AND LOTS OF THEM.
I am torn.
I really wanted to like this latest version of Godzilla.
I love Godzilla.
Hell, I really REALLY love Godzilla.
I have Godzilla movies that have never received a UK language transfer on DVD and will happily watch them in Japanese, because I bloody love Godzilla. I joined the now sadly defunct Church of Mothra because I BLOODY LOVE GODZILLA.
But not this version.
There was about 20 mins of breathtakingly wonderful stuff; the freefall through the fighting creatures is as stunning as it is beautiful, and the final battle – when you are allowed to see it – is a thing of joy. To counter that, there is a whole heap of wasted opportunities topped up with half-arsed crap.
The lead was convinced he was in a different movie. He milled about, looked puzzled a lot and sleepwalked through most of the action. Brian Cranston was wasted. Shamefully, unforgivably wasted. He was the emotional core of that movie and should have been the driver of the action. To lose him so quickly, so pointlessly, stripped that emotional core from the movie and placed it in the hands of someone who no one actually gave a toss about.
Ken Watanabe did nothing but stand and stare into middle distance. He was basically Richmond from the IT Crowd; constantly on the verge of having a flashback that never quite happened; those surrounding him simply drifted off or waited for him to walk away. It was just awkward.
They threw so many things in the mix at the beginning (Monarch, Bikini, previous encounters, etc.,) and then completely failed to capitalise on them, that it became it’s own list of wasted opportunities. In particular, I liked the idea of Godzilla and the bad-guys being part of the natural balance of the planet, with Godzilla acting as a kind of “anti-body”. Similar, I suppose, to the background story of Cloverfield and perhaps even the “Mothra as avatar of Gaia” ideas, but again, under explored.
Waiting to hear all the explanations (especially about Monarch) was the bit that really galled. I think Ken Watanabe’s non-flashback sequences, had they been realized, would probably have been about Monarch.
And didn’t it strike anyone as weird that the army turns up and assumes control while knowing bugger all about Godzilla? Not once did any of Monarch put up any kind of fight or try and put forward any kind of aggressive counter-argument. At best, the conversation went thus:
“We are going to blow these monsters up.”
“That would be bad”
“We are going to blow these monsters up”
The Military fail to take any instruction or intelligence about the very thing Monarch have been working on since the 50’s and although that is often the case in military vs science scenarios, it’s usually the case that both parties want to achieve the same thing through different means. Here, no one really bothers to put the scientists views across.
“This creature gives off huge EMPs that shut down all and everything electrical”
“I guess we’d better send in more fighter planes then, oh and while we’re at it, can we evacuate everyone by air?”
The inevitability of it all is depressing.
But how about the Big Fella himself?
Well, now that is a joy. He looks fantastic and it’s great to see the old guy being the “right” shape and doing what he does best. The bad guys were odd. It’s strange that there seemed to be an attempt to generate sympathy for them in a manner that echoed Emmerich’s 1998 movie and once you see them full on, it’s abundantly clear that we are in a post-Cloverfield and Pacific Rim world. In fact, I think that may be the crux of the problem. This film owes too much to both Cloverfield and Pacific Rim when really it should owe an awful lot more to Gojira.
Much of the screen time is taken up with the effects of these creatures on the landscape without actually seeing the beasts themselves. As a result, we get tsunami, earthquakes, collapsing cities and the like, and yes, it’s spectacular but it’s more like a “Disaster Movie’s Greatest Hits” rather than a Godzilla movie.
The original was bleak, granted, but it had a beginning, a middle, an end and most importantly, a point. This one has about four middles and no point. Even the much reviled Emmerich movie actually hangs together better as a movie, in and of itself, than this one does. Whether it’s a Godzilla movie or a remake of the Beast from 20,000 fathoms, though, is still up for debate. Either way, the 1998 version is a much better, more satisfying movie.
‘Godzilla’ treads a similar path to the director’s previous movie, “Monsters”. We have quarantine zones, journeys home, etc. It feels a bit like Hollywood asked him to remake it with a budget and said “Oh, can you shoehorn Godzilla in there somewhere?” I didn’t really like Monsters. At the time, I described it as being “A movie where absolutely nothing happens and then some tentacles turn up to fondle a gas station”. He brought a lot of that nothing here.
I suppose the saddest thing about it was that, apart from the end battle and that stunning free-fall between fighting beasties, it was just… well…. dull.
For a Godzilla movie, that is utterly unforgivable.