Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Cutting right to the chase...
Godzilla was everything I had hoped it would be. The title star looked great and “gave” a terrific performance. There were wonderful human characters and stories. There were creditable foes for Godzilla to battle. There were delicious moments of close interactions between the courageous Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and the monsters. Most of all, the movie had a satisfying ending.
I’ll go into more details following this warning:
The opening credits are included within quickly redacted words from reports on the original appearance of Godzilla in 1954. That was a neat element and I hope I can find the un-redacted texts somewhere online.
We don’t really see Godzilla for some time in the movie, but that just builds the suspense. Yes, he is quite larger and heftier than previous versions, but that makes even more of a force of nature. He’s the balance between our world and predatory creatures and, of course, mankind’s own folly. I very much liked the scarring on the new Godzilla, which was meant to be akin to the horrible scarring on survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Ford Brody is just a boy in 1999, which is when the ancient menace that threatens mankind first makes its presence felt. His father (Bryan Cranston) and mother (Juliette Binoche) work at a Japanese nuclear power plant. Cranston knows something is quite right with the plant, but is unable to prevent its destruction by the unseen menace. A government cover-up keeps him from discovering the whole truth and why his wife died. His obsession keeps him from being as close to his son as he could and should have been.
Cranston delivers a good performance, especially in scenes with the adult Ford. The tension between them is obvious, but so is the love they have for one another. Binoche doesn’t get much screen time in the movie, but makes the most of it.
When we first meet the adult Ford, he’s returning home to his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and young son (Carson Bolde) after 14 months at sea. The Lieutenant’s first night home is interrupted by the phone call telling him his father has been arrested for trespassing in the quarantine zone where they used to live. He flies to Japan to spring his dad, but he’s not happy about it.
D-oh! I just now realized what an obvious homage the Brody name is to the sheriff father and his sons from Jaws, which director Gareth Edwards had said was one of his inspirations. D-oh!
Ford has considerable daddy issues, but it doesn’t prevent him from going on a clandestine visit to the old family home. His dad finds discs which will prove his case that the government(s) are covering something up. Further proof is that there’s no trace of radiation in the supposedly lethal quarantine zone.
The Fords get arrested where Dr. Ishiro Serizawa [Ken Watanabe] is keenly interested in the elder Ford’s old records. Unfortunately, things go to Hell before Dad Ford can really enjoy any kind of “I told you so” moment. The cocooned creature who has been absorbing all the local radiation for decades comes out of his shell, starts killing people and then escapes.
Dad Ford gets a great dying line:
Go home to your son...keep him safe, whatever it takes...whatever it takes.
I’m going to pause from the summary here to discuss the actors and characters a bit. I love Ford Brody. He’s the kind of “get it done” guy who always does the right thing, even at great personal risk.
Some reviewers have a problem with that, but I’m not remotely one of them. He represents the best of our country and our military. You know him. I know him...and I wish we had a whole lot more like him.
Elizabeth Olsen doesn’t have the emotional range to bring much to the role of Ford’s wife. However, in all fairness, the script did not give her much to do. Basically, the movie is carried by Daddy Brody, Ford Brody, Godzilla and his monster foes.
Foes? Yeah, two horny monsters getting ready to hatch a big litter of baby monsters. Godzilla emerges to follow the Japanese monster as he heads for the U.S. The male monster is on his way to hook up with a cocooned female monster "stored" in the Nevada facility where the U.S. “disposes” of its nuclear waste. Because what could possibly go wrong with storing an unknown cocoon in a nuclear waste facility.
The monsters are cool from both a menacing and a visual standpoint. The threat they pose becomes apparent as soon as the first one goes into action and their threat keeps growing. Visually, they don’t look like any of Godzilla’s previous foes, except for maybe, just a little those bug-like critters in the undistinguished Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000). Points for originality.
One more acting note. Watanabe is swell as the clearly haunted Doc Serizawa. I would have liked to see a larger role for him, but he does get the best line in the movie:
The arrogance of men is thinking nature is in their control and not the other way around. Let them fight.
The giant monster battles are exciting. While there would clearly be a tremendous loss of life, the movie doesn’t dwell on that loss in much detail. Indeed, when characters we know a little bit die, they are much more than mere statistics. That sensibility elevates this movie well above the disaster porn so prominent in too many movies and comic books.
Godzilla is not the enemy of mankind in this movie, which doesn’t prevent him from being a frightening force of nature. One reviewer described him as the last warrior of his kind, emerging from decades of solitude because he’s needed. That’s a Godzilla who resonates with me and who, with a suitably engaging script, I wouldn’t mind seeing again in a few years.
Director Gareth Edwards did a wonderful job with this film. I was so impressed that, over the weekend, I watched Monsters. I’ll have more to say about his earlier movie over the weekend. But, while I’ve heard Edwards will have some sort of executive producer in a sequel, he probably won’t be the hands-on director. Edwards doesn’t strike me as someone who wants to repeat himself.
IMDb credits Max Borenstein (screenplay) and Dave Callaham (story) for the writing. I’m not familiar with their previous work, but I think they did a fine job on this movie.
Godzilla is a must-see movie for Godzilla fans and giant monster movie fans in general. I think it’s an entertaining film for general audiences as well. However, if you are considering bringing young children, think again. The movie is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence and that’s an accurate call. You know your kids best, but I opine this movie might be too intense for them.
Godzilla delighted me. In any year that didn’t also include Captain America: Winter Soldier, it would have been my hands-down pick for my favorite movie of the year. As it is, I’ve seen it twice and may see it a third time while it’s still in the theaters...and I’ll be the easiest sell in the world when it comes to the Blu-ray edition. Go see it.
I’ll be back tomorrow to ride the range with the Rawhide Kid. So, saddle up and meet me back here then.
© 2014 Tony Isabella