By Emma Johnston
Note: The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of RetoxMagazine.com
Godzilla is back, and he is bigger and better looking than before. It has been 16 years since we experienced the modern Broderick/Jamiroquai adaptation, and it looks like we still don't understand how to produce a decent monster flick. Now, while this writer has a massive soft spot for disaster movies and creature features, there are only so many mistakes that can be justified. Believe me, I've tried...
First off we are transported to the year 1999 and we are in the Philippines, where a massive fossil has been found by some miners. Our two investigating scientists carefully examine the remains. They quickly discover two pods, one is decrepit and the other has hatched. Dun dun dun! We are then quickly introduced to the dedicated family man scientist, who takes the form of Bryan Cranston (all hail Heisenberg) and his faithful and ever so delicate wife (Juliet Binoche) who works alongside/beneath him at a nuclear power plant based in Japan. From the word go, Cranston's character is obsessed with new and unusual readings that is affecting all of the electrical power in the area. As Cranston orders his wife to take a team to inspect the depths of the power plant the [expletive] really hits the fan; the entire plant explodes killing many including the loving and caring wife. Thus leaving Cranston to take care of their only child.
Please note, I'm useless at science, even fictional science. This is merely my simple interpretation.
Present day and the boy has turned into a man, and what a man Aaron Taylor-Johnson is. He is part of a military bomb disposal unit and himself has a exceptionally beautiful family. No wonder his son is cute if we are to believe he and Elizabeth Olson woo-hooed and created a life. He is based in San Francisco and returning from a 14 month tour. As soon as Mr Taylor-Johnson starts to look like he is about to jump Miss Olson, they receive a phone call; Bryan Cranston is in police custody in Japan! He was trespassing in the contaminated area from the 1999 explosion. His son hesitantly travels to Japan to get him out. On his arrival, he sees how obsessed his father is with the explosion and his incapability to move on from the past.
Somehow they end up agreeing to fly back to America but then both end up trespassing! Subsequently they are arrested and Bryan Cranston has some real fantastic moments of scientific insanity/clarity. However, it's too late for his advice, the monster is alive! Not Godzilla but an 'inferior' creature that goes by the acronym MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). Without going into too much detail, the introduction of this creature leads to all hell breaking loose. There isn't just one monster, oh no, there's two and they want to mate. They need to feed off nuclear power for this to happen. So many cities are destroyed as they try to find one another and the military are incapable of stopping them. The big man himself, Godzilla appears and heads straight towards the hideous couple with one aim, TO DESTROY!
Obviously the rest of the film consists of monster fights, sham scientists, useless military and finally a questionable state of equilibrium. Oh and don't forget some awkward 'mating' shots.
Let’s begin this review sandwich with a massive positive; the opening credits. Whilst the credits are rolling, the audience is treated to a selection of 'stock footage' explaining the origins of Godzilla and in turn nuclear power and atomic bombs. According to the footage both elements have similar soul purposes, to create/destroy Godzilla. Despite being simple in its appearance, the credits certainly prompted me to remember Gojira, the glorious and original 1954 Japanese production. Unfortunately for this modern adaptation, it also subconsciously created an immediate source of comparison, which isn't the smartest idea considering your film is roughly the 32nd interpretation...
The first half hour of the film is incredibly entertaining; it has tension, romance, family and is generally quite exciting. The characters are relatable and likeable, I was fully prepared to follow them through the impeding disaster. I may be biased in this department because Bryan Cranston could be selling Crystal Meth to me (wait a minute...) and I would buy it. He is the shining star of the production and the sudden change of focus to Aaron Taylor-Johnson's character is quite disappointing. He has grown into one handsome man, unfortunately his acting ability has not matured with age. This is not to say he is dreadful, he plays a fairly emotionless military man for the majority of the film. However, when he does have to undertake some form of feeling or behaviour, you're left feeling rather indifferent. The same can be said for his wife Elizabeth Olson, she is a magnificent actor, and she can normally convey a wide range of emotions. Not in this film, she is a nonstop tear monster who doesn't actually seem that bothered about the safety of her child and only fears for her husband's well-being as he helps the fight against beasts. Her cries of despair become like nails on a chalk board.
That's the main cast covered, lets have a bash at the supporting cast. Sally Hawkins as the second in command secret scientist is a farce. She looks like a woman on the edge of breaking down, how did she ever manage to secure that job if she looks like she is constantly on the verge of tears/pee peeing her pants. Her colleague Ken Wantabe spends the entire film acting like the ghost of King Hamlet, always in the background with his ghoulish requests. No wonder their organisation has failed to prevent these monsters from returning! The military team are ever so bland; they merely act as filler and also to explain narrative changes to the audience, just in case they missed it!
As for the monsters themselves, they are visually astounding. The CGI is close to flawless and is quite spectacular to view them in 3D. This is where the compliments end. The Romeo and Juliet-esque MUTO's are incredibly confusing. Fair enough nature can be strange and intimidating but come on... There is an awkward mating scene where the audience are treated to a full blown view of the genitals/womb of the MUTO, which by the way is bright orange and gel like?! Obviously full of the aphrodisiac known as nuclear power/waste. I'm not going to lie, I laughed like a little schoolgirl at the sight of it. Speaking of monster faux pas, Godzilla spewing what I can only presume is magic or electricity? The best way I've found to describe it is imagine John Coffey from The Green Mile as a giant dinosaur, and instead of millions of small flies it is a bright blue electric substance. Another wonderful LOL moment. I also want to add a little random fact about Godzilla that somebody I know told me; the Japanese think he is fat. That's right, our interpretation for 2014 has a fat Godzilla. Look at the pictures, he does have a bit of a beer belly and tree trunk thighs.
Godzilla - Official Main Trailer [HD]
As previously mentioned, the first half an hour is thoroughly enjoyable, the minute we are forced to join Aaron Taylor-Johnson in a cross country monster battle is when your interest will dip. The audience is spoon fed information rather than allowing for the narrative implications to be recognised. Speaking as a graduate of filmmaking (douche alert) I have always been taught the importance of sub-text. You know sub-text right? Oh wait, it's non-existent in this film. The strange thing about Godzilla 2014 is that despite implying that the audience has an IQ of 25, they add in bizarre 'plot twists' that are completely unnecessary.
I'd also like to add that despite the great focus on nuclear power, the film has lost the essence of what Godzilla is about; social commentary and even satire to a certain degree about the repercussions of atomic bombs and all related elements. I understand it can be regarded as a touchy subject in this day and age but this is fiction after all, and if they can discuss the subject matter in Japanese 1954 production, there is no reason for our American counterparts to ignore it so blatantly.
As a disaster film, you have to be convinced of the devastating consequences of being attacked by these huge, prehistoric monsters. As stated previously, the CGI is amazing, you can see the benefits of the massive budget. The wide sweeping shots of the various cities is ironically breathtaking; the huge tidal waves, the explosions and battered building are certainly a sight and a half.
Now, from re-reading my review there seems to be a lot of negative points. I have torn this film to shreds (eh eh eh) and have taken no prisoners. I would like to mention that this has been an entirely critical, it's kind of in the remit. However, I'll let you in on a secret, I actually loved it, every single cringeworthy moment. It reminds me of the creature features of the olden days. They are full to the brim with ham acting, basic plots and 101 clichés. With this specific genre, you have to give a little leeway in respects of quality. It is never going to win a prestigious award, so come on guys cut them a little slack and just be entertained. Ignorance is bliss...sometimes.
Seeing as my last paragraph completely belittled my entire review, I'm going to give two separate ratings. Once again, I hope you have enjoyed the rantings of this wannabe writer.