Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Godzilla review: The King Has Returned!

It has been many, many years since I viewed a good Godzilla movie.  Legitimately good, not just campy good.  The 1999 reboot was an okay film but a terrible Godzilla movie.  One wonders how they got so far afield, what with all the rampant destruction and all...

I digress.  What I will attempt to do is give a spoiler free review before getting to the really good stuff.  It's a trial; we'll see how it goes.

Let me start off with the negatives.  The music was... odd.  Not bad, mind you, but awkwardly placed in several instances.  Especially towards the end, when Godzilla is triumphant in battle, there is a weird uplifting score that just really took me out of the moment.  It had it's ups (I especially enjoyed the Japanese inspired tunes) but it did more to pull me out than anything.

Also against it was the odd acting.  There were times when I couldn't believe in the portrayal of two of the main cast members, Ken Watanabe and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.  They were usually really well, and I wouldn't say that at any time they phoned it in, but there were certainly some strange acting choices going on in a few scenes.  

Now, on to the positives; its fucking Godzilla! Gone is the angry lizard from Broderick's fiasco, this is the real deal.  Straddling the line between hero and force of destruction, this movie had a great interpretation of our titular kaiju.  Also, he looked bad-ass.  And those effects!  Stellar.  The building destruction was excellent and the other CGI was great.  And for anyone who has seen the trailer; when the king roars?  Just breathtaking.  It took me back to my childhood.

A final, pre-spoiler note; I saw this film in dbox.  The 3d effects were neither good nor bad; never drawing me out of the film but never adding much to it either.  The dbox effects were meh at best, and damned uncomfortable as I couldn't lean back, but that is not an issue with the film.  I recommend seeing it in Imax if you opt to go the glasses route but 2d viewers likely aren't missing much and saving money.

Now, I notice that my wordcount of negative v. positive may make my position seem like it was a bad or otherwise unenjoyable movie; not so!  I highly recommend this movie.  Please, if you're a fan of Godzilla, or kaiju in general (I'm looking at you, fellow fans of Pacific Rim), do yourself a favour and watch this flick. 

Now, spoilers on. 

From the get go, this movie showed that it was all about the humans involved, but in a good way.  Not the shitty Transformers way.  Bryan Cranston turns in an amazing performance for the bits of movie he was in.  Yeah, he dies.

I'm not sure said death was necessary, the character could have stuck around and been a great foil for Wantanbe's psuedo-spiritual scientist, but I feel his mortality did sort of counterbalance the apparent invincibility of his son, played by the aforementioned Aaron Taylor-Johnson. 

That was a sore point, how Ford (Aaron's character) was always in the place where the action was.  Even if you don't count his appearance as a child in the beginning (and you should), he later encounters all three(!) kaiju at various times.  The odds of a single person doing that have to be ridiculous.  Then, Ford is the sole survivor not once but twice in regards to monster attacks.  There is also a scene where the force of an explosion sends him twisting like a rag doll up into the air only to land on street pavement.  Or a car; his landing is off-screen but seriously, the dude shouldn't have been walking away from that one.

I loved how Godzilla looked, how all the kaiju looked, actually, though the MUTOs (Massive Unidentifed Terrestrial Objects; even though one of them flies) are highly reminiscent of the baddies from Cloverfield.  The fluidity and rigidity that all displayed at appropriate times were great.  The combats were brief but reminiscent of what fellow Gojira fans have come to know and love.  They do, however, lead me to my next issue; the lack of apparent damage.

I don't know if it was a money issue or a laziness issue or what but none of the kaiju had any visible sign of damage until the moment they died.  The flying MUTO (ugh) had been in three combats with our titular character and never showed any injuries until his hilarious end.  The bigger MUTO is a bit understandable in this regard, as she received very little in the way of a beatdown until her satisfying death.  Godzilla is probably the worst offender.  There is a point where the two MUTOs are raining down blows (in one case, literally) with what appear to be sharp forelegs.  One can safely assume that this should do some serious damage to our downed hero, and it is implied that it does towards the end of the film.  Still, the side that ends up facing the camera for an extended shot of a still Godzilla is the same side that takes a brutal pecking, and I didn't detect a whit of damage.  It was off-putting, to say the least.

Still, with all of its flaws, I thought it was fantastic.  If there weren't so many good movies coming out soon (I can hardly wait for X-Men: DoFP), I would go back and watch this film again.  I don't watch many movies twice, especially not in the theaters, but something about spoke to both my childhood memories and the man I am now (jaded though I am) that endears me to it.  I'll probably get the blu-ray when it comes out, the only film this year that I can safely say the same for.

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