Godzilla (2014) Tries Really Hard To Be An American Movie

By Chongchen Saelee

Gareth Edwards is a talented director if you’ve just learned that this is only his second major motion picture. But I being a heavy consumer of all-things American, I spotted too much of the same-o-same-o to really be too impressed.

If you watch enough movies, you’ll spot nothing but shots from Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park movies, Predator, even Roland Emmerich’s version of Godzilla. Heck, I’ll even dare say it almost closely resembles Emmerich’s Godzilla format but switch out the actors and some stylistic changes. Heck, the opening credits was almost EXACTLY like Emmerich’s.

We learn in the beginning that something has awaken underneath the earth according to some seismic data and it doesn’t appear to be earthquakes. The Bryan Cranston character is really throw-a-way MacGuffin character, a cliche really: the paranoid wise old man who knows the truth. He even has a tiny apartment decked out with newspaper clippings.

The main character is Ford, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who looks hulking like a man, but his boyish face and voice are distracting. There’s just something about looking at a dude near my age (he’s younger than me btw) and not being able to believe he’s a father. That shit is in the eyes. Young dudes that become father’s have dead eyes. Taylor-Johnson’s eyes are still that of a young man. I don’t know how to describe it.

Anyway, Ford supposedly has a grudge against whatever killed his mother that fateful day at the radiation plant where both his parents work. And they never extended on that motivation. It’s just there for whatever. It could have been cut out of the story and it still wouldn’t have affected the rest of the story.

So the seismic patterns actually turn out to be prehistoric creatures awakening and communicating with eachother. The military call them MUTO. They have awaken and are preparing to mate. But not if Godzilla can help it. You see, these prehistoric creatures only eat radioactive stuff. So Godzilla will be damned if those MUTOs surpass his dominance of the earth. As Watanabe’s Dr. Shenkawa puts it “nature has a way of balancing itself”.

So all the typical post-apocalyptic imagery occurs, the monsters collapsing buildings, people screaming, American military propaganda imagery of might, etc., etc. And Godzilla only shows up in the last third of the film by the way. The other two-thirds is setting up the mood and tone, which isn’t that bad. Too bad it wasn’t top notch. Because if you devote that much time to humans, you should at least feel sorry for them when they die. And I didn’t feel sorry for any of the humans that died.

The truth of the matter is, these Godzilla movies are only about the “fight scenes”. Yes, it’s macho pornography. The Godzilla monster fights are done in almost a visceral way, shown quickly via news reels, or through windows and gates. There are no long dwelling shots that will make it look like a video game or a visual effect. This is good because it makes it seem more real. It doesn’t make the cameraman God.

I like the new Godzilla design. It harkens back to the original design, but a little more angular and defined. His face actually looks unique like he has a personality. I’m also amazed at how animated and articulated his is. After a what-supposed-to-be-a-brutal-gangup by the MUTOs, Godzilla is exhausted and out of breath, like a boxer. He collapses in exhaustion. Yet, I didn’t quite get it or feel it. It seemed predictable or was a given.

There were things like that that might not have been executed the way it was intended. Not once did I suspend my disbelief that Ford was ever in danger. He looks like a superhero. Now the Cranston character Joe, he seems more like the human character and fallible. Why didn’t they carry him throughout the film? If he did near the end instead of the beginning, then maybe we’d feel more sorry for the human element. Ford comes off as too superhuman. And ironically, he has a GI JOE action figure.

Ah, I’m just rambling. Hope this review makes sense. It’s late.

Godzilla 2014 isn’t EPIC like the paid critics are making it out to be. But it’s also not bad. It’s only slightly better than Emmerich’s Godzilla. Cosmetically. It’s an apology maybe.

My Rating: B-

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