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Godzilla not a thrillah

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Mark Suszko
Godzilla not a thrillah
on May 17, 2014 at 5:44:59 am

Save your money and if you want to see well-done kaiju movies, rent Pacific Rim instead. MUCH better movie.


I have a soft spot in my heart for the old Toho Godzilla movies. I spent many a saturday or sunday afternoon in my pre-teens, watching them with my non-English-Speaking Grandpa. We didn't communicate all that much, but we enjoyed watching these together a lot. There wasn't much you needed to translate, after all.



The latest version gets some things right, but not enough, and the plot has a few holes in it. An ongoing plot point is that the kaiju can sense and feed on radiation. They are attracted to nuclear reactors as well as warheads. So in scene after scene of a U.S. Aircraft carrier pacing Godzilla at sea, I have to wonder why he never seems interested in what powers the aircraft carrier a hundred yards away.

Bryan Cranston is only in this for what seems like a few minutes, and the film definitely seems to deflate and lose color when he's gone. His grown-up son is the main protagonist, and script-wise, they put him at the center of almost every key event in the movie but he's got no magnetism, he's just a pretty average action movie hunk guy, completely interchangeable...., no matter how improbable, and he basically fails at almost every key task. The authority figures in this film all do stupid things and over and over again, make stupid decisions, ignoring evidence and advice to the point where the audience starts losing patience. The b-plot about the relationships of Cranston's son and his own family never really gel; you know it's just there to give the protagonist another problem to solve.

Some parts they mess up and some they get right.

They have Godzilla's patented contra-base-string roar done perfectly. His overall shape is closer to the rubber suit design than the Roland Emmerich movie version. It does look like the Toho design more or less. The enemy monsters are suitably weird and in their own way make a decent tribute to the rubber suit heritage.

The battles however, are almost all done inside clouds of smoke, dust, rain storms, and at at night. There is no really clear-cut Toho-style day battle to speak of, and the camera direction tends to be shy, showing glimpses here and there, but no really good wide shots. At least, not very long wide shots. The boss battle at the climax was especially anti-climactic.

The whole thing feels strangely empty and tired. The date night audience I watched with, was pretty restless, only showing emotion verbally at one brief combat move in one of the climactic fights.


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Scott Roberts
Re: Godzilla not a thrillah
on May 19, 2014 at 1:52:34 pm

This may very well be one of the greatest “tease” movies in history, if only because the images taunted in our faces are of such grandiose enjoyment. Zilla ’14 was spectacularly cheap in the way that it would have the monsters get into fighting stance and then cutaway to the next scene without really showing anything. The first major standoff between Godzilla and the other bug monster thing began with the film’s first Godzilla full body reveal, which was borderline hair-on-arm-raising, pants crappingly great; and then the movie decided to cut away to a shot of a kid watching 15 seconds of highlights of the two monsters fighting on his TV. There must have been at least four times when they revealed Godzilla like it was the first time we’ve seen him in the movie.

If there’s one definite difference that Godzilla’s sister film Pacific Rim had over it, it’s that P-Rim showed the monster fights in cartoonishly amazing detail. We see every hydraulic uppercut and rocket powered kick into those kaiju’s neon blood spitting faces. In Godzilla, there’s only one fully fleshed out monster fight at the end, and even though it’s great, it would have been nicer to have seen more than one of them. Again, Godzilla is basically an hour and a half of showing off how cool Godzilla is, and then 30 minutes of awesome fighting. Pacific Rim was more like, “here’s the opening credits, and HERE’S a big freakin monster.” Though, the excitement of constantly being teased with the prospect of seeing Godzilla kind of did it for me. In a way, the feeling of not seeing everything was almost *more* exciting to me than watching something like Guillermo del Toro smashing his CGI action figures against each other. Is it nuance, maybe? Perhaps. Or it could just be lazy filmmaking that requires the audience to fill in the blanks that the director didn’t feel like showing us himself. At the very least, it felt like the movie was making sweet love to me, with a ton of foreplay, and then at the very end GodIlla decided to just go at it. With everything he's got. And didn't call me back the next day. ...Aaaaaaand, I feel like I’m going to regret making that metaphor.

