Here we go again with Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly blog about one of the movies I own because, really, I've got nothing better to do. Today, the king of the monsters returns! Godzilla, the 2014 American-made reboot. This was originally in my notes at September 28, 2014.
10 years ago, after the 50th anniversary of Godzilla and the release of the film Godzilla: Final Wars, Toho (the Japanese movie studio that owns Godzilla) figured it was time to give the franchise a rest. Take a few years off, and then let some new filmmakers have a crack at it.
Just like they did in 1994, after Godzilla's 40th anniversary and the promise of a rest, they figured "new filmmakers having a crack at it" meant signing away the rights to Godzilla to an American studio and letting the American studios have a crack at it.
So, this past summer, we got the American's latest interpretation of everyone's favourite daikaiju, Godzilla. When I saw it in the theatres, I remember enjoying it, but my criticism was the same as most others. For a Godzilla movie, we see shockingly little of Godzilla. Director Gareth Edwards cited Steven Spielberg and Jaws as his main influence, and how little we see of the shark. Well, you can see that homage on full display as the majority of Godzilla we see are those three rows of fins along his back, poking through the water as Godzilla swims through the ocean. Although, I will admit, thanks to how little we see Godzilla, it does lead to my two big "stand up and cheer" moments in the film.
The first one is when we finally see Godzilla, which happens at about the halfway mark. With the other giant monster of the film, the M.U.T.O, attacking the Honolulu Airport, Godzilla shows up to do battle. It's almost like The Friendly Giant. Godzilla stamps his big boot down, and then we look up...we look waaaaaaaaay up, and Godzilla let loose with his trademark roar.
That then leads into the #1 frustration of the film. Just when you think you're about to see two giant monsters fight -- you know, what people go to Godzilla movies for -- we cut back to the humans, and the giant monster fight plays out on TVs IN THE FUCKING BACKGROUND! COME ON!!!
The second "stand up and cheer" moment is during the film's climax, when Godzilla lets loose with his atomic breath for the first time. The M.U.T.O.s look to have Godzilla down for the count. And then in the distance, through the dust, we see some blue lights come on. For those who don't know, when Godzilla's about to fire off his atomic breath, the fins on his back begin glowing. And sure enough, the dust settles enough, and we see the blue lights are Godzilla's fins beginning to glow. Then Godzilla blasts the MUTO into oblivion and it's awesome.
So with so little of Godzilla, we get a lot of the humans, as they chase after Godzilla and the MUTOs, and try to take them down. Our hero is Lt. Ford Brody, a bomb disposal guy in the US Navy. He's finally home from his tour of duty, but just as he's getting settled in, he gets the call that he has to go to Japan to bail his dad out of jail. His father was a nuclear engineer at a nuclear power plant in Japan 15 years ago, and there was a gigantic disaster that led to the death of Brody's mother. So, Brody's father has spent the past 15 years obsessed with determining the cause of the accident. After bailing his dad out of jail, Brody decides to humour his dad, and they break into the accident site to find it's clean of radiation and not a dead zone.
They quickly discover that the accident was cause by a MUTO. See, they feed on radiation, having once roamed the Earth back when it was a primordial swamp. They evolved to feed off the radiation that rained down on Earth from the cosmos, spilling through Earth's not-yet-fully-formed atmosphere. When the radiation stopped, they burrowed underground and grew dormant. But, with humankind's use of nuclear energy, they began awakening. The MUTO burrowed up into the nuclear power plant to start feeding off the reactor.
And after 15 years of its pupa state, the MUTO bursts forth and begins a rampage of destruction. Turns out there's a second MUTO, too, that was being kept in a nuclear waste facility in Nevada. It, too, has awakened, and they're being drawn to each other. San Fransisco is to be their mating ground.
But there is a hope. The first MUTO to awaken, and has been living peacefully under the sea since it was awoken in 1954. He was the alpha predator back in the day, and perhaps he can destroy these two MUTOs to preserve the balance of nature. They gave this MUTO a name. They call him...Godzilla.
And Brody just kind of follows the MUTO and Godzilla across the Pacific Ocean as he tries to get home to San Fransisco, with his military expertise and exposure to the creatures always allowing him to get drafted into whatever nearby military unit is battling the monsters.
That would be OK if it weren't for the fact that Brody is such a bland character. He's just a soldier trying to get home...a trope we've seen many time before. As I've said time and again talking about giant monster movies in this here blog, it seems like one of the constantly consistent problems is that they can't make the humans interesting.
When all's said and done, I actually like the film, though. The highest compliment I can give it is it's a Godzilla movie. It follows the formula, Godzilla looks and behaves like Godzilla...it's just a shame we see so little of him.
The very dramatic line in all the advertising was delivered by the character of Dr. Serizawa, played by the great Japanese actor Ken Watanabe. When the military's efforts to stop the giant monsters are all for naught, Serizawa proposes that they just sit back and "Let them fight." Hopefully, the producers will take that advice for the sequel.