r6ZueZjnmZ7B2W9HGZxNVvrBtMg BDVR: Godzilla

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Godzilla

I've only ever seen one other Godzilla movie besides this in my entire life. As a fan of Tokusatsu series and kaiju combat, that might surprise you, but it's true. It was called "Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth" and it was apparently the highest grossing film in the series.
Never mind that Godzilla was barely in it and didn't have much reason to be in the movie other than marketing purposes, it managed to become the second highest grossing film of 1993 in Japan!
But yeah, aside from that and this, the only monster movie I've seen is Pacific Rim, which, while cool, honestly wasn't that good.
It was like someone mashed together Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Top Gun, Enders Game and Attack on Titan, but failed to capture the essence of any of them.
And before I get into talking about this film, no I haven't seen the 1998 American made Godzilla movie. I've heard almost no good things about it, though.
But this film? It's great. If you can imagine some combination of the military storyline from the first live action Transformers movie and the plot of Aliens, then I suppose you've seen a lot of science-fiction movies.
But seriously, I think 2014's Godzilla was pretty good. It's like an improved version of Pacific Rim.
Yes, there are some small issues with the development of the main character, and yeah the science is total bollocks, but I can ignore that for the sake of the movie.
Unfortunately, that doesn't stop me from being seriously irritated by the sorry excuse for science they used in the movie. For one thing, they seem to use radiation as a catch-all for why the kaiju exist and why they managed to survive for as long as they have.
I shouldn't have to tell you that radiation doesn't work like that, and that the earth's core isn't made up of nuclear material. As far as I can tell, the general consensus is that it's made up of iron, nickel, gold, platinum, silicon, and some oxygen apparently. No plutonium, no uranium, and no kryptonite.
And that's just the inner core. The outer core looks to Nickel, iron, sulfur, and oxygen.
And as far as I've been able to find (Via Wikipedia and a bunch of old textbooks I've read) there's no nuclear material in the mantle either.
Technically heat and light are radiation too, but we all know that they weren't trying to say that it was the increased heat of the planet that made the Kaiju bigger than normal.
The rest of the back-story for the Kaiju I'm fine with, though. But honestly, they'd be better off not explaining what the Kaiju are or why they exist. Just like with the Xenomorph's from Alien, it's better not knowing, because it adds more mystique to the creatures.
I don't get why they even bother talking about radioactivity, since there's no underlying message about the perils of nuclear war. And why they'd even bother with a message like that in a post-cold war setting is beyond me. And I don't doubt that people would dislike the movie if it was heavy-handed with a message that doesn't have a lot of meaning in the modern-day. Especially when we point and laugh at the old PSA's of the past that warned of the dangers and inevitability of nuclear conflict. It probably would have been a better idea to just say that they exist and move on.
Other than that, there's not much to complain about, aside from the rushed character development.
The main character, while being decent enough, is no Bilbo Baggins. Fortunately though, he's no post-Megatron-slaying Sam Witwickey either, so he's at least tolerable.
The issue is that most of the characters have their development skipped, since the film starts off in the late 90s and resumes in 2014.
The good thing is that the movie prefers to show, not tell. Which means that exposition is kept to a minimum, and the pacing is never interrupted.
Now, let's move on to the effects.
It's my understanding that monster movies used to be relatively cheap to make, since you only needed to build the suits once and could re-use them, and the scaled scenery in future movies.
Unfortunately, that wouldn't fly today. My extensive complaints about cheap effects in Power Rangers Super Megaforce and Dino Charge are well on record. The kind of audiences that would be going to see Godzilla might possibly be expecting kitchy special effects, animatronics and dudes in suits in this film, but you'd be mistaken.
Likewise, putting out a movie with cheap-looking styrofoam buildings and wobbly rubber suits in this day and age would be financial suicide. Even if you tried to make it look as good as you can, practical effects in a monster movie have no chance of looking better per-dollar than CGI, especially on as grand a scale as this movie covers. Yes, practical effects do usually look better than CGI, but in a case like this, it's just not possible to make the kaiju move with as much weight as they should.
Hell, I'm a fan of Power Rangers, but even I'll admit that the suit-on-suit combat looks ridiculous most of the time.
Not that I'm about to let Dino Charge and Super Megaforce get away with their cheap-looking CGI Zords, but you get my point.
This movie has a good enough effects budget to make the CGI look like it's real. Godzilla looks real, the buildings all look real, the other Kaiju look real too. And most importantly, they feel real. The characters react to the Kaiju with the appropriate amount of terror and disbelief. And that, coupled with the awesome effects means that it feels like Godzilla is actually tromping through a city, smashing buildings and fighting other Kaiju.
And the fights. Oh my god the fights. The fights are amazing. Rather than being treated as commonplace, like in most Tokusatsu series, they're given a ton of weight. They show how the fighting affects civilians, infrastructure, and the world as a whole. News coverage is given of the incidents, and it rocks the world.
Some of the best moments in the film come from the fighting. But just as many, if not more, come from the humans trying not to get killed by the Kaiju.
Before I wrap this up, I'd like to address what appears to be a common criticism of the film.
That a character of Japanese origin, an icon of Japanese culture that is so firmly ingrained into Japanese society that they actually gave him citizenship and made him their tourism ambassador would wind up with great recognition in America by the end of the film.
The answer is this: In the film, Godzilla is not meant to be merely tied to one country. While he may have had come from Japan, his title is intended to apply to the entire world, rather than just one arbitrary little spot on a map. I presume that the next film (And I know there is going to be another movie, two more in fact, because Wikipedia has listings for a sequel coming in 2018 and one coming some time after) will take place primarily in Japan. Here's hoping, then?
All in all, I liked Godzilla. As both a monster movie and the revival of the long-dead art of making "good" horror movies, it succeeds. I give it a 9.8* rating. I'll see you guys next week with more catch-up, this time it's another Marvel movie, Big Hero 6!

Image from WWW.Impawards.com