There were some corny moments, however. Moments that helped give it some of its goofy charm. Like when Ken Watanabe is revealing his research on the monsters to the army, and he turns toward the camera as the music swells up as he says, “And we call him… GODZILLA.” As if this is some kind of important reveal that the audience wouldn’t have been aware of up until then. Like, really think about it. We all bought tickets to the new Godzilla movie, and 40 minutes in, they say the word “Godzilla” as if we should be surprised. It’s just one of those weird movie tropes that I’m actually not really all that surprised made it into this film.

I will agree with you big time on the actors, Mark. I’ve read some other reviews that talked about the actors doing… …anything? “This guy was good” “That lady was good.” I don’t know, other than maybe two moments of Bryan Cranston doing Bryan Cranston things, I can’t say anyone did anything *memorable* with their characters. Plus, I kind of hate it when a supporting character in a big action movie is a nurse, simply to show us the carnage inside a hospital while the destruction is going on. If you want to show the hospital, just do it, guy. I don’t need Elizabeth Olsen to be that bridge. This movie destroyed every other literal bridge it could get its hands on. Does Gareth Edwards hate bridges? An investigation should be started immediately.

The film is pretty predictable, every moment when the bug monsters are left to their own devices, and about to do something vicious, it’s pretty obvious that Godzilla will show up behind it or near it and surprise all the characters as if they couldn’t hear Godzilla walking up to them. It’s not as if he was tip-toeing around the city.

One major disappointment of the film was the lack of Godzilla sized snack promotions. Maybe I just wasn’t looking in the right places, but I was hoping for a TON of oversized Godzilla food and drink items from fast food restaurants, and I didn’t get any. I distinctly remember back in 2005, I ordered a “King Kong pizza” from Papa Johns, which was an XXL sized pizza with like five types of meat, and it was amazing. The fact that I didn’t get a two-pound Godzilla cheeseburger with “radioactive green” guacamole on it from anywhere is a societal failure, in my opinion. If there’s ever a time when I support shallow, soulless Hollywood marketing it’s when oversized food is involved.

But overall, despite everything I may have just criticized it for, I thought the movie was pretty cool. The dumb little flaws added up to a fun monster movie for me. The cinematography was fantastic, which I’ll mention here since I forgot to earlier. Also good use of 3D depth (for a change) and I love those IMAX speakers. And if it eventually leads to a Gamera movie, then I’m down. Gamera was my favorite when I was a kid. Used to rent Gamera VHS tapes all the time, JUST SAYIN’.

8 out of 10


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Mike Cohen
Re: Godzilla not a thrillah
on May 19, 2014 at 1:57:19 pm

[Scott Roberts] "8 out of 10"

Scott - I'm now thinking I was in the wrong theater. I wonder if what I saw was one of those Sweded movies from Be Kind..Rewind.

Mike


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Mike Cohen
Re: Godzilla not a thrillah
on May 19, 2014 at 1:53:25 pm

Mark - you hit almost every point I was going to make. I will add the following:

It used to be amazing watching realistic buildings imploding. 9/11 showed all of us, including effect artists apparently, how tall buildings collapse. Now it is not really that amazing to watch. Seeing San Fran get destroyed was like, eh, whatever.

At the end after Godzilla (in his 2 monutes of screen time) destroys half the city, killing countless thousands, whilst defeating the two Motus, the jumbotron at the stadium shows a caption "Godzilla, saviour of our city." Really? The city looked pretty well decimated to me.

Agree that after Cranston left the movie, it lacked any real human interest. A few times, I tried to figure out if the guy that kept showing up in every action scene was the same person or not - they cast a very generic-looking person in the movie's main character. I see from IMDB that Aaron-Taylor-Johnson was the kid from Kick-Ass and is actually English. For an Englishman, he did a great job playing a boring American.

They found a similarly generic actress to play Ford's wife.
The HALO jump sequence seemed totally random, and probably an excuse to use the stunt diving team used previously in Transformers 3, GI Joe 2, X-MEN 14, Rocky 5,000 and so on. Seen one HALO jump, seen them all. I'm sure the bomb team could have gotten into the city on a chopper.

I liked how Godzilla's tail lit up before he breathed fire, which was more like plasma in this film. That combined with the roar were probably the best part of the movie.

