A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to be a guest on a podcast called We Need To Talk to discuss the new GODZILLA. I greatly enjoy podcasting no matter what the topic, so I quickly agreed to do it. About 10 seconds later, I made the horrible realization that I had just agreed to willingly see GODZILLA.
“So, what’s the problem with that?”, you might be asking yourself. Well, the big problem is that I don’t like GODZILLA movies. In fact, I downright hate them. I have never met a GODZILLA movie that I enjoyed watching. Not even the ones with Mothra in them. Yes, I also hate Mothra. I hate all ridiculously large animals that have no scientific or logical reason for existing. (Other than you, King Kong. I have no beef with you for some reason.)
GODZILLA and its ilk just simply aren’t my style of science fiction. Yes, I’m an American and we Americans love our explosive and chaotic summer blockbusters with no plot or semblance of good acting, but I guess I’m just not red blooded enough. I have no desire to watch buildings or vehicles blow up for fun. I need a reason. And while I recognize that GODZILLA movies do attempt to give me a reason for their ridiculousness, I’ve never found those attempts to be good enough. This is why I went into the 2014 version of GODZILLA with a terrible attitude, despite the fact that I saw Heisenberg in the trailer. I just simply couldn’t fathom the possibility of this movie being good.
“But there’s a chance,” I kept telling myself. “It could be good. Maybe the special effects, cast, and creative forces behind this movie finally found a way to make this story watchable. Maybe this is finally the one.”
I was willing to be open-minded. I avoided online reviews and discussions of the movie at all costs so that I could go into it with a fresh set of expectations, and spent the week mentally preparing myself for the fact that I was about to give GODZILLA yet another shot at winning my heart.
It was not to be.
Things started out promising, and I give Bryan Cranston all the credit for that. He carried the entire first twenty or thirty minutes of the movie squarely on his shoulders. However, as he started to meet his demise and hand the lead acting responsibilities over to Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Ken Watanabe, I started getting this sinking feeling that I had been duped. I had been lured into seeing this movie by grand visions of Cranston carrying the cast, and now he was gone, leaving me with a meathead marine and a scientist who couldn’t emote his way out of a paper bag. I was now sitting smack dab in the middle of another bad GODZILLA movie.
I tried to snap out of it. What had I been expecting? Amazing acting wasn’t going to change the fact that I was watching a movie about giant animals coming up out of the sea to “eat” radiation and have fist fights with each other. And I will give it to the writers on this version of the story; they at least tried to give me a more solid explanation for why these creatures existed in the first place and why they were back in action and all converging in a heavily populated area. These were the ultimate kings of prehistoric earth, and nature was taking the planet back. We’ve known about them for a while, but it’s been covered up for years. Now it’s time to pay the piper and meet our doom by being crushed to death in a full blown monster war. But then I realized, “Wait a second….nope. This is still stupid and nonsensical. Nice try though, writers.”
It was also at that moment that I decided that while I was clearly not enjoying the plot or acting in this movie, that it might be kind of cool to see what the technology of 2014 has done for the appearance and animation of Godzilla himself. That’s all GODZILLA fans really seem to want anyway, so clearly this would be the highlight of the movie. Much like KING KONG movies or even the unveiling of Smaug in the second installation of THE HOBBIT, the real tension is created by waiting to see the monster and experience that moment when it finally comes out from wherever it’s hiding, raging pissed off and ready to knock down some skyscrapers and throw city buses at things. GODZILLA movies are the epitome of the “great monster unveil” trope, and this most recent one was gearing up to be no different. I was actually getting a little excited to see the 2014 version of this giant lizard, also knowing that this would signal the beginning of the end of this film, which by this time, I was greatly looking forward to.
Unfortunately, for some very odd and unexplained reason, Bryan Cranston almost seems to have gotten more quality screen time in this movie than Godzilla, who got a couple of head shots and some pretty detailed silhouettes. In some scenes I found myself actually straining to get a picture of the scale and scope of this beast because he was mostly veiled in darkness and smoke. I had spent over and hour watching the process of Godzilla coming up out of the ocean, and when everything finally hit the fan, he almost came across as a minimal player in a story that was only happening because of him. The most satisfying part of his performance was when he got up, roared one last giant “Eff all of you…..and you’re welcome, by the way!” to humanity and walked back into the sea. But that, fortunately, was the end of the movie.
It would be pretty hard for me to prove that I tried to go in to this movie with a completely open mind, but I assure you, I did. I just don’t think GODZILLA movies and I were meant to be. You can dump in all the technology you want, you can try casting some good actors, and you can even try to woo me with some at least slightly plausible science, but in the end, the story is just not good.
The word “blockbuster” is said to have originated from the movie JAWS. People wanted so badly to see it that they lined up around the block to get into the movie theater. And when they did finally get in, they were treated to a fantastic (and even feasible, yet unlikely) story that never let up on the tension and special effects. It was, in the opinion of most people, well worth the wait. GODZILLA movies never fit into this category for me, and this most recent installment may be the worst offender yet. Like Charlie Brown in one of those old Peanuts cartoons, I went to kick the football yet again, only to have Lucy pull it out of my wheelhouse at the last second just for the amusement of seeing me flat on my back and pissed off. Mission accomplished, GODZILLA. I hate you even more than I ever did before.
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