I was 10 when the 1998 Godzilla movie was released. It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen since Top Gun (which was the first Hollywood film I ever saw). The image that always remained with me was the old Japanese man in the opening scene who, after being asked what he saw, frighteningly murmurs, “Gojira, Gojira… Gojira!” Brrrr… Chilling! But years went by and I realized that the ’98 reboot was, well, silly to say the least. Every time I re-watched I loved it less.
That version wasn’t true to anything Godzilla- they even turned him from an unwitting hero into a villain. Director Roland Emmerich has since acknowledged that he screwed it up with that movie and even suggested that another reboot is necessary to make Godzilla loveable again to a new generation. And in 2014, Warner Bros. Pictures and director Gareth Edwards heeded Emmerich’s call with an all new Godzilla.
This version is more traditional, suave and cohesive. It’s bigger and better in every way. All the chips in this year’s version are so perfectly placed that you’ll forget that the star of the show is late to the party. Godzilla almost plays a supporting role. We only get a first glimpse of him 40 minutes into the film as he waddles under the sea surface with just his monstrous jagged spikes protruding. It's only a teasing spectre of how menacingly gigantic this creature could be. The director does a good job to keep the audiences with bated breath.
The first part of this movie is spent patiently setting up the story and building characters in a more-human-less-mythological story arch that transports us from the Philippines to Japan to Hawaii and then the USA. The multi-national cast all play their roles to a satisfactory level. Although it's quite obvious that most of the brilliant actors in this film like Bryan Cranston (of "I am the danger" fame), Ken Watanabe, Juliette Binoche and Sally Hawkins were picked not for their skills but for their huge popularity in their respective markets.
It's at the hour mark that the movie comes to its own and we get the full picture of the titular monster; and I can tell you it’s well worth the wait – You might want to save your popcorn for this moment. The size and scale of Godzilla is eye-popping, it's scaly structure so mean and frightening and its roar as majestic as that of a thousand lions.
The thing that works for this 2014 reboot is that it is intelligent. Most dumbed-down apocalyptic blockbusters tend to con quick emotion out of audiences by blindly scripting worn out (and mostly corny) rousing speeches that galvanize and remind us of our unflinching human spirit – I'm looking at you Pacific Rim, Independence Day and The Matrix Reloaded. That's the easy way. Few big-budget films are bold enough to be objective about our destructive nature as human beings; and gladly, this Godzilla is one of those.
It doesn't shy away from scolding mankind’s arrogance- especially the Western world. Godzilla ominously juxtaposes our falsely perceived "top of the species ladder" against the wrath of nature and the end result is an incredible display of how insignificant humanity – with all our technological and weapon advancements – can seem in the face of natural terror that is inevitable thanks to our recklessness.
In reality, we do not have a renegade dragon-whale monster to protect us from ourselves. We don't have a Godzilla that will rise from the seas to restore the natural order that we're forsaking. But the notable thing this movie asks is that we not take our exploits to that extreme. That is why for shock factor, people die in Godzilla. Lots of them. And no, not the fast-cutting hints of people dying that overly diplomatic filmmakers employ. Director Gareth Edwards sees to it that people are seen to die. People die under the heavy feet of MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism's), people die in a nuclear plant collapse, people die under the rubble of destroyed buildings, people get swept by a Tsunami, people fall like rain from the sky with their helicopters and jets…it's endless. It's all symbolic of recent human catastrophe, both natural and man-made.
That being said, the point of Godzilla 2014 is not to be offensive, but to be honest, which it refreshingly is. Add to that its imposing grandness and well-worked plot, and it makes for a worthy popcorn movie.
This review is courtesy of IMAX 20th Century
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