Last night I attended a screening of Godzilla. Here are some random and spoiler-free thoughts on the movie.
Growing up as an Asian-American kid in New York, Godzilla was one of my role models. The Toho monster was pretty much the coolest thing on television. I’ve enjoyed the evolution of Godzilla over the years…until that crap Matthew Broderick movie happened. It left me thinking, “This is why
white people Americans should never make a Godzilla movie.” When I first heard about Godzilla 2014, I was excited and scared. A Godzilla film with a big Hollywood budget and modern special effects was tantalizing…but would American moviemakers get it right this time? Last night I was absolutely thrilled by Godzilla 2014. The movie is 123 minutes of brilliant special effects, breathtaking monster battles, epic destruction, and surprisingly good acting.
First thing’s first — the CGI in Godzilla 2014 is some of the best I’ve ever seen. The monsters and collateral damage are stunning. I saw the movie in IMAX 3D and while the 3D didn’t do much for me, I was beyond happy that I witnessed it on an IMAX screen accompanied by killer sound. If you’re on the fence about Godzilla 2014, I highly recommend giving it a shot in theaters. Even if you don’t end up liking it as a film, I guarantee that you’ll be dazzled by the CGI (appreciate of giant monsters is required, naturally).
As for the film itself, it delivered everything I want from a Godzilla movie and more. The battles are appropriately epic and it was great fun watching the kaiju destroy various parts of the world. While I was sad that my favorite bar in the universe got trampled on, I was giddy that Waikiki was destroyed. That place is awful — like the dullest parts of Irvine and Las Vegas mashed up. It was interesting to see that the movie followed the trend of visiting locations around the world in order to appeal to a broader audience. In this movie, you’ll get to go to Japan (duh), the Philippines, Hawaii, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. Perhaps some European cities will be demolished in Godzilla 2016 (I’m hoping for Helsinki).
The latest incarnation of Godzilla is the biggest yet, at a shade over 100 meters tall. While some longtime fans of the Japanese movies believe that this Godzilla is “fat,” I loved the way he looked. It’s a modern and more realistic take on the monster. He looks believable and familiar at the same time. Visually, it made the battles and destruction more impactful. Through advancements in filmmaking, the directors and CGI crews were able to create a breathtaking sense of scale.
The element of Godzilla 2014 that surprised me the most were the humans. Most Godzilla movies go something like this:
Boring human stuff, boring human stuff, AWESOME MONSTER FIGHT!!! Boring human stuff, boring human stuff, AWESOME MONSTER FIGHT!!! Boring human stuff.
One of the most impressive things about Godzilla 2014 is that a lot of the human stuff is really good. Sure, there are some overly dramatic scenes and a few instances of ridiculous anthropomorphism, but a good chunk of the story is very good. There were a few moments where I was so caught up in the drama that I forgot I was at the theater primarily for glorious monster battles.
That isn’t to say that all the acting was great and all the story elements were winners. The first half of the movie was far better than the second half as far as plot goes. Godzilla 2014 is initially driven by the excellent Bryan Cranston. He brings so much to the film. You feel his sense of loss, the pressure he feels for being viewed as a conspiracy nut, and how empty his life has become. The second half of the film is driven by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass) and while he does have pretty blue eyes, they’re no substitute for the acting chops that Cranston brought to the film. Elizabeth Olsen is just hot. I melted a bit every time she was onscreen. Ken Watanabe was decent, but I’m still waiting for him to have a performance as great as the one he pulled off in The Last Samurai.
Really though, the human parts of the movie are all about context. As I enjoyed the human scenes in Godzilla 2014, I couldn’t help but think about Pacific Rim. When I reviewed the movie last year, only some of its human elements bothered me. Since it’s been on cable rotation, Pacific Rim seems dumber and dumber each time I watch it (the Honest Trailer didn’t help). Obviously some suspension of disbelief is required with Godzilla 2014, but it doesn’t have the nonsensical human elements of Pacific Rim that make it hard to rewatch (the robot vs. kaiju battles are still awesome). More importantly, the actors and writing in Godzilla 2014 are just superior to what Pacific Rim served up.
A few random bits:
- There were times when I wanted to call the movie Kick-Ass, The Last Samurai, and the Hottest Olsen Sibling Watch Godzilla Destroy Stuff.
- Kick-Ass’ character’s name is Ford. I found that a bit distracting. There were times I wondered, “Is his middle name Pinto?” and, “Why didn’t his father name him after a better car company?”
- I found every scene with Sally Hawkins completely distracting. The way her hair and makeup were done, she looked like a human version of Sarah from Team America. That was just weird.
At the end of the night, I left the theater as the Asian-American kid that gleefully watched Godzilla movies on a black-and-white television in the kitchen. That’s to say that I very much enjoyed Godzilla 2014. It left me more than satisfied, relieved that American moviemakers finally got it right, and anxious for a sequel. The special effects were better than I dreamed they would be and in between the glorious monster skirmishes, there’s some nice acting (mostly Bryan Cranston) and writing. If you find monster battles and wanton destruction the least bit entertaining then you’ll absolutely love Godzilla 2014.
[For another take on Godzilla 2014, be sure to check out PaulSemel.com’s review.]