“The arrogance of men is thinking nature is in their control and not the other way around. Let them fight”.
I’m not anti blockbuster. I’m not anti CGI, effects heavy bombast. But I am very wary of blockbusters and CGI effects heavy bombast. Because the vast majority of blockbusters that rely on CGI, effects heavy bombast are a bit shit. Which is why I’m very rarely in a cinema to see these tent poles in their opening days. I need critical opinion of a blockbuster to be high and risk levels to be low before I dedicate any time to these mega budget franchise builders. Which is why I’m getting to Godzilla close to several months after the rest of the world.
Fifteen years ago, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) was running a nuclear faculty in the Philippines. When he sends his wife (Juliette Binoche) to investigate some weird seismic anomalies he’s discovered, she gets her ass killed. 15 years later, present day, Joe’s son, Ford Brady (Arron Taylor Johnson) is a soldier (conveniently for story purposes) with a family of his own. When his father is arrested trying to gain access to the Philippines faciltiy, Ford heads over to bail him out.
The same seismic anomalies have reappeared, and this time Joe is determined to get to the bottom of it. It turns out, the governments of the world already have. Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Dr Vivian Graham (Sally Hawkins) represent Project Monarch, a deeply covert, international organization that has known about the existence of radiation fuelled, giant monsters since the 50s.
Project Monarch was in the Philippines’ nuclear plant 15 years ago, where they discovered some monster eggs. Now they’re here in the present day to convey some exposition. All this, while the world has to contend with the recently revealed Godzilla, and some Mutos’ (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms), parasitic monsters that for some reason are the baddies while Godzilla is almost a goodie. Exposition scenes are easy to make fun of.
You know the ones, where characters have a conversation telling each other stuff they already know, but we, the audience, don’t. The best go unnoticed, because they’re good enough and natural enough to the story and the characters that you don’t even realise that they’re prime function is exposition impartment. But I’m a fan of the bad ones, the obvious ones, the dog’s balls ones.
Godzilla offers up an awesome dog’s balls like scene as Ford Brody learns about the monsters and the clandestine world organisation that has kept them under wraps for decades. It’s obvious, it’s clunky, and it’s perfect for a movie like this. I don’t want subtly in a monster movie, I want everything shoved in my face and I want the film makers to make no bones about that face shovery.
I never saw Director Gareth Edwards’ previous movie, Monsters. But I remember when it came out that the people who loved it, generally loved it because of its restraint. The way Edwards used the suggestion of the monsters to build maximum tension before ever revealing them. He pulls off the same approach here.
While we only have to wait maybe half an hour to start seeing monsters, including the eponymous icon, the majority of monster screen time in the first half of Godzilla confines the monsters to grainy news footage and grainer surveillance footage. Edwards manages to have his cake and eat it too, by giving the audience the spectacle without drawing it out too long, but also holding back enough to make sure his load isn’t blown too early.
The original, Japanese made Gojira from the 50s is a classic. But it’s one of those movies that succeeded for kind of the wrong reasons. The original monster is a tragic product of mankind’s cock ups (ie. nuclear war), but he’s still a monster. But the movie and its numerous sequels made the monster so popular, he eventually became a good guy. Godzilla 2014 straddles both sides of that fence.
Godzilla is a monster that brings havoc on the world, but the Mutos bring juts a little more havoc, so the humans have to side with Godzilla. It’s a classic ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ situation. It’s also the one real downside of this movie for me. I’ve seen the original, I’ve seen the terrible 90s version, and I have no nostalgic loyalty to the monster. So all of the movie’s efforts to make me sympathise with the titular monster kind of fell flat. But apart from that, Godzilla is way better than any Godzilla movie has the right to be.