Friday, 23 May 2014

Godzilla (2014) Movie Review

This week, I put on my best rubber dinosaur suit and trashed a model of Tokyo on my way to the local cinema to check out Godzilla (2014) starring Aaron-Taylor Johnson. It's directed by Gareth Edwards.

The story of Godzilla is one most of us are familiar with, which is one of the many reasons why this movie might throw you for a loop. There's definitely a giant lizard-like creature in the film. There's also a couple more large creatures in the film that don't really resemble any other species, but they're definitely large. There's even a chunk of the movie that takes place in Japan. See? Some familiar stuff in there for sure. It's all in how it's presented. 

At the beginning of the movie, there's a unique and fairly effective opening credits sequence. Opening credits have become something of a dying breed in modern cinema, so it was a nice change. I was taken aback, however, when Bryan Cranston was given last billing among the principal cast. "Last billing?", I asked, incredulous. "Did these guys even see Breaking Bad??". As it turns out, they probably didn't. There's a very good reason Cranston is billed after everyone else and that's because he has less screen time than everyone else. 

Which really pisses me off.

Not because they didn't use Cranston effectively. They did. His scenes are among the most powerful in the movie. No, it pisses me off because he was so heavily featured in the trailers. Going into the movie, I had the sense that he was the lead based on what I had seen in the trailers. He's not. His part is a glorified cameo at best. His exit from the film doesn't even make a lot of sense. It's almost like it was done for shock value and not much else.

What we're left with is Aaron Taylor-Johnson [(Kick-ass (2010), Kick-ass 2(2013)] in a role that he couldn't possibly have made more boring. He has zero facial expression and, in the end, serves almost no purpose in how the film ends. Yet Edwards spends a lot of time on Taylor-Johnson's character. So much so, in fact, that it comes at the expense of the giant, city-destroying monster of fame and legend who's kinda featured in the film's title.

Just so you know, if you're going to this movie to see Godzilla himself, you're probably going to end up leaving the theatre disappointed. It's about an hour before the big guy shows up. It's only a single scene and then he disappears. He isn't seen again for another 30 minutes or so, and that scene is also brief. He's gone again after this and only shows up for the big fight scene at the end and even that keeps happening off-screen. It gets incredibly frustrating. It seems like every time the giant lizard we all paid to see starts to go toe-to-toe with one of the other giant monsters in this movie, we immediately cut away to find out what Taylor-Johnson and the US military are doing, which is mainly screwing things up for everybody.

There's a lot of long-winded exposition, especially from Ken Watanabe's character. He mostly stands around looking pensive and dropping fortune-cookie-style wisdoms. This may mean that, in the already green-lit sequel, we'll be able to dive right in to some Godzilla smashing action. At least, I'm hoping so. 

My biggest gripe with the movie is the lack of Godzilla in a movie called, oddly enough, "Godzilla". My second biggest gripe, however, is the overuse of cliches. There's quite a few. Here's a brief list

  • Guy who's believed to be crazy by everyone turns out to be right all along cliche
  • Main character has daddy issues cliche
  • Main character has an extremely specific set of skills that just happen to be the exact thing needed. Right guy, right place, right time cliche
  • Guns have been shown to be completely ineffective, so let's keep using guns cliche
  • Dog survives massive disaster while countless humans die around it cliche
  • Scientist guy keeps arguing with military guy and scientist guy turns out to be right cliche
  • Happy reunion cliche

These were quick notes I made during the movie. A second viewing would probably catch a few more.

Now let's talk about the visuals. I've already said there's not much Godzilla in this movie until the very end. Unfortunately, the end of the movie takes place at the fog...behind some really dirty glass. We end up with what should have been a kick ass ending if only we could make out what was actually going on through the dank, foggy, dirty lens.

Pacific Rim (2013), for all of it's faults, at least delivered exactly what the trailers promised; giant robots fighting giant monsters. The Godzilla trailers promised Godzilla and Bryan Cranston. We got about the same amount of both, which wasn't anywhere near enough of either.

2 out of 5 stars
Godzilla (2014) Movie Review
Reviewed by The Bitter Critic on May 23 2014
Rating: 2

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