(Editor’s note: We’ve been REALLY looking forward to this movie. We’ve posted about it, a lot. There was this one, this one, and my two favorites, this one and this one. Our guest reviewer did a bang up job of not dropping spoilers. But really. IT’S GODDAMN GODZILLA, you know there’ll be a giant monster destroying things. What matters is…..was it GOOD?)
(By guest reviewer Benn Robbins)
I was first introduced to The King of Monsters via a local Boston TV UHF channel, WLVI 56 (I grew up on Boston’s South Shore). The show was called Creature Double Feature and it was shown every Saturday from 1pm to 6pm. It was basically how I spent my saturday afternoons. Rain or shine, I had these mammoth rubber-suited Kaiju as my best friends till around sometime in 1983 when it was cancelled.
Even on my parents 19” cathode ray tube set, Godzilla towered in my imagination. Now, the 1998 abomination by Devlin and Emmerich can now be forgotten forever as hiccup in the glorious history of the ToHo creation.
This brings me to the current huge budget remake of GODZILLA by Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures. This film brings back all the spectacle and reverence that a King of Monsters deserves. Painstaking care and love were taken in the handling of both the creature itself and the genre it spawned 60 years ago.
Helmed by relative newcomer, Gareth Edwards (who’s only previous film MONSTERS which was like a test film audition for making GODZILLA) does the Japanese proud. Equal parts original GODZILLA films, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, JAWS and even a bit of the good parts of CLOVERFIELD, this entry in the 60 year history of the franchise is the perfect blend of giant monster movie and sci-fi spectacle film of the late 70’s early 80’s.
Godzilla in the original 50’s productions was an analogy for the dangers of nuclear power and the devastation that the dropping of nuclear bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima to end WWII had on the Japanese people. Original 1950’s director Ishirō Honda and producer Tomoyuki Tanaka basically manifested all the horrors of atomic bombs into a giant lizard. It was a theme that rang true and still does to this day. However, this time around it seems that writer, Max Borenstein, and director Edwards have not only a fear of atomic destruction but also worry over the effects of global warming due to human abuse of the planet. The alarming number of natural disasters such as the tsunamis that destroyed the Fukushima nuclear plant and the one that obliterated the Thailand coast or the typhoon that devastated the Philippines are central themes, throughout this film. This is just nature trying to find balance and that the puny humans are unable to stop it and must let it run it’s course.
What I really enjoyed was a lot of the initial visuals of both Godzilla and his equally titanic nemesis MOTA (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) are only seen as if we were witnessing them firsthand on the street through glimpses here, pieces there. The build-up and suspense is reminiscent of a previous summer blockbuster about a giant shark that terrorized a small New England beach resort town. And much like JAWS the team of filmmakers have the perfect balance of show/don’t show build up to some pretty spectacular money shots of some all-out-giant-monster brawling. They even give Big G a small, almost 4th wall breaking moment where it is like he is winking and saying “I’m back, b*tches!”. Audiences are rewarded with some token tropes of Godzilla goodness and the time-tested, audience cheer inducing, roar.
This film, much like last year’s PACIFIC RIM, awakened the primal need in me and my fellow theater goers for all out monster attacks and good old fashion wanton monster destruction. And it is okay because it is all an allegory for nature fighting back against mankind’s horrible treatment to her. Through Godzilla, she is restoring the balance.
As for the human element the catalyst story featuring Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) and Juliet Binoche (The English Patient) is par for the course in a monster film. Enough to get the film started and carried on through the second half of the film with Cranston’s now grown son, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass), trying to get home to his family during the devastation. The through story featuring Japanese actor, Ken Watanabe (Last Samurai) as the scientist trying to study and understand the what and why of the creatures is interesting, if not predictable. All in all, we are not getting Citizen Kane here folks. But really? GIANT MONSTER MOVIE! The people are little more than a way for audiences to connect with the happenings in the film, namely giant monsters attacking things.
The film is beautifully shot and through cinematographer, Seamus McGarvey (The Avengers) lens this film steps it up visually from your average summer film. This film is steeped in Spielbergian camera shots. From the reveal of the ship in the desert in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, to the classic shot of the shark going under the Orca in JAWS first revealing its size to Brody, Quint and Hooper, there is so much great film making and story telling happening in this film it is hard to talk about it all without giving too many spoilers of the film.
I was psyched going into this film.
Usually that means relative disappointment for me coming out, as my expectations are usually not met. GODZILLA met and in some parts exceeded my expectations. It has been a while, for me, anyway, where I screamed in joy and cheered and clapped like a maniac in a film. It was nice to be able to be a kid again and be in awe of something I was watching on screen. Not just from the sheer size of the creatures and the scope of the film itself, but from the great big joy and fun and excitement a film that, in all intensive purposes, is as wonderful as the memories it stirred back into my mind.