your own minds about this one!

See you next time!

For more of Tom’s ramblings or “jurnarizm”, as he likes to call it, check out his digital CV.
You can also hear him bounce expletive witticisms off two of Melbourne’s more handsome gentlemen on their podcast Unnatural Selection

Follow Tom on Twitter: @tomdheath

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