Monday, May 19, 2014

A Reel Review: GODZILLA

The latest version of the famed Godzilla creature to stomp onto our shores is a movie made up of two distinct parts. The first being an old-school monster movie, and the second being the effects the presence of giant monsters appearing on our modern Earth has on human beings. How these two parts blend together ultimately decides the sinking or swimming of director Gareth Edwards’ GODZILLA.
When the MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) appear on Earth and begin causing worldwide destruction, mankind’s only hope lies in Godzilla…an ancient creature who has been slumbering underground since the atomic age.

GODZILLA is first and foremost a monster movie. Godzilla himself is the star and hero of the film, as he becomes the only force on the planet capable of defeating the MUTO’s. The fights and showdowns are a beautiful spectacle to see; stunningly realized, well-executed, and full of eye-popping, jaw dropping moments as skin is gnawed, heads are ripped off, tails are swung and atomic-breath is unleashed. When its monster vs. monster, GODZILLA is breathtaking ride. However, where this monster begins to stumble is the buildup. Director Gareth Edwards latches onto the approach of not-showing-too-much too tightly. Godzilla is shown in flashes for the most of the film, and many of the fights cut away too quickly. There is a fine line between building suspense and denying the audience what they want to see, and GODZILLA leans towards the latter. The battles are a great payoff to all of the teasing and peek-a-boo-Godzilla, but getting there is the hard part and Godzilla himself almost feels like an afterthought.
The human side of the story does not fare much better, as every character serves as nothing more than a plot point and never gets past the basic archetype they are based on. You’ve got the solider (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) trying to get back to his wife (Elizabeth Olsen). We’re given the crazy father (Bryan Cranston) who is driven by the loss of his wife (Juliette Binoche). And for good measure we’ve got the military leader (David Strathairn) who seeks the advice of the only scientist in the whole wide world who knows what’s going on (Ken Watanabe). None of these characters develop past their names or occupations, which leaves very little to cheer for. For as much as their world should be affected by the presence of giant monsters, the humans don’t seem to matter much.

Despite the talent that director Gareth Edwards shows in conveying the size and scale of the monsters, he displays poor storytelling technique throughout the film. Pacing is a slog, and scenes are setup by characters standing around talking about what they’re about to do or explaining exactly what is going on. There is a lack of style in the film which leaves for a very dull time in-between monster fights.
Acting is a mixed bag as no one really seems to know what they should be doing. Aaron Taylor-Johnson displays very little charisma, and great actresses such as Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, and Juliette Binoche never get to flex any of their talent. Bryan Cranston does fine but seems wasted in his little screentime. David Strathairn and Ken Watanabe suffer the most. Strathairn does little but announce to the audience what is going on, and Watanabe is given nothing to do but monologue away in a manner that makes him sound like a fortune cookie. The entire cast is really overqualified for GODZILLA.

In the end, GODZILLA feels like two different films as the monsters show up once in a while for a tussle and the humans stumble around searching for a story. It’s a shame because Godzilla the creature is remarkably realized, and is a fantastic version of the creature existing in a poorly constructed film. Magnificent for monsters and sloppy for storytelling makes for an even break.

1 comment:

  1. No where in comparison to the old version... That was epic... this movie survives with the hype created around it


A few rules:
1. Personal attacks not tolerated.
2. Haters welcome, if you can justify it.
3. Swearing is goddamn OK.