Godzilla (2014 remake)

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Vintage 1974 MechaGodzilla Action Figure!

Once again, I am going to reach into my seemingly endless store of treasured movie-going memories to tell you about watching the 1998 remake of Godzilla. Yes, I know this review is about the 2014 remake…stick with me. You can’t imagine how excited I was for Godzilla 1998. Despite disturbing rumors about the creature designs, I had high hopes for this movie. Perhaps Godzilla would even eat Matthew Broderick, whom I’ve hated with an unholy passion since Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

To commemorate what was sure to be a wonderful evening, I smuggled my Godzilla action figure (not pictured above) into the theater to watch the movie with me. This upset my roommate, who seemed to think it would ruin his chance to impress the girls in the seats next to us. How could he be thinking about girls? This was Godzilla!

Anyway, Godzilla 1998 was utter shit.

This is to say that I went into the 2014 remake of Godzilla with lowered expectations…and I enjoyed it. I give this movie a B. I believe I’ve seen every Godzilla film ever made, so this puts it squarely into the solid category. Not a classic, but pretty good. When I rewatched the movie this morning I had the same impression.

Yes, I enjoyed Godzilla, but that doesn’t meant it’s a very good movie. When our hero, MR. EVERYMAN, saves the child from toppling off the train, I thought there’s the movie’s save-the-cat moment. I wasn’t surprised to learn Godzilla had multiple screenwriters because it has a cut and paste feel.

Most of the movie’s characters are clichés, the peacenik scientist, the nuke-crazy general, the conspiracy theory nut. Our protagonist, MR. EVERYMAN, doesn’t have a personality. MRS. EVERYMAN doesn’t get upset when her husband’s nutso father calls and summons him to Japan. THEIR ADORABLE CHILD is a set-piece. By the way, after Bryan Cranston’s crazy daddy character bites the dust, MRS. EVERYMAN and THEIR ADORABLE CHILD become the movie’s MacGuffin. It’s better than being the hostage object, I guess.

MR. EVERYMAN travels to Japan to help his father. Or perhaps he’s hoping his father will teach him how to have a personality. Or maybe one night of domestic bliss was enough for him. Who knows? To me, this was one of the most unbelievable things about the movie. Bryan Cranston is a grown man, a trespassing offense isn’t all that serious and it’s obvious he doesn’t really give a shit about his son. Plus, he’s crazy.

Here’s the thing about Bryan Cranston’s character: he is nuts. Yes, it turns out that he was right, but that doesn’t mean he’s not nuts. This is the type of person who would walk into a public library and ask to see the government’s secret files on the JFK assassination. Godzilla gets a lot less interesting when he dies and his cardboard cutout son shoulders the load as the movie’s protagonist.

So what did I notice in this viewing of Godzilla? I talked about phallic imagery in Alien. This movie has phallic imagery, also, and some of it is quite disturbing. Example A: the way Godzilla kills the female MUTO is pretty, uhm…yikes.

Abandonment is a recurring theme in Godzilla. Bryan Cranston abandons his wife to die in a nuclear reactor, MR. EVERYMAN abandons his wife and child to go to Japan and the parents in Hawaii abandon their child in the train. The only good husband and parent in this movie is MR. MUTO, who sticks by his woman and gets squashed against a skyscraper for his troubles.

Godzilla is a great-looking movie. Garth Edwards, the director, wears his Steven Spielberg cufflinks on his sleeve, but there are some genuinely riveting scenes. I’m thinking of Hawaii and the San Francisco bridge. My favorite interview with Mr. Edwards features him telling the interviewer to please get out of his personal space in the middle of their chat. This interjection comes out of nowhere, and it’s awesome because it’s so unexpected and he’s so totally sincere.

The fact that the filmmakers don’t show Godzilla much didn’t bother me. I have seen enough Godzilla movies to know that it’s a bad sign when we see the Thunder Lizard in the first five minutes. Usually a half-hour to forty-five minutes into the movie suffices.

I liked the monster designs. The MUTO is obviously a riff on Mothra (there’s even a diagram of a moth at the beginning of the movie), and they resemble the xenomorphs from Alien, but I thought they were well-done. I liked the Godzilla design. I liked his roar. Solid Godzilla fare.

Anyway, I know you all have been waiting for this. Here are my top five Godzilla movies!

  1. Godzilla v. MechaGodzilla (1974) – vintage MechaGodzilla (pictured above) is my favorite ever action-figure. This movie is great because it features a ten-minute song to summon the heroic monster King Caesar, who awakens and proceeds to get pummeled to jelly by MechaGodzilla.
  2. Godzilla (1958) – watch the uncut original, not the Raymond Burr remake!
  3. Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster (1964) – this movie features the Monster Summit, when Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra share a conference call before kicking King Ghidorah’s ass off planet Earth.
  4. Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Monster Attack (2001) – the best Godzilla movie of the 21st century (so far), this is a must watch!
  5. Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)– the Heisei Era of Godzilla cinematography isn’t my favorite and has some real stinkers, but I have a soft spot for this movie because it has an actual plot and attempts to be timely (genetic engineering!). Biollante is actually a Godzilla clone combined with a rose. This could be a great movie, but is hampered by poor effects.
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