Finally, at the end, once the bomb disposal team retrieves the nuclear missile, four guys carry the warhead 2 miles over San Francisco hills to Fisherman's Wharf, load it on a ship, then miraculously, every soldier except Ford is killed, but then our hero passes out, but at the last moment is rescued by a chopper, and the bomb is sent on autopilot out to see to detonate outside the city.

(I wonder if the filmmakers saw the third Batman movie, in which a nuclear bomb is sent outside the city to explode out at sea)

I saw this in 3D, not because I had high hopes for a 3D experience, but because I left the house at 4:30 and this was the only showing at my local theater. Big mistake. For one thing, the screen had more divots than a golf course. Secondly, after the initial interior scenes at the house and power plant, I'm pretty sure the 3D conversion must have run out of funds. There was very little noticeable 3D or even depth in this movie. Much of it took place at night. Why do they even bother? At one point I took off my 3D glasses just to check if I was in the right theater.

Overall I would give this movie a 3 out 11. Kinda fun, but kinda boring. I checked my watch a few times.

Mike COhen


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Scott Roberts
Re: Godzilla not a thrillah
on May 19, 2014 at 2:10:54 pm

I don't know, I thought it was a good slow build to a decent final fight... I will agree on being desensitized to the epicness of cities being destroyed nowadays. And then if a filmmaker wants to try and show the humanity of the people in the destroyed city, we get crap like Lawrence Fishbourne saving his newspaper co-workers in Man of Steel. It's lose-lose, really. So just take the lizard stomping at face value. City destroying will probably never be cool again, as we've seen it now in every scale in every scenario with every filmmaking method. But plasma shooting dinosaurs will always be cool. (Watches Transformers: Age of Extinction trailer). Or not...


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Scott Roberts
Re: Godzilla not a thrillah
on May 19, 2014 at 2:14:57 pm

I also found the final scene hilarious, when Godzilla moped back to the ocean, with his shoulders slumped and head down, as if he was saying "Another looooong day at the office..." I wouldn't be surprised if Godzilla has a Garfield "I Hate Mondays" poster in his subterranean ocean cave.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Godzilla not a thrillah
on May 19, 2014 at 2:22:26 pm

The ending makes no sense. Godzilla is "the alpha predator".... after lying dormant for 50 or so years... he kills two MUTOS... then doesn't EAT either of them? Is he on a cleansing fast or something?


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Mike Cohen
Re: Godzilla not a thrillah
on May 19, 2014 at 3:08:08 pm

I liked the post-credits scene where Ron Perlman climbed out of Godzilla looking for his shoe - classic.

So Godzilla is a sensitive lizard hero, right? He swims under aircraft carriers, and minimizes killing humans, because he is only interested in killing Mutos.

I liked the angle about all the atomic bomb tests in the 50's were actually attempts to kill the monsters - kind of like the Hoover Dam was actually built to hide a Transformer.

In the San Fran battle I can't believe they did not knock over the Transamerica Tower. Sure they cut the Golden Gate Bridge in half, but they missed out on destroying many other San Fran landmarks. It would have been funny to see Godzilla stomp on the ILM building at the Presidio, or see a cable car with a Rice a Roni poster thrown out into the audience.

Really, the final battle could have been in any city - there was no compelling reason for it to be San Francisco.

Geographically LA would have made more sense, if the female Motu was coming from Vegas. It's not like San Fran has a lot of radiation.

The Yucca Mountain sequence was also silly, since no nuclear waste is actually stored there despite billions of dollars invested.

Anyway, I'm sure when the movie is re-released in 4D it will be better.


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Tim Wilson
Re: Godzilla not a thrillah
on May 19, 2014 at 3:44:34 pm

I give the movie a 100%, because it was 100% of what I wanted it to be, which was a film I'd give a score of 89 to. LOL Actually, I'll give it a 102%, because my final score was a 92. Solid A-, which for a movie like this, really is like an A++.

Mike, you definitely saw it on the wrong screen. I liked the 3D a lot. It also showed off very nicely my strong belief that 3D works best in intimate, non-VFX contexts. Once the scale gets too big, there's just not much depth -- true in real life too, of course. The distance between objects compresses, so 3D is flatter. In that sense, 3D has little place in VFX filmmaking.

