I’m a firm believer in second chances for people who deserve second chances. I think people can be rehabilitated from past mistakes and redemption is possible to those who want it. So after over 15 years of one of the worst Hollywood remakes of a Japanese classic movie series, Hollywood has one more chance to make a good Godzilla movie.
After all, it’s 2014, a time when you see a lot of talented writers, aspiring directors and amazing life like special effects, it’s about time the most famous monster movie heroes deserves atonement. I mean, did you see that Roland Emmerich movie from 1998? It was terrible. Matthew Broderick was annoying, the monster looked more like a whale-lizard hybrid, the plot was convoluted and boring, and the entire movie was so overhyped, the advertising budget felt bigger than the amount of care the writers gave.
So was this movie a vastly needed improvement? Let’s find out.
First, let’s go over the premise. The movie starts off by introducing us to the typical lead scientist of the movie, played by Ken Watanabe, who’s a doctor of “Whatever the hell is convenient to the situation”-ology, which I’m sure is a course taught at McGill university. He sets out to explore a random cave and finds large eggs that contain potential large monsters. And of course, one is open and escaped. What a coincidence that they found it just when this happens. That word, coincidence, will come up pretty frequently along the way when talking about the story or the many plot conveniences.
We then see a typical American nuclear family working at a nuclear power plant in Japan. The father is played by Bryan Cranston, arguably the hottest commodity since Breaking Bad ended and he was the saving grace to that Total Recall remake. And wouldn’t you know it, a series of tremors cause that power plant to melt down and kill that loving wife in the most dramatic way possible. Oh and a bunch of other people, but they aren’t important.
Fast forward 15 years later, and we see Cranston’s son Ford, grow up to be a Navy officer that specializes in bombs, which will be convenient to the plot later coincidentally, returning from service. He’s played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and I swear I couldn’t figure out what else I saw this guy until I got home and IMDB’ed him. I was shocked to see that he was the kid that played Kick Ass! Seriously, I did not realize that was him.
He returns home to meet his wife/girlfriend/baby mama named Elle. She’s played by Elizabeth Olsen, and I swear, I also had to IMDB her to confirm the name coincidence. She’s the younger sister of the Olsen twins. No joke! I had no idea there was another one.
So to get the story rolling, Ford now has to fly to Japan to help his father get out of jail, only to go right back to explore the ruins, only to get arrested again. But instead of bringing both back to jail, because that’s what normal cops would do in the real world, they get brought to the stoic enemy monster that just coincidentally wakes up and the story can finally get under way. Now it’s up to the Kick Ass guy to get home back to his family that he shouldn’t have left to begin with.
Before I go any further, I need to get the first big problem with the movie out of the way. The trailer is one big bait and switch. You know how Bryan Cranston is in almost three quarters of the trailer? Yeah, well, he’s in about less than one quarter of the film. He’s not even the main hero of the film, Kick Ass is. In fact, most of the movie is a series of bait and switch. This movie seldom shows the monsters actually doing the destruction until much later in the film. Most of the scenes where the monster is on screen focus solely on the death of hundreds of extras and then giant evil monster walks away.
In fact, by the time Godzilla shows up, it’s not until around the end of the first act. And I have to admit it, when Godzilla is on the screen, everything is freaking awesome. The special effects team finally got it right, and made him look so bad ass, menacing, and the audience can’t wait to see what kind of carnage these two behemoths can do as they fight at this Hawaiian airport.
Then the very next scene, they show the aftermath of the fight. And they didn’t show any of the fight. That’s right. Nothing was shown. No fire breath, no clawing, no tail whips, not a bloody thing. I get the idea of building up for the epic final battle in the last act of the movie, but when you show that the fight is about to start, even if it’s a quick exchange of blows before one or both run away, you still need to show something. Otherwise the audience is going to be pissed off that nothing happened. Even later, when a third monster shows up outside of Las Vegas, they show one casino get a foot through the roof, then the very next scene, they show the devastation of Las Vegas. This should have been in Monster Movie 101. The audience came to see a monster movie to see the monsters blowing shit up! Why is it most movies nowadays tell us what is happening off screen with lazy narration and boring exposition instead of actually performing the actions? It’s one of the key reasons why The Last Airbender sucks. (Well, that and the acting, special effects, plot and pretty much everything). Shyamalan decided to tell the audience what happened instead of showing what happened. It’s a visual medium. Show, not tell!
