Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Godzilla: A "Meh" Monster Movie

     I didn't expect to enjoy last year's Pacific Rim: I can't say that big-budget monster movies are especially my thing--giant creatures smashing each other in the full glory of CGI hasn't been enough to make a movie great since I was 10 or 12 years old. But Rim was a great surprise. Director Guillermo Del Toro injected enough excitement and humor into the picture to make it one of last year's more entertaining films, full of vibrant color and creature fights with actual tension. So it only makes sense to compare this year's big Monster event, a re-imagining of Godzilla, with Del Toro's clearly-made-with-love movie that is still fresh in some movie goers' minds. It doesn't really compare: the 2014 version of Godzilla focuses far too much on uninteresting and uninspired human characters, has a tendency to cut the camera away when something cool is about to happen, and contains massive monster battles that simply lack excitement. It arrives with a yawn rather than a roar.
     Obviously the quality is far superior than in the 1998 embarrassment directed by disaster-porn master Roland Emmerich, but that isn't saying much--not many films are considered worse. At least in this one we get former Walter White Bryan Cranston (who portrays Joe Brody) as a nuclear power-plant operator in Japan who loses his wife in a freak accident. 15 years later, he's gone a little bit wacko in his conspiracy theories and his son (Kick-Ass's Aaron Taylor-Johnson) must travel back to bail him out. Things don't go as planned, and Joe Brody begins to look like he's the only one who knows what he is talking about.
     The human aspects of Godzilla suck. There's nothing new or original, nothing with enough emotion for you to care, and no characters that make you pine for their plight. You might say: "Who cares about the humans? The movie's called Godzilla. We're here for the Monster fights." That's all fine and damn dandy, but in the two-hour run time of Godzilla, there is precious little destruction other than the climax, except for the occasional shot that cuts far too quickly back to humans running around in disarray. Maybe the film-maker is building anticipation for the finale, which admittedly is cool (a group of soldiers jumping from 30,000 feet to deal with a nuclear device in the middle of a destructive monster battle). But it's too little, too late.
     Speaking of the film-maker, director Gareth Edwards (who previously only directed 2010's Monsters [a fitting title]) clearly has a knack for dealing with special effects on a massive scale. The obliteration of San Francisco is impressive and realistic enough. The titular creature is almost a good guy, going against two massive Alien-esque monsters that feed off of radiation sources and then mate to make massive amounts of world-destroying atrocities. I just wish--by these late minutes in the film--that I cared more about the fate of humanity at this point rather than itching for it to be over, complete with the only two love interests reuniting in the demolished city, the music sweeping in stereotypical fashion.
     Godzilla isn't a bad film. But it isn't good, either. Both this year's Noah and Captain America: The Winter Soldier were far better displays of making entertainment with dozens (if not hundreds) of millions of dollars injected into the their respective budgets. Above all, 2014's Godzilla just isn't fun. There weren't enough moments that brought a smile to face or butterflies into my belly (or any at all, really). It's typical movie-studio summer weekend placement: a massive and intriguing marketing campaign that leads to a movie that's all safe with no lasting stimulation.     (C)

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