Friday, May 30, 2014

Godzilla (Gareth Edwards, 2014)

If forgotten, the sins of the past are likely to be revisited on the future. As the only nation to have nuclear weapons used against them, Japan has a duty to remember the scale of devastation Fat Man and Little Boy had on the unsuspecting cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. They commemorated these attacks by re-imagining the bombs as giant, invulnerable radioactive monsters who would devastate entire cities. It was fitting that The Doctor and I chose to honor the memory of the frightening destruction of the war by spending Memorial Day watching Gareth Edwards' thoroughly American remake of Godzilla, a creature spawned 60 years ago by the Japanese to remind us all of the monstrous effects of the most violent weapons ever unleashed on humanity.

Godzilla is not humanity’s savior, he is not our friend.  If you see Godzilla while fleeing a giant, radiation munching monster, switch directions because he is not there to save you. He is the alpha predator of the world (the filmmakers got this right) whose only job is to restore natural order, that is, with him at the top. He appears when something needs to be taken down a notch or two. Once that is done, he leaves. Godzilla does not do victory laps.

The first casualty, even before the mass destruction began, was Bryan Cranston’s credibility as an actor. Chewing the scenery was Godzilla’s job, not his.It was like Heisenberg's rage-y cool was not available and Hal, the hirsute and hapless dad from TV's Malcolm in the Middle, was all that was available.

There are lots of great set pieces-most notably the paratrooper's descent into monster ravaged San Francisco is a thrill ride all the way down.  Unfortunately, there are lots of diversions and distractions along the way that suck the adrenaline right out of the movie.  One of the most annoying is the use of a dog in peril to heighten tension.  This is a waste of time because the audience would immediately quit caring about the rest
of the movie and fret over the noble beast's demise (personally, the death of any sort of pet is usually cause for abandoning most movies.). Equally annoying was the "will it or won't it?" nuclear weapon option.  At times it was not even clear if the bomb going off would be a good thing or a bad thing.  Sadly, for the huge amount of screen time devoted to that useless bomb, it was truly the Waiting for Godot Nuclear Option because when it finally went off NOTHING HAPPENED!

Lastly, you know how movies sometimes give us vision of poetic calm before the storm of chaos that sweeps the characters away in an inexorable tide of destruction arrives? Such as a lone man parachuting to Earth in a grey mist, just before the falling debris from his fighter jet starts crashing on the characters? Used judiciously, it is a wonderful and thrilling device to give the audience enough pause to catch their breath before the action starts back up. But, please, just once per movie. Godzilla is crammed full of these indistinct details in the mist that reveal themselves to be a giant but silent monster (makes about as much sense as a man in a parachute landing before the falling debris of his plane) waiting to pounce.

Gareth Edwards seemed to want to make was about family, duty, and bravery, with special guest star Gojiro. Obviously, Godzilla couldn't be about two hours of him smashing it out with other monsters, the audience would have gotten CGI-Battle Fatigue. While full of some great scenes (I really liked his previous movie, 2010's Monsters, which is available for streaming on Netflix), what I really wanted to see was less artfully constructed scenes aching with unresolved emotions and  more building pulverizing punches as the giant monsters unleash their fury on each other.

Director Gareth Edwards loads lots of  great visual style to his sophomore effort.  

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