Godzilla (2014) ゴジラ

Actor Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa
expressing my exact sentiments about this latest film.

Concept: 3 out of 5
Execution: 2 out of 5
Yeah, but: A US$200 million mindless cinematic weekend juggernaut, to which I contributed $6.
The Long Version:

Everybody in Hollywood who has nothing to do with real cinematic creativity is going absolutely ape-shit over the latest Godzilla iteration because it has generated a monstrous pile of cash for its studio investors. Once again, this movie overwhelmingly proves that in today's Hollywood, cinematic quality and merit are inversely proportional to earning power.

It would seem after the critic's caterwauling over Roland Emmerich's 1998 version, everyone was so desperate to see a "better" Godzilla treatment that they blindly stampeded into every movie house on Earth that showed it. And I mean just about everybody.

In backwater Orlando, Florida, I tried to see the movie Saturday night on International Drive, but it was so crowded I couldn't find a place to park and went home unfulfilled. I got to see it by hitting the earliest Sunday morning matinee I could find. And it cost $6, even with my senior discount.

Rather than hash out all the spoilers, I'd like to just touch on a few points (with spoilers) that stick out like a sore paw.
  1. Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody. Mr. Cranston was in nearly all the trailers. In fact, I went into the movie thinking that his character would somehow help find a way to defeat Godzilla, especially after the way he lost his wife. Imagine my surprise to see his character die less than a third of the way into the movie. That left me with mostly Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who played USN LT Ford Brody, who played his son. After fifteen minutes with the son, I almost got up and left and not even bother to ask for a refund. Seriously.
  2. Supremely stupid nuclear bomb tricks. Rear Admiral William Stenz (played by David Strathairn( Sneakers, Bourne, Alphas)  hastily devises a really bad plan to use nukes on a cheap tour boat to attract all the monsters out into San Francisco bay and then just blow them up. You'd think time, being of the essence, would call for the use of some of those C-17 Globemaster IIIs (there's a video at that link of a C-17 on a training run air dropping four Humvees and 50 troopers) that we see flying all through the film. You know, the really big strategic airlifters. The C-17 in real life is cavernous on the inside, capable of carrying, well, capable of carrying both the train and the nuke it was transporting. But I guess the Navy doesn't believe in big fancy aircraft. So instead we get a slow diesel locomotive pulling a flatbed with said nuke, rolling cross country and across bridges for the express purpose of being attacked by a M.U.T.O.
  3. Film length. The 2014 version is 123 minutes (two hours three minutes). Add in 20-plus minutes of commercials and trailers (insult to injury), and the time in your seat is close to two-and-a-half hours. The original 1954 release was 98 minutes (one hour, 38 minutes). The first time I saw the 1954 version in a theater (1973) they had a pair of Warner Brother cartoons to start off, lasting all of ten more minutes. Stripping back to the core running time, there's no reason why the 2014 movie needs another 25 minutes. The 2014 movie needs/needed a good editing. Unfortunately, when the Director's Cut comes out in about a year, it'll get another 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Maybe I'm too old to appreciate such young talent, but I've seen better in that age bracket (Emma Stone (Zombieland, Amazing Spider-Man). For a fresh change of pace it would have been nice to see a woman (again, Emma Stone comes to mind) in that role, someone with sparkle and energy and intelligence, instead of the typical dumb brute force movie male. But lest we forget this is, after all, a movie about Godzilla, the ultimate incarnation of dumb brute force.
I think I'm about movied out for 2014. I saw Captain America, and I've now seen Godzilla. The hype machines for the rest of this year's movies are spinning at near light speed and throwing out tremendously overwhelming waves of, well, hype. But I think I've reached a point in my long life where I've developed considerable immunity. I know this to be when I can keep my money in my back pocket, where it belongs, when I pass one of these current blockbuster epics.

Update 24 May

Matthew Broderick as Dr. Niko Tatopoulos and Maria Pitillo
as journalist Audrey Timmonds in the 1998 Godzilla movie,
can't believe that little changed in 16 years either.

I came across a wonderfully refreshing comparison and review of the 2014 Godzilla, showcasing five substantive advantages the 1998 version had over this latest version. 'Godzilla': 5 Things Roland Emmerich's 1998 Version Did Better touches on what I found annoying in the 2014 version; characterization and development and clearly defined objectives that were key plot points in the 1998 movie but totally lacking in the 2014 version. In the 1998 movie, even the Gogira name drop really was way cooler, far more in keeping with the old 1950 and 1960 monster movies than the 2014 version.

Lest I forget, the 1998 'Godzilla' had an intelligent and powerful female role in Audrey Timmonds, played by Maria Pitillo. Barbs and criticisms notwithstanding, there was a lot more brainy action going on in 1998's 'Godzilla' than in 2014's. Even the 1998 Godzilla was leaner, more agile, and seemingly more intelligent. The 2014 Godzilla could be more aptly called Blubberzilla.

last updated 24 May 2014


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