Poster

Warning: The scale of Godzilla in the movie does not actually match the size in this poster.

Almost a year ago, I started this Soliloqueue side project with a review of Pacific Rim so it seems fitting that this nearly one-year anniversary should be celebrated with a review of Godzilla. In many regards, these movies share several similarities as creature features leaning heavily on human drama.

However, the motivation for that original review of Pacific Rim was to share my thoughts as to why it was a better, more entertaining movie than public perception. I wish I could say the same for Godzilla.

Oh, how I wish.

My love for monster movies was fostered from a young age and it has increasingly intensified over the years. As the hype machine powered up to full speed leading to the premiere of Godzilla, I vacillated between certain pessimism and guarded optimism. I couldn’t have been surprised with either outcome.

But how can you go wrong with Bryan Cranston and Godzilla?

Well, it turns out it’s rather easy when you don’t give the audience much of Bryan Cranston or Godzilla. My worst fears about this movie were realized. At least there’s no way this movie could be worse than the comically bungled 1998 version starring Matthew Broderick. While this disaster movie isn’t a total disaster, this mammoth vision of Godzilla was a monumental disappointment. Since I feel I need to go more in-depth to defend this stance, consider this your final warning if you have not yet watched Godzilla.

Spoilers galore.

My biggest issue with this movie is the disingenuous handling of the Godzilla marketing campaign. As a dedicated fan of Bryan Cranston, his passionate speech about losing his wife in a possible cover-up was the primary selling point to get my ass in the seat. The promise of some key scenes highlighting Cranston’s impeccable acting ability in a big summer blockbuster acted as a hook firmly affixed under my skin.

Within the first 10 minutes, Godzilla seemed perfectly on track to meet and possibly even exceed expectations. Cranston admirably performed as advertised as Joe Brody—the driving force of the human drama with a fervent love for his family that engaged the interest of those who might have been watching just to catch a glimpse of Godzilla. About 25 or so minutes later, Cranston’s character is dead in unceremonious fashion during the introduction of the MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism), which was originally responsible for causing the death of his wife more than a decade ago.

The old bait-and-switch. Hey Gareth Edwards, go fuck yourself.

Cranston

Cranston didn’t die in a heroic manner or even in a remotely interesting way. As the MUTO broke free from a futile containment attempt inside a nuclear plant, the monster smashes a bridge where Cranston is standing but he’s a few feet away from this direct hit. Cranston didn’t appear to suffer any significant damage, which causes even more confusion when he passes away in a helicopter.

Don’t expect any real explanation either.

Unfortunately, Godzilla takes a gargantuan nose dive in quality from that very moment. While Cranston exudes charisma regardless of his role, the actor serving as his son was absolutely charisma-free. In fact, I didn’t even realize that Ford Brody was played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson—who is more widely recognized in a retarded green leotard as Kick-Ass. Say what you will about Charlie Hunnam’s cheesy, sub-par acting in Pacific Rim, but you cannot deny that Hunnam has a charismatic presence.

Without his curly mop or geeky glasses, Aaron Taylor-Johnson closely resembles the male default face in the character creation mode of any video game. It is painfully obvious that Aaron Taylor-Johnson cannot carry a movie even when the real main character is the most famous CGI monster. Once Cranston makes his screen exit, there are no worthwhile human characters remaining in this movie.

After the death of his father, Ford Brody is trying to get back home to protect his wife and young son who are stuck in the path of destruction. But no one gives a shit about that storyline. And none of these actors put forth a compelling performance that would make you care. As the wife (Elle Brody), Elizabeth Olsen’s concerned face is on full display for the entirety of this movie—battling Ken Watanabe (Dr. Ishiro Seriwaza) and his worried face while he is helping tail the monsters with a giant boner for Godzilla.

Since Cranston was relegated to a supporting role (albeit an important one within the first 35 minutes), you would think the movie would try to make up for that poor decision-making by featuring Godzilla. Director Gareth Edwards didn’t follow that logic. Instead, this movie opted for the slow-play option of providing minor glimpses like the strategy employed in iconic films like Jaws and Alien.

But the reason that worked for those movies is because those were original monsters so the major reveal was actually important. What is the anticipation for Godzilla? Who doesn’t know what Godzilla looks like? Why draw out the suspense and make the audience wait any longer than necessary?

It’s not like there was anything else going on to make the wait worthwhile.

For fuck sakes, I saw more of Godzilla in Fiat commercials than I did in the goddamn movie.

Adding insult to injury, the design of Godzilla and the MUTO were massively underwhelming. Godzilla was a faithful adaptation, and I didn’t mind the bulky, man-in-a-costume feel. However, Godzilla and the MUTO (both the small, winged version and large, multi-legged behemoth) share the same color palette.

MUTO

In what world is that acceptable? Almost every significant action sequence occurs at night, which makes these monsters blend into the dark background due to their mostly midnight black shade. Adding more green highlights to Godzilla would have helped create a more striking figure. But an even more criminally poor decision was to make the MUTO so very similar. Personally, I would have preferred to focus on just one MUTO because there was nothing unique or interesting to these two monsters.

What would have been a better route? Imagine a more sinister version of a monster from Starship Troopers. Every monster shown in Starship Troopers was infinitely more interesting than the MUTO. At least a more vibrant color scheme could’ve breathed life into these lifeless, limp creatures.

For the final hour and a half, this movie felt like it was going through the motions. Ford Brody (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) miraculously survives several encounters with these creatures while his family is equally indestructible despite being in the kill zone once Godzilla actually arises from the Pacific Ocean. Fight scenes between Godzilla and the MUTO are teased a few times before the final money shot at the end.

Spoiler: Godzilla wins.

Godzilla

Unfortunately, I was already seriously hoping everyone would just die for more than an hour before culmination of the third act. As with most 2-hour movies, Godzilla lingered for far too long without any compelling aspects capable of continuing to hold my interest. If the writing or acting was above-average, I could more easily forgive the obvious shortcomings because of additional entertainment value.

Perhaps the most important factor in deciding the quality of a movie is the degree of re-watchability. This factor gains more importance with creature features. For example, I watched the premiere of Pacific Rim in theaters last year and then watched it in 3D the next day. Even though I’ve seen it several times since then, I would gladly sit down and watch it again this very moment followed by Cloverfield.

But I have no interest in watching Godzilla ever again. In fact, I would probably fall asleep if I tried.

Why is this the case? I think it is because Godzilla took itself gravely seriously while failing to provide any comic relief or semblance of additional entertainment value aside from creature eye candy. In comparison, Pacific Rim was cheesy, funny, and whimsical all at the same time.

Without a safety net to support the movie once Cranston’s character dies, the quality of Godzilla plummets to the floor of the Pacific Ocean. In a matter of a week, the shine of this movie has already worn off. Minutes after the end, I declared Godzilla a 4-star movie after leaving the theater. With more time to reflect on the all-around quality, I cannot consider Godzilla anything more than a 3-star movie.

In terms of box office earnings, Godzilla is a monumental success that matches the size of the creature itself. A sequel is certainly to follow, but I fear any future movie will fail to avoid the same pitfalls. Hopefully a sequel to Pacific Rim will arrive in theaters before the return of Godzilla because that will make me run to a theater substantially faster and with much more excitement.

I blame myself for paying to watch Godzilla in 3D for no good reason. That’s my fault. But I blame those behind the creation of this movie for making such a lackluster, bland story that relies entirely too much on the big reveal of the most famous, familiar monster in movie history.

Better luck next time.

Scream

3 out of 5 stars

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