In the time before time, lived creatures so powerful you could have mistaken them as gods. The Godzilla franchise is the story of the resurrection of these monsters during modern times. The past few films in the series have been trying to resurrect the franchise into modern times, to muffled excitement. The most recent attempt of telling the story had promise and the trailer had me on the edge of my seat, but somewhere along the way it fell short.
The King of Monsters
Godzilla starts much like the Matthew Broderick adaptation, with a pacific island nuclear test montage. The mythologies quickly diverge as the new story tells how Godzilla and company were always here vs created by radiation fall out. A secret multinational organization known as Monarch is tasked with learning about and creating contingencies regarding these monsters. And we all know it wouldn’t be a good monster movie if they succeeded.
Destroyer of Worlds
The original story of Godzilla is Japanese and created in a time where nuclear holocaust was still fresh in their minds. It’s been said that this allusion has been the driver of the series, though over time the message waned. Godzilla 2014 attempts to bring these classical fears back to life in the faintest of ways. Dr. Serizawa, portrayed by Ken Watanabe and lead scientist of Monarch is the only real link to this culture. He carries his fathers pocket watch, frozen in time on the day of the Hiroshima bombing. His protest to the use of nuclear weapons is minimal at best, a point I’m ok with. Faced with these giant monsters in action and little options, even he becomes unsure on solutions. Further, he comes to the realization that they were just along for the ride. He proclaims “The arrogance of men is thinking nature is in their control and not the other way around.”
Life Finds a Way
This would have been a great moment for the film, had it not been a band aid holding the juxtaposition together. Godzilla’s story carries itself in such a way allowing the monsters and human intertwining story lines. In the beginning the story is presented the way we expect – we are smart humans working the problem and maintaining control. Slowly, the monster plot emerges from background story to the main, where anything the humans do is irrelevant to the monsters. The monsters ignore the humans as much as humans ignore ants, only paying them attention when they start to bite. Dr. Serizawa’s realization could have been the turning point of this movie. Instead it insists on making this a monster movie with a hopeful human element. The film never allows you to care about the Ford family and literally dismisses them as a montage. The film says to you, “don’t worry about this, its not that important” and then forces you to watch Ford and Godzilla stare into each others eyes for the same amount of screen time. Somewhere during the explosions, Godzilla becomes Ford’s Pokemon specifically fighting to save Ford’s life. Which is the exact opposite of what should be happening. Godzilla is even called a Hero by the news anchor as he trudges back off to the ocean like a fat guy who just got his ass beat. Hugs ensue.
On the Shoulders of Giants
Although the execution falls flat, Godzilla still creates some intense action sequences and some amazing shots. The paratrooper jump into the city was one of the cool shots exciting me from the trailer. The airport monorail sequence is going to be a ride at Universal Studios. Godzilla’s final fight scenes were pretty amazing too. They pulled action more from the classical movies than the ninja space dinosaur he could have been, and I love that. Homages to Jurassic Park and The Birds were also present, showing you some of the original intent of this movie.
Slapped it on a Lunch Box
Godzilla really really REALLY could have been what the franchise needed. A modern day retelling of this story in a way that made you experience hopelessness and human struggle could have stood in stark contrast to today’s block buster movies. Unfortunately the marketing team and investors got a hold of this gem and turned it into a modern day cliché. I don’t need a movie about a boy and his monster. Unfortunately, Godzilla did so well in theaters, a follow up is already in the works. God help us if this franchise turns into a live action Pokemon.