Friday, May 30, 2014

When a Movie Makes Odd Choices



Notes on Godzilla

Godzilla opens with something huge escaping from an underground cavern in the Philippines, then a nuclear reactor disaster in Japan that takes the life of an American working at the plant, the wife of an engineer played by Bryan Cranston.

Jump ahead 15 years. He's become crazed trying to prove something caused the disaster, that it wasn't a problem with the reactors failing. His now adult son, in the military, doesn't believe him but is willing to join him in a trip into the closed off disaster zone, where they find zero radioactivity. They are quickly captured by the people guarding the secret of what happened, and soon Cranston is dead and a monster that eats radioactive material is unleashed.

So, we've lost what seemed to be the main character, and the monster unleashed is NOT Godzilla, and the son isn't clearly defined as a character. He helps a child find its parents, he's involved in the military mission to try and kill the now TWO monsters that are not Godzilla, and kill Godzilla, too. But he doesn't feel connected to any deeper purpose (other than reconciling briefly with his father); he's just a guy doing his job.

Along the way, many minor characters are given the kind of screen time that would have an impact if the story were more clearly defined. They are simply people responding to a crisis. I never thought I'd see a film where Juliette Binoche made zero impression.

I didn't understand why Bryan Cranston wasn't the main character who is seeking to avenge his wife's death and the humiliation of his warning about what was coming being ignored. I also didn't understand why Godzilla was reduced to the role of a minor character.

In a sense, the movie is trying to be realistic, but it's not realistic that a creature like Godzilla could exist without being noticed or registering on some kind of scientific instruments. In the recent film Battleship it was preposterous that a bunch of old sailors could quickly get an aged Battleship back to sea in fighting condition. But the movie wasn't trying to be realistic, so I just enjoyed the second run, low cost matinee show. They did it with a wink, and I was happy to slyly wink back and think 'bravo!' when the old coots saved the day.

Not so with Godzilla. Visually, the soldiers sky diving into San Francisco was cool. That was about it for me being thrilled watching the film. Monsters destroying stuff is just CGI to me now.

Odd choices all around.

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