Saturday, June 28, 2014

Godzilla

2014, Gareth Edwards (Monsters) -- cinema

The first thing I noticed is that the new Godzilla is so very much the product of Gareth Edwards. But only in a way that people who saw, and enjoyed, Monsters would notice. It was the subtle things, like the looks on people's faces when they looked at the towering creatures over your right shoulder, or the way something so large could disappear into the background if the lighting was not quite right. And the silences. Whether realistic or not, Edwards makes such wonderful use of silences in his movies where there must be so much of a cacophony at all times.  The second thing I noticed was how much he wore his appreciation for other Giant Monster movies on his sleeve. You could see stylistic elements from Cloverfield, Pacific Rim, original Godzilla movies and, yes, even the much hated previous American Godzilla movie. He is probably like me, just in love with the genre and able to see the successes in even the worst considered examples.

I wanted to say this is not a reboot of the Godzilla franchise but really its not a re-imagining but probably does fit within the confines of a reboot. It is not the continuance of the series of Japanese movies, i.e. we are not picking up where a previous movie ended. Gojira or Godzilla is not a known entity, but we are given some background material to show that the Japanese are aware of him. In fact, they teamed with the US to bomb the @!$& of him in the 50s, thus the Bikini Atoll "tests". But he is not known outside of this hidden history. Subsequently the Japanese discovered the remains of other such creatures and had been studying them for decades, an unfortunate decision that leads to the plot of the movie. The discovered eggs hatch into a MUTO (massive unknown terrestrial organism) and they wreak havoc on populated areas. Godzilla awakens from his sleep in the Pacific, not killed as they previously thought, and seeks out his natural prey. Chaos ensues.

The stylistic choice that I love about this movie is that Godzilla and the monsters are presented as natural disasters. Oh, there is a bit of anthropomorphization of the beasts, especially in the antagonistic way they react to each other, but for the most part we watch from afar, as the monsters wade through, ignoring the humans and destroying all in their path.  These things are happening and humans just happen to be in the way. For the most part, all we can do is run, hide and watch.

If the movie suffered from anything, it was a choice of choppiness in its story telling. The overly long intro, which felt like an extended bit part for Bryan Cranston, leads to a monster chase that is constantly jumping from one scene to the next, one geographical location to the next. The human element is there, giving us a military character to follow along behind the monsters trying to be balanced by a moreso extraneous civilian character that has Elizabeth Olsen contributing only a "look up scared" performance.  I am thinking a more ensemble cast, like in Battle Los Angeles, would have tightened up this story thread but even so, I so so much enjoyed this movie.

There is just so much scale to this movie, angles that are breath taking, destruction that is awesome (full of awe, not totally cool, man) that we are given over to what Kent mentioned, seeing things from security monitors and TV screens. It is a way for our brain to digest the sheer magnitude of what is happening, or at the very least, this is what Edwards was alluding to. I would love to see some post-movie web series that are made up on phone cam, Twitter posts and YouTube videos of the events.