After witnessing what appeared to be nothing short of a cracking trailer, promoting an exhilarating action/disaster movie, I finally got time to watch Godzilla (2014) this weekend. What was previewed to be a major Hollywood blockbuster, actually turns out to be a Godzilla-sized waste of time.
Godzilla wasn’t designed with an all-star cast in mind. Emmerich had kind of made that mistake, with his 1998 flop of the same name. Even a star-studded line-up wouldn’t have saved this picture, though. Englishman Aaron Taylor-Johnson does a rather unconvincing job as Ford Brody, a Lieutenant in the US military, and the central human star of the film. The usually solid Ken Watanabe performed his role well, though, he wasn’t given enough screen time to really shine. Even if Watanabe’s role was reduced, it still lasted longer than Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston’s, who gives a mediocre performance as Brody’s father, a conspiracy-obsessed, former nuclear plant engineer who has lost it all.
After a fairly adrenaline pumping introduction, the movie falls into something of a lull as it tries to catch up with events taking place 15 years after the opening scenes. There’s some woeful, cheap dialogue concerning bones exploding from the inside (referencing the Space Jockey scene in Alien (1979)) to boot. From there on out, Godzilla simply falls apart.
The plot was designed to be simple – it ends up flat. It is designed to be realistic, but it falls very short of the mark. It does ask questions, but then answers them almost simultaneously, leaving you wondering a great deal about how everything in the plot came to be.
In short, Godzilla wishes to help the human race rid themselves of a pesky species of electro-magnetic pulse firing insects, known as the MUTOS. Don’t laugh, I’m being serious. I’m not sure Max Borenstein was, when he wrote the script. Anyhow, we are told by Dr Ishiro Serizawa (Watanabe) that Godzilla has been around since before the dinosaurs, and so have the MUTOS (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms), who feed on radiation. Okay, sure. As usual, the humans don’t know what to do, so they attempt to blow both species to Hell, only for Godzilla to save the day, and just in the nick of time. It’s a good thing, too, otherwise an overly predictable nuke would have wiped out San Francisco. Yes, that old chestnut.
Like the plot, the characters are also poorly developed. Nobody has any clue what role Dr Serizawa plays in Operation Monarch, how he knows what he knows about Godzilla. More mysterious is his partner, Dr Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins). All in all, they both have a good day at the office, but it’s pretty hard to cock up in what amounts to 30 minutes on the screen, n’est-ce pas? After 45 minutes of main character intros, you kind of feel short-changed that nobody really has anything more than a bit-part role in this film, some even less. The first 45 minutes – as it turns out – is way too long for a meet and greet, especially for characters who have names you don’t (and won’t) need to remember. Godzilla has a way of introducing characters, cutting them out of the film in the second act, then bringing them back for the obligatory hugs and cuddles when the coast is clear at the end.
On the plus side, Gareth Edwards’ direction is good, Alexandre Desplat’s score is below-par but fitting, and the special effects are superb. They’d have to be, though, wouldn’t they? These things are Godzilla’s only saving grace, really.
When the baddies are defeated, and all the smoke and rubble is cleared, what you are left with is a half-arsed, more expensive version of Cloverfield. I felt as though I was watching a very costly Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers episode, and that’s not what you want from Godzilla. I expected so much more. I want my money back.
The most surprising aspect of Godzilla is that it has received critical acclaim. I can’t imagine how. Having pocketed up more than $500 million at the box office, sequels are being planned. Perhaps the critics watched a different film from me?
As bad as Emmerich’s Godzilla (1998) was, that cringe-worthy flick and this film have a lot in common. They both excel in smashing up buildings, they both see the army fire off countless rounds of ammo to no avail, they both emphasize the dangers of nuclear testing, and they both fail spectacularly to deliver anything that I would consider a positive waste of two hours’ worth of celluloid.
Neither film does Godzilla justice on the big screen. But, if you’re going to be settling down to watch a monster film, then to be perfectly honest – and I can’t believe I’m going to say this – you’d be better off watching Emmerich’s again.