Get out your radiation detectors and nuclear bombs, we're reviewing Godzilla!
Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is in charge of a nuclear power plant in Japan when something goes HORRIBLY WRONG. Fifteen years after the "accident," he's still trying to prove something weird happened, but his son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) just wants him to drop it. Then they discover what it is and things go EVEN MORE HORRIBLY WRONG. Meanwhile, the head scientist (Ken Wantanabe) of a super-secret organization knows only ONE other force of nature that can take on this new threat...
Well if you wanted a really good Godzilla movie that wasn't really ABOUT Godzilla, here it is. It has some great CGI, but I found it very frustrating at times.
For the first half an hour it's Godzilla: A Tale of Two Dads as the main heroes, Joe and Ford, are both dads and they both have some SERIOUS EMOTIONS and – man, did I check out right there! I like how the movie starts in Japan, yet we are focused on ONLY these two white dudes. Because AMERICA. This is a minor spoiler, but it happens within five minutes of the start of the movie, and it is SUPER easy to see coming: The reason he's obsessed with the catastrophe for fifteen years is that his wife died in it, and he's convinced something killed her. Like, really movie? You couldn't just have him be beat up and obsessed about the reactor melting down and feeling like it's his fault? Did you really NEED that “women in refrigerators” bit? "SOMETHING KILLED MY WIFE! I HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW!!" Settle down, guy – like thousands of people died that day in addition to your wife. Take a breather. Bryan Cranston is a great actor and I really tried to care, but this glaring, clichéd beginning made it virtually impossible for me.
Even after that whole thing is kind of settled (aka, it’s just forgotten), the rest of the movie is about Ford trying to get back to his family, which is really hard to care about when none of these characters have any personality. I don't really understand Ford's motivation, I don't care about his story, and – WHY THE HELL CAN'T HE KEEP HIS MOUTH CLOSED, LIKE, EVER!? Who do you think you are, Megan Fox? And who names their kid Ford and why isn't there at least one joke about his dependability? Look, movie, I came here for one thing, and that's the giant lizard whose name is the ENTIRE title, not this bland soldier I whose name I can barely remember. I seriously don't understand what his motivation is behind the things he does, and I have no idea what his story arc is supposed to add to the movie.
Oh, I guess you wanted to hear about Godzilla? Like, what his story is this time around, and how he looked? Well, okay then. There's actually this really great build-up in the beginning of the film where you only see glimpses of him in photographs or just poking his spikes out of the water. And then about an hour in, there's this great intro as Godzilla comes up onto the beach, creating this MASSIVE TIDAL WAVE, scattering people everywhere and making them run for cover. Then you finally get to see Godzilla in full and hear his incredibly iconic roar as he's ABOUT TO BATTLE THE SHIT OUT OF ANOTHER GIANT MONSTER! Doesn't that sound super great? Don't you want to see what happens next?
Haha, just kidding! Let's see how the boring family is doing instead.
Seriously, this is what happens. It is SUCH a tease. All I want is to see giant monsters fight and the movie WILL NOT GIVE IT TO ME. We never see the monsters fight (or do any damage really) until the last twenty minutes of the movie. And in a certain light, I can respect what they're trying to do here. I find it interesting that in the midst of these giant monster battles they focus more on the humans and how they react to these behemoths rather than the movie being about the behemoths themselves. But not when the movie is Godzilla and they've been advertising it to be ABOUT Godzilla. Not when I would actually want to see Godzilla fight the Cloverfield monster. And not when the alternative is this really boring, derivative, clichéd story about two angry white dads. UGH. There are a couple of times where I almost cursed the movie out loud.
It's so frustrating because the actual monster fighting is really good! Godzilla looks exactly like Godzilla; he feels like the Godzilla you want him to be. When it actually gets to the fighting, it's pretty fun seeing two monsters go at it, and they use Godzilla in interesting ways. And I really like the designs of the other monsters! I'm not saying that I need two hours of straight Godzilla wrestling, but the movie is called Godzilla. You have to give me something here, movie. Here's the thing: the movie could have still been good if they had had a more interesting story with better characters. If it was just Ken Watanabe and his science team searching for and trying to recruit Godzilla – that would be cool, too! But man, the family we get is just not interesting.
It's also weird that Godzilla is mostly a force of good in this first movie. I like it; I think it's interesting. It's just so weird that he goes to the role of protector so fast. They don't show him destroying ships or humans AT ALL. And they don't show any motivation for this? Why is he being so nice to people? Is it because they're not a threat? I would think an animal that's being attacked, even if it were from a minor threat, would still attack back. But here he just seems to be like "Whatevs guys, I'm just gonna do my own thing, you do you." He also has amazing timing for saving our bland human hero just in the nick of time. It's so weird. I hope "Good Guy Godzilla" becomes a new meme. Isn’t it also weird that the heroes don't really DO anything to get Godzilla to fight? Like Ken Watanabe's plan is basically "wait and just let Godzilla deal with it." The specialists don't do anything. So A) why do you have a job? And B) why are we focusing on you instead of Godzilla if you're going to let him do all the work? That’s boring – show me the action!
I like Godzilla's origins in this movie and how easily they can set up other monsters, and not in a "They came from the same atomic bomb" or "We created them all" kind of way. That's cool.
I really REALLY wanted this to be great in 3D. It is not. It is a straight 2D movie. I remember seeing Pacific Rim and how UTTERLY AMAZING it was in 3D. But this? I was struggling, searching for any glimmer or specific shot to stand out. Nothing did. Not to say it's not a gorgeous movie. Save for not showing the monsters fighting, I would say there are a ton of beautiful shots of destruction. They've been advertising this almost as a disaster movie, and I would have liked to see more shots of the disaster rather than sweeping over the aftermath, but there are still some gorgeous shots. And it has an amazing score. It's both breathtakingly epic and incredibly unsettling. It's perfect Godzilla music.
|Mothra is WAY too colorful what was I thinking|
THE GOOD: Godzilla looks like Godzilla, GREAT CGI, some great fights, great score, great destruction scenes.
THE BAD: Barely ever see Godzilla, teases fighting without showing it, bland main characters, main story is about two angry dads, heroes don't do anything to get Godzilla, women in refrigerators, no motivations for Godzilla, not enough destruction scenes, don't care about the human characters.
THE VERDICT: $$$ So Godzilla. It is kind of really frustrating. If you're paying for a Godzilla movie, you're wasting your money. If you want to pay to see maybe twenty minutes of great shots, then maybe go see it. It's an alright movie. But it’s frustrating. Maybe just go back and watch Pacific Rim and drink until you imagine them fighting Godzilla. Or go back and watch some classic Godzilla movies.
MOVIES LIKE IT: Pacific Rim, Cloverfield, basically any other Godzilla movie.
ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: Ford's wife, Elle (Elizabeth Olsen), finds herself in the middle of a street with a crowd of people, while a giant monster is coming one way, and Godzilla is coming the other. We follow her as she runs into a shelter, and see the two monsters going at each other as the doors close. And then it cuts to whatever the hell Ford is doing because HEAVEN FORBID WE ACTUALLY GET TO SEE TWO MONSTERS FIGHT? WHY THE HELL DID I EVEN PAY FOR THE 3D VERSION ANYWAYS??