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July 13, 2014 | by  | in Arts Film Online Only |
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Godzilla

The original Godzilla film came out in 1954 and since then there have been many cinematic attempts to reimagine the classic. It has proved a monster of a challenge however, reaching a low point with the 1998 film of the same name which reduced the king of monsters to a glorified T-Rex. This seemed to be an evolutionary dead end for the franchise. The announcement of a new Godzilla film however, which promised a more traditional treatment of the colossal (if slightly corpulent) super lizard, finally gave me a reason to believe that my desires for a thrilling film full of wanton destruction could be fulfilled. Sadly though my hopes were crushed like unnamed civilians are all the time in these films; it was disappointingly mediocre at best.

It wasn’t that there wasn’t enough destruction, the action moves from Tokyo, to Hawaii, to Las Vegas and finally to San Francisco; all of them getting thoroughly bashed to bits. Yet as the movie progressed I got steadily more bored. With each new location I cared a little bit less. There were three fundamental reasons for this. Not enough Godzilla, a poorly utilized cast and a weak story.

Godzilla it seems is a master of stealth. Or perhaps the directors were just trying to reel us in by only giving us a few glimpses at a time. The same was the case for the other monsters too. Making us suspend our disbelief time and again when it seemed that both the U.S military and more impressively the news media managed to lose them at key points. An error in judgement that the 1998 film was guilty of too. While this is great for a trailer, it’s not so great for a film (cough Cloverfield). Though the final fight was an epic showdown and a showcase of animation at its best, the constant teasing became a bit of a drag on the rest of the film. The first encounter between Godzilla and one of the Muto’s (giant monsters that resemble insects) could have resulted in a similarly cinematically superb battle. Yet Instead of showing us the fight, we only get to watch parts of it on a grainy news broadcast and catch a few glimpses of it from the main characters perspective.

The main character was a military bomb disposal expert played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (best known for his role in Kickass). Unfortunately his performance paled in comparison to that of the supporting actors. Especially Elizabeth Olsen as his wife and the emotional performance of Bryan Cranston as his father; whom is tortured by the death of his own wife due to a nuclear meltdown created by a Muto rampage. Unfortunately both of these characters were woefully underutilised and despite their best efforts were unable to provide the humanity this film sorely lacked. Ken Wantanabe got a little more screen time as a scientist tasked with researching the king of monsters, but the dynamic between him and a military commander he has to work with comes across as overly conciliatory and worst of all boring. Other than a memorable moment when he correctly pronounces Godzilla as ‘Godjira’ he manages to add little except for exposition.

Most of these problems could have been minimized however by better writing. Plot holes are apparent from the get go and circumstances seem forced to fit an idea that Aarons character is the one we should be rooting for. This is achieved for example by a death that makes him important for all of five minutes but as a consequence allows him to travel to monster hotspots. He makes well intentioned promises to meet up with his wife and child (like any hero would) but is able to forget about that matrimonial baggage because it suddenly appears he is the only man in the United States capable of arming or disarming a nuclear bomb. This leads to a monumental muck up which puts him in the middle of the climax of the film. Even here the filmmakers seem desperate to make this a character we should care about, having Godzilla and the Muto’s at several points in the climax recognise ‘his importance’ by staring or roaring at him (another mistake they repeated from the 1998 version). By the end of the film I almost wanted it to turn out his entire family had been wiped out, because then it would’ve at least made a point about not keeping your promises.

To be fair there were some positives about the film. The scenes in Tokyo were interesting, especially the quarantine area erected by the military where foliage was slowly reclaiming the cityscape. The climactic battle was brilliant with the return of Godzilla’s signature move of breathing a beam of blue flame utilized excellently. All the monsters were cinematic master pieces and the ultimately tragic Muto love story was only overshadowed by Cranston’s anguished scenes during and after the loss of his wife.

It had potential to be amazing because of these elements but as part of the complete package they weren’t enough to make the film great. Once the action moved from Tokyo and Cranston the film fermented into a boring drone. The plot came across bad enough that I ended up laughing due to the absurdity of it at times. When Godzilla was declared ‘saviour’ of San Francisco I could not suspend my disbelief; Godzilla took my disbelief and burned it to pieces. It left me cracking up and yet very annoyed. The monsters deserved to be in a significantly less stupid story, following more interesting characters. It should follow the Jurassic Park route and not the Transformers route. I hope the planned trilogy of Godzilla movies can give audiences a reason to roar in approval instead of anguish next time.

 

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