That’s another thing that pissed me off about this movie. When did Tripods become illegal? Did Schwarzenegger write a bill that banned the use of Tripods before leaving the governorship of California? Is there an anti-tripod lobbying group in Washington? I’m really sick and tired of action movies where the camera man shakes the camera to give us that feeling that someone is holding the camera. It’s harder to see everything, it weakens the focus of the topic at hand, and it’s just generally annoying. Hollywood needs to stop this ridiculous practice. Do I really need to start a petition to White House. Gov to get President Obama to sign a new law to ban Shakey Cam? And if so, would you sign it?
Another big complaint I have is the wonky science and the stupidity of human logic. And I mean that there is a lot of this, enough for the collective brains of Mythbusters to explode. Now, normally monster movies would get a pass for certain levels of fuzzy logic and pseudo science. For the climax to have a nuclear warhead to lure the monsters and use the rocket to blow up the monsters sounds like a dumb idea and a contrived plot device, but it’s still acceptable to just let it slide and let it be just how it works in that universe. But 2014 Godzilla took that leniency and took it way overboard. For example, they try to explain that the two evil Cloverfield monsters communicated with each other, over the distance of islands, rocks, the Pacific ocean and several mountains, using echolocation. Yes, echolocation. Now even when I had cable television, I wasn’t a frequent watcher of the Discovery Channel, but even then I’m pretty convinced that that’s not how echolocation works. Echolocation isn’t a form of communication, it’s used for sonar, hence the two words it derives from. Echo and Location. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, and for a Godzilla movie you’re expected to have some kind of acceptance, but they went over the line on this stuff.
The sad thing is, when you finally got to see Godzilla fighting the handicap match that they were building up for the final act, it’s freaking amazing. I loved the fighting, I loved the fire breath attacks, I loved the wanton destruction that was produced. It was interlaced with human activity, but I didn’t care. I want Godzilla destroying San Francisco. Now one can argue that Godzilla is killing a lot of people as he stomps over San Francisco, the Golden Gate bridge, Hawaii, and pretty much everything in his path, and his kill/save ratio is slightly higher than Superman’s ratio from Man of Steel. But who cares, it’s Godzilla. Weed out the stupids that stay in a city, including the idiots working during this battle, while you fight to protect mankind.
And it’s about this time I came to the ultimate epiphany. This movie suffers from the same thing Ghost Rider did. You remember Ghost Rider, right? The one where Nicolas Cage plays a bumbling charmless stunt driver. The one with Sam Elliott as the mumbling grave digger that spews exposition. The one where Eva Mendes forced the top three buttons of every shirt she owns to resign from their post because they interfered with her cleavage. Well, when the actors were on the screen it was a trite movie with boring dialogue, nonsense love story, and uninteresting conflicts. But when they brought the titular character on the screen, it was epic. The fight scenes, the flaming skull special effects, the motorcycle riding, all of it just made the movie great. Even that amazing build up scene with Ghost Rider and old Ghost Rider was one of the most testosterone-filled epic scenes in a movie.
The 2014 Godzilla has the same problems. The human characters are cliched, boring and lack any interesting features. The acting is so bad that Cranston is forced to bring his ‘A’ game in order to make it sub par. The dialog is so forced it doesn’t sound natural. Hell, Watanabe never answers a simple question; Every yes or no question results in some philosophical nonsense about nature. And all the subplots about bombs and missiles are so bafflingly awful you want the humans to be stomped. But Godzilla comes on screen, albeit the very short time he’s on screen, and it’s nothing but greatness that is so hard to describe. The focus should have been on the monsters, not on the humans, especially all the main characters and big named actors. Otherwise you get Cloverfield, and we sure as hell don’t need another Cloverfield movie.
Do you know what the saddest thing about this movie is? The fact that it had one job. Just one job. It had to at least be better than the aforementioned 1998 sludgefest of a movie. That’s it. The bar was set so low that it was a simple task that was hard to fail. But with all the bad writing and forgettable performances, you can actually debate that the Matthew Broderick movie is better than this movie. For me, I can’t say that with a straight face, the 2014 wins, but it’s a close margin, and it shouldn’t have been.
I cannot call this movie one of the worst movies I have ever seen. In order to avoid that moniker of “one of the worst” you have to pass one simple test. Was there at least one thing in this movie I liked. And the monster action scenes were fun to watch. Other than that, it goes from being terrible to just bad. I can’t recommend this movie at full price. Wait until it’s on TV for free, or until it’s part of any online streaming service you already paid for. And in the end, that’s the biggest blasphemy of this movie. It should have been something you have to see in theatres. But with all its faults, it’s just not worth it.
I was so upset that I went on a Godzilla style rampage in my room after I got home from the theatre. Toppling stuff on shelves, throwing glass, I was a one man monster destroying the place. Sadly though I’m not a giant lizard, so it looked like the angry Tommy Wiseau scene from The Room. It wasn’t pretty.