A friend and I took advantage of getting home from work at a reasonable hour and caught a 3D showing of Godzilla this week. While we’d both read several positive reviews we both had our doubts after Hollywood’s last attempt at a blockbuster involving the big guy. We were both pleasantly surprised when despite some issues we quite enjoyed it.
I think both Kym and I agreed that the film succeeded in spite of itself, probably due to some last minute editing. The core of the story is supposed to be the family dynamic between Bryan Cranston’s character, his son (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his son’s wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and son. We are supposed to care deeply about the son getting home to his family after trying to help his dad in Japan. Unfortunately Johnson seems to have decided (or been directed) to play his soldier character as blandy stoic as possible (the guy is quite lively and likeable in other films, just not here.) Simultaneously his quest to return home from japan is an increasingly ridiculous deus ex machine to get him to pretty much every monster attack point in the film. Elizabeth Olsen is entirely wasted as the wife waiting patiently because her man said he’d come for her (/rolleyes.) Rather hilariously the marketing department seems to have realized how boring this plotline is as well and Johnson/Olsen are barely featured in the trailer, Johnson has one line and two focused shots while Cranston and Watanabe narrate the entire thing. Don’t get me wrong Cranston is awesome but the trailer makes it look as if he’s the star of the film, not a supporting character. Speaking of actors being wasted Ken Watanabe and David Strathhairn are both criminally underused. There are quite a few sudden time jumps in the movie that could have made for a more compelling narrative if the producers hadn’t felt the need to give half of the film over to family melodrama.
Note: some spoilers follow…
Godzilla (despite apparently moving at under 30 knots most of the way) appears to cross the pacific in roughly a day and a half. Instead of having the race back to the coast be about building suspense and dread we get a sidequest where our hero has to go accompany nukes because he’s a bomb expert as well hooray! For one of many contrived plot reasons in the film, the US military has decided to ship these missiles by rail to the coast right past one of the other monsters (despite the fact that the monsters like radiation.) Kym and I have the following questions.
Why not ship by air? Load them into a C5 Galaxy and fly them to San Fran. The monsters and their em pulse are not yet there. Not that this seems to bother the Air Force/Navy since every time the pulse goes off we see fighters falling from the sky.
Why missiles? The US has all kinds of better suited nuclear payloads for size and portability if you’re just sticking it on a boat.
Even if missiles, why are you shipping seemingly the entire launch assembly instead of just the warhead? (Also a deployed carrier like the Saratoga most likely already has warheads on board making the entire ‘let’s put some nukes on a boat as a lure’ kind of hilarious. Military pedantry note as well: the Saratoga was decommissioned in 1994 and the current US fetish for naming new carriers after mediocre presidents (Seriously, Gerry Ford class?) means that the proud old name won’t be on a carrier anytime soon.
Also why does the first MUTO pick up a Russian Akula class sub to eat the reactor/missiles but completely ignore Pearl Harbour which almost certainly has a couple American subs in port.
Ok enough nitpickery for now.
Godzilla himself is beautifully rendered. I found the other monsters rather meh in terms of design but the big guy was gorgeous. His movements nicely balanced a hint of the plodding rubber suit of old with some of the dynamic tricks that modern effects allow. I was surprised but happy that they went with more of the sequel plot of Godzilla vs. other monsters rather than just a straight up Kaiju destroys city until he’s somehow driven off.
Meanwhile in human land Elizabeth Olsen is being dumb for no reason, soldier boy has somehow made his way into a team to make a HALO jump with no training (say what?) Soldiers eventually carry the nuke down to the wharf, load it on the slowest boat in sight then when the power starts back up our hero can GPS it out to sea. I’m not sure how a put put boat apparently travels at least 30KM in five minutes but OK!
I shouldn’t give the impression that we didn’t enjoy the movie. Despite the dumb parts the movie does a good job of setting up the threat, establishing danger and most necessarily for a good Kaiju flick: some excellent monster fighting and building crumbling. I heartily recommend catching it on a big screen while it’s still in theatres but it didn’t use 3D in any particularly spellbinding way.