History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of men….Godzilla!
-Blue Oyster Cult
Hoi there Chummers!
Whether you know him as Godzilla or Gojira, the Big G has been entertaining folks on both sides of the Pacific ocean for 60 years now. Like other long lived characters like Doctor Who and James Bond the fertile creative minds of the 1950s-60s were able to create characters that still live in the imaginations of folks everywhere. The first film was born out of another project falling through and anger in the Japanese public with indiscriminate postwar nuclear testing.
That first Godzilla is a master class in how to do a giant monster movie right. Since that first Godzilla film, the Big G has been everything from destructive threat to Japan’s protector to sitcom father. This article is an excellent primer on the series’ history. I was a huge fan of the 90s resurrection of the series in Japan, especially Godzilla vs. Destroyah, so I went into the latest movie with a mixture of apprehension and a little hope.
The new movie is OK! It isn’t going to dethrone Pacific Rim, but it’s an enjoyable way to spend two hours. The movie starts and ends very strongly, and is chock full of beautiful shot scenes throughout. The direction draws a lot of influences from the world of Steven Spielberg (many shots feel like they fell out of a theoretical Jurassic Park remake) and from modern military flicks like Blackhawk Down. More than many other giant monster movies, the film does an excellent job of showing what the aftermath of an attack would be like and for fans of cinematic destruction you are in for a treat. One standout moment from early in the film is exploring an abandoned Japanese city, evoking eerie images of the affected areas near the Fukushima disaster. The intro is also very clever, sort of Call of Duty: Black Ops meets Kaiju films.
The main problem I had with the film is that while the monster action was excellent, the human scenes lacked the energy needed to anchor the story. In a film where most of the monster scenes are saved for the third act, I couldn’t help but check out a little bit when the film’s focus shifted to the fleshy tiny beings in Godzilla’s way. I don’t mind human scenes, or bickering between scientists and the military-Godzilla films of the past certainly had their share but it’s a shame to see Ken Watanabe and others with little to do once the monstering begins. The relationship between the protagonist and his wife and son is also a little thin, and of course there can never be enough Cranston!
The movie kicks into high gear when the mystery nonsense from the first half of the film is cleared up, with Godzilla fighting against a pair of giant monsters (this has already been shown in many of the trailers and artwork) which works well in making the film’s battle scenes more dynamic. Again, I feel a little spoiled by Pacific Rim that had a much larger pool of monsters to draw from, each with a unique set of attacks but the battle scenes in Godzilla are fun to watch-it was nice to have the fights happening in the daytime.
To sum up, Godzilla is a perfectly watchable summer opener that does it’s best to pay respect to the tone and feel of original 50s film. It suffers a bit in comparison to the extremely fun focused and monster rich Pacific Rim, with a large cast that isn’t as well utilized as they could be. I’d still recommend seeing it on the big screen for it’s amazing art design and special effect shots but I didn’t feel the same close connection to the people and monsters on the screen like in the giant monster movies that have come before.
Drinking game: (stolen from twitter): take a shot everytime there is a scene taking place with or inside a helicopter.