Still, reality should never impede moviemaking. That's nonsense. So I do agree that, regardless of "reality," the monster stuff should have been done up big. It'll never happen for any movie until a filmmaker with a big brass pair of any-gendered gonads steps up and says, "If people are gonna pay for 3D, ima give 'em 3D, dammit." This has not yet happened for the duration of an entire movie, but I still found this on plus side of typical, just for the nice ways they used it for the intimate scenes.

SERIOUSLY THOUGH, this movie is a classic example of a movie that, if you're not EXCITED to see it in 3D, STAY HOME. The movie was not made for you. You are outside the target demographic. Now, people like movies that weren't made for them all the time. But if you're not EXCITED to see it in 3D, the odds of you liking it PLUMMET.

So a 3 out of 10 for a movie that you weren't EXCITED to see in 3D sounds about right. I'd be shocked if it was higher, and am a little surprised it's that high. THE MOVIE WAS NOT MADE FOR YOU.

Please keep this in mind for your moviegoing future. Aside from the ethical imperative incumbent on all artists to see the movie the director made, rather than the 2D cash-grab the studio is foisting on you, if you're not EXCITED to see it in 3D, the movie WAS NOT MADE FOR YOU.

I like talking about grosses because I think it's fun, but in this case, the gross really IS news. Pre-release tracking had it coming in around $70 million domestic, but it landed at $93 million! NOBODY saw that coming. It did a little better overseas ($103-ish), so at the end of the first weekend, it's sitting at $196 million and change.

(It's actually kind of interesting to me that the US and non-US number is so similar. I think that the gap may widen over time, since foreign release windows can be longer, but still, I wouldn't have guessed that it would be so close.)

With a lot of biggies opening in the next few weeks, these are surely front-loaded numbers, but it was a relatively lean production, at $160 million. A lot less than the upcoming Maleficent, to say nothing of a typical Marvel picture. They did a lot with that money.

So, even accounting for marketing and release costs, this'll probably pay for itself by this time next week. That's pretty remarkable.

Anyway, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, David Strathairn -- 3 of my favorites -- plus big monsters and big explosions. It was a lot better than it needed to be, and more than enough to overcome the soul-sucking 1998, easily earning its 102% of 89.


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Stephen Smith
Re: Godzilla not a thrillah
on Nov 24, 2014 at 8:49:49 pm

The person in the Godzilla rubber suit was amazing! :-) I have to agree with Mark on this one. I thought it started out great and had good tension but feel apart by the end. The main character wasn't memorable at all...plus his character is the worst husband ever. Who would say stay in the danger area and wait for me to get you since you are not capable of getting out of San Francisco yourself.

I personally thought the fight at the end was not very exciting because they didn't want Godzilla to damage anything. The end fight would have been so much cooler if Godzilla hit one of the baddies with his tail and made one of the baddies fly through a bunch of buildings causing all sort of exciting damage. Or picked up part of a building and threw it. Instead Godzilla just made noises and short of punched the mothra thing.

All in all I'm happy I watched it but I wouldn't watch it again. Best line was "Let them fight."

This is the first Godzilla film I have ever seen. Was the WW2 era nuke test cover at the beginning in one of the original films?

Stephen Smith

Utah Video Productions

Check out my Vimeo page


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Mark Suszko
Re: Godzilla not a thrillah
on Nov 25, 2014 at 1:14:15 am

No, but it was made to look like it. Part of the charm/conceit was to depict the monster being dealt with under the cover of nuke tests, though in the original movie (which IS worth a rental) it was nukes that awoke/created him.


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Mike Cohen
Re: Godzilla not a thrillah
on Nov 25, 2014 at 1:39:35 pm

Godzilla and many comic book mutant-type characters all arose out of 1950's atomic war fears.

I thought the coolest part of the movie was the first time Godzilla breathed plasma fire into the Motu.

A great ending would have been if Godzilla broke off the spire of the Transamerica Pyramid and stabbed the Motu with it, followed by the main character casually saying "Now that's what I call the power of the pyramid!" followed by a 1980's sitcom freeze frame, roll credits.


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