Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Godzilla (Gareth Edwards)

Kaiju badassery.

If last year’s “Pacific Rim” has offered more than a passing hint of kaiju nostalgia, then this year’s “Godzilla”, Gareth Evans’ modern and westernized take on the monstrous pop culture icon, gives out more than just a splotch of it. And if Roland Emmerich’s 1998 dud of a remake is more about shitting on the entirety of the monster’s mythology and, as much as possible, distancing itself away from its Japanese origins, this one right here, from the title card itself up to the way the music hits certain notes at key moments, is a faithful tribute through and through, if not a bit imbalanced. It boasts of high-end special effects that even the genre itself is yet to be fortunate enough to be often blessed with, and it can also be just as proud with its impressive cast, led by “Breaking Bad’s” Bryan Cranston and reliable Japanese character actor Ken Watanabe.

Just like the very first “Gojira” film in 1954, the “Godzilla” of today is focused on looking at the larger-than-life entity (literally) with a dominantly human perspective. We see Godzilla clash with his monstrous contemporaries (labeled as MUTOs – Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism), but often only through express train windows and TV screens and rarely through the ‘monster mash’ point of view that all of us are quite used to, kaiju film-wise (what with those miniature temples and electric posts); that is, until the super awesome final battle.

The problem, though, as what all the other reviewers have noticed, is that the grounded human characters aren’t all that interesting, to say the least. Sure, there’s the uber-talented Bryan Cranston, who often steals every scene (or even each film, for that matter) he’s in and always makes do with what little screen time he has, but his character is one hour gone too early for him to really set in and complement the kaiju action in the film with his acting power.

Aaron-Taylor Johnson, on the other hand, who has already proven his worth with leading roles such as in the “Kick-Ass” films and even in the John Lennon biopic “Nowhere Boy”, struggles because of generic writing, which hinders his character from really growing into someone whom you can really root for at the height of a monster takeover. I’m not a Roland Emmerich fan or anything, you know, but the German lad seems to always have a knack of letting his characters develop into on-screen people you can actually laugh, cry, and be valiant with, all while some form of natural disaster destroys famous landmarks in the background.

Aside from those mentioned above, I also have a slight issue about the film’s way of explaining certain plot details, with Watanabe, who is obviously not the greatest of English speakers, oddly being given the honor to deliver the film’s exposition-heavy dialogues. Maybe I’m asking too much now, but Cranston should have easily been given that task because, what the hell? That man can have an intense on-screen meltdown and still intelligibly discuss perhaps even the hardest parts of rocket science with great ease.

But with that being said, as a movie fan who’s really bent on having his money’s worth with a film entitled “Godzilla”, I was still more than impressed. I mean, do you really expect this film, which is essentially about an atomic-breathing dinosaur that often fights off monsters of varying sizes, to really go on great lengths to profoundly discourse about the human condition? Go grab a Tarkovsky film or something, you sniveling snob. This is about a prehistoric apex predator which destroys buildings and creatures slightly lower to him on the big-ass kaiju food chain on a whim, and the film never wasted a minute to visually tell us anything but that. Though there are mild attempts to show Godzilla’s connection with the human populace (there was a brief scene where the creature and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s character shared a brief yet knowing glance), what the film is really recklessly careening into is the climactic kaiju battle that puts those in “Pacific Rim” to utter shame. And just like the moment when Gypsy Danger finally unleashed his retractable sword, “Godzilla” has pumped up my adrenaline level to an unbelievably crazy height, especially when I finally saw bluish hints slowly accumulating along the monster’s spine, which, as we all know, is followed by its atomic belch, err, breath.

If you’re looking for a monster film that fulfills its promises and more, “Godzilla” will never disappoint a living soul, except of course those who still strangely consider Emmerich’s version as some kind of canon and expect Godzilla to once again brainlessly wreak havoc on Manhattan and chase a merry band of survivors led by Ferris Bueller. If for anything else, “Godzilla” successfully shows a new generation of audience what a kaiju film is really all about while also letting us in on a crash course about the titular monster’s unpredictable heroism. Now, let us quietly close our eyes and forever erase from our memories 1998’s “Godzilla”, watch Toho bury the hell out of the weird, iguana-looking abomination from that wretched film in “Godzilla: Final Wars”, then drown it all out with this latest Godzilla’s beautiful growl, which is nothing short of music in the ears.

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