10 Things to Know About...Godzilla
on 2014-05-16 10:13
What is it?
"Million Dollar Arm" isn't the only underdog story coming out this weekend- we also need to see if a gigantic reptilian monster can destroy America without having it completely suck. The 60-year old Godzilla has had his share of success but not in 1998 when America tried to produce their first, and what turned out to be the only, Godzilla film. Dull, deeply miscast, a creature that looked more like a gigantic iguana, New York characters in the 90's who seemed ripped from 1955’s "Guys and Dolls", bad jokes about American coffee- the problems were numerous. Even producer Dean Devlin eventually remarked that he and director Roland Emerich (both just came off "Independence Day" at the time) "blew it". The goal now? To erase the 1998 film from people's memories.
Director Gareth Edwards, who made a semi-splash in 2010 with a low-budget sci-fi film called "Monsters", has been tasked with destroying another American city (or several) while writer Max Borenstein will try to prove that a rampaging monster movie like this even needs a screenplay. But how it does will all depend on one thing....how many coffee jokes it has. No-- what that animated, motion-capture monster is going to be like?
10 to know:
1. Bryan Cranston takes on a small role as Joe, a seismologist in Japan who blames himself for the death of his wife (Juliette Binoche) during what everyone except him thinks was a natural disaster 15 years ago. Of course he knows better, as evidenced by how much of a crackpot he is. Cranston lets loose with a sometimes crazed, sometimes touching performance in the early going that starts things off right. +1
2. There is a lot here about electromagnetic pulses, submarines, radiation, creatures who seem to have a built-in GPS for finding said radiation and powering up from it, some other stuff that happened in 1954. It’s all about as hard to follow as a Donald Sterling apology. -1
3. The first creature we see in the film is not Godzilla but a Muto, which looks a little like if a bat, a spider, and those tripod things from “War of the Worlds” had a three-way. The creature is soon joined by a second Muto, which creates double the fun. +1
4. But the big guy soon roars to gigantic life on screen and it’s really something to behold. This isn’t some oversized Iguana. This is the more traditional, Japanese Godzilla we’ve seen from the older movies and Edwards allows us the time to just stare in awe at the majesty of the character itself. Everything from the scales on the monsters back to how huge it really is (this is the biggest Godzilla) pays respect to a classic character. +1
5. Even the sound mixing is excellent here and I know that because I hardly ever pay much attention to sound mixing but just hearing the roars and the thuds of creatures coming closer just adds even greater suspense to the impending attack. The Toho Japanese studio allowed the filmmakers to use the original sound recording for this. +1
6. There’s much in the way of rampaging as cities, bridges, trains, and people are laid to waste but the cherry on top of this sundae comes in the last half hour where Godzilla and the two Mutos go at each other while the human characters busy themselves trying to blow stuff up. +1
7. Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays the main character, Ford, the son of Joe and also a bomb disposal expert in the army. He’s about as blank a slate as Godzilla is gigantic. The film grinds to a halt every time we see him try to catch a ride back to reunite with his family after a trip to Tokyo to see his father. Elizabeth Olsen plays his wife, a nurse with nothing really to do except wait for him. -1
8. There’s a lot of talk about the acting pedigree in this movie. Ken Wattanabe, David Strathairn, Sally Hawkins, plus French actress Juliette Binoche. Don’t expect much. They clearly didn’t. -1
9. Much like “Pacific Rim”, this is a monster movie that unfortunately has to spend some time on human characters and every time it does it takes away from the things we’ve really come to see. Too much time is spent on the army guys and their plans, time that could be better spent not cutting away from a creature fight or seeing a monster destroy a city. -1
10. Human characters aside though, “Godzilla” is a huge step up from the 1998 film and offers just enough shock and awe to leave us roaring for more. +1
Final Score- 6 out of 10