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When Godzilla 2014 came out, me and two other friends went to see it. We spent a good hour or so afterwards bashing the film over a few drinks. All it's flaws, it's goofiness, all those nits to pick, large and small. We assured ourselves that if a sequel were to rise, at least Godzilla's teething problems were out of the way. Oh how naïve.
Godzilla 2 Kot M starts off with grizzly, sweaty dad whose job it is to hammer home that his son died during Godzilla's waltz through San Francisco in the previous film. His wife has constructed the Orca, a sonic device that allows humans to effectively speak to the Kaiju. It is quickly scooped up by our villain, Charles Dance, who plans to use it for his own nefarious deeds. Mixed in is their teenage daughter, who spends most of the film verbally telling us her emotional state: "I'm scared!" "I hate you!" "I miss Dad." Ken Watanabe returns, his job being to stare into the middle distance and say his lines with as much gravitas as he can muster. Also Godzilla & Friends occasionally poke their heads out to remind us they're here too.
Remember how much Bryan Cranston, hot off the set of Breaking Bad, was advertised and trumpeted? Only to be abruptly brushed out the story for Generic-Von-Beefcake? Well Godzilla 2 fixes that by not having any appealing main characters at all, rather content in following Sweaty Dad as he jet sets across the world to… do something. Basically the plot is to set up the Titans are breaking free, Charles Dance wanting wipe the slate clean with classic monsters Mothra, Rodan, and even King Ghidorah (serving as Godzilla's main foil). If you’re only in here for the classic monster brawling you’re gonna get a case of Kaiju blue balls, my friend. This film just loves teasing you with a fight, only for the camera to drift lazily away and watch Sweaty Dad scrambling around in a daze. This happens every time. Mothra and Rodan are duking it out over a burning Washington DC, but nope, keep cutting back to teenage daughter crying and Sweaty Dad trying to learn how to be a more attentive father figure.
It's all a shame too, the film clearly is trying to add more character to the monsters. I genuinely liked seeing Ghidorah's three heads snarl and snap at one another, my mind immediately going to Monty Python's Three-Headed Knight. But when the film isn't going:
"This monster apocalypse really brings our family together!"
"Godzilla is my bestest friend! I much prefer a killer radioactive dinosaur over a killer space dragon."
I would call it childish or insulting to the original films, but as crude as they were at least the monsters fought in daylight! All these slugging matches are either at night, in a storm, in the snow, or at night in a snow storm. Or just filmed so close to the monster at shaky human eye-level that you can't tell what building the Kaiju are even stepping on. No amount of awe-inspiring music to Godzilla's pudgy smug face will make me love this wasted potential. You had one job, Godzilla 2, and you couldn't even outclass two men in heavy rubber suits awkwardly bumping into one another.
So, this is a bit of a controversial film, and I can see why. Left me with deeply mixed feelings. Now, the great risk with This Sort of Thing is that a review can turn from an honest look into a raging catalogue of failures, so I'll try to examine the film element by element.
First, and most obviously, the monsters. The designs are uniformly great, whether they're reimagining the classics or inventing new ones, like that rad ground sloth with the head of a wooly mammoth. Ghidora, in the first few scenes, always entertains with his bickering multiple heads. But, the non-classic names are ininspired and dull. "Behemoth." "Scylla." Just the first whatsit anyone'd dash off thoughtlessly off the top of their head. And as for the monster action, well...
Look. I loved the 2014 Godzilla film. But a lot of salty, pissy crybabies whined like children at that one mid-movie joke where the film cuts away to news footage of the seconds-long non-fight right after we get our first good look at the main character. This film clearly wanted to try to avoid that by putting lots of monsters into the film early and often. It succeeded... but it clearly didn't understand what made the monster fighting work in prior films.
The brawls are always, always, always poorly-lit scuffles in areas full of debris and particle effects, with a jittery and out-of-focus camera on top of that, and are cut to shit on top of that, and then randomly flash to the human characters on top of that. And it also underutilized Mothra and Rodan in the process, both popular classic characters who deserved more screentime than a number of major cast members.
Which brings me to the human characters! Critics complain about this aspect of the film, and they do feel intrusive during the fighting, but most of the cast is fine in the story scenes between monster fights. Ken Watanabe brings gravity and dignity to the role of Dr. Serizawa, including a sad but fitting reference to the franchise's mythology that really hit me. Other returning cast members do well with the material they're given, and the new Monarch crew are all just characterized enough to invest me in their fates. Unfortunately, the character who are emphatically not fine are also the main characters.
Mark is awful. His actor's performance, which I can't completely fault due to his thinly-written part in the script, has exactly two notes: brooding and whispery, and angrily shouting. Worse, this wildlife photographer, who was brought on consult about a single piece of equipment he doesn't even bother pretending to consult on until the end, spends the entire movie lecturing rooms of trained biologists who've spent their entire careers studying these creatures about what they're doing and why, and also lecturing trained military commanders about what the human villains are actually doing and why, what is and isn't a trap. And he is always right.
He irritated me less as the film went on. I don't know whether that's me getting numb to his schtick, a certain scene at the end of the first act where he demonstrated a shred of humanity and put aside his personal desires to save some soldiers, and or, indeed, that a new character arrives to serve as a Hate Sink: his wife. It'll be hard to go too deep into this without spoiling a major first-act twist, but this character is even more thinly-written than him, their dumb theory doesn't make any sense even within the context of a silly movie about the hollow earth and giant monsters, and the sheer selfish hypocrisy with which they go about doing what they're doing is staggering. Indeed, I enjoyed the other villain, who doesn't really do much villainous after shooting a bunch of innocent people at the very beginning of the film, a lot more, if only because his constant sniping at them couldn't help but read to me as his calling out the worst mass-murderer in human history for their utter lack of self-awareness.
At least the kid, the only main character who does kind of work, is well-acted and never annoying. If only there'd been more of her, and less of the other two.
Finally, there are actually a lot of little love-letter references to the rest of the franchise in here. I don't want to spoil them, but all but one of them do work, especially the soundtrack. There's one particular call-back that really doesn't work or do justice to the original, but whatever.
And that's the movie in a nutshell. It has many successful elements, and I really do hope the franchise survives it, because it succeeds in setting up for more! But the parts that don't work really don't work.
Don't listen to the RT critics on this one, guys. The movie actually has a rather sizable human plot and as far as monster movies go it's actually rather well executed. My only complaint is that the human's POV during monster battles cuts away from the main monster action a few times too many. Like, one-two or maybe three times tops is fine since it helps put the epic scope of this stuff in perspective, but this movie went beyond that a few times too many. But yeah, acting and plot-wise it was great and other than some cheesy/hamfisted bits the dialogue was mostly good.
There are some interesting allegories to our modern climate debate and how the younger generation clashes with the older on how to handle it, nothing major or preachy but seeing how the big G was originally conceived as a cautionary tale on Radioactive testing and a statement on the A-bomb it's nicely true to the spirit of the character.
And on the monster mythos and music front? It's one big, BIG love letter to the Toho era. There's monster battles that you thought you would never get to see in this one.
Pumped for Godzilla vs Kong.
I remember seeing the first American Godzilla back in 1998 and I was a disappointed 12 year old. I've grown to like Zilla Jr. and admit some shots in the film were pretty good but all in all I don't call it a Godzilla movie. In 2014 I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed Gareth Edward's take on Godzilla. The character were not the greatest aside from Cranston but I certainly didn't hate them. I appreciated that they saved the big fight for the end. However not everyone quite loved that. With this I easily say that those that were turned away by the lack of action should give this movie a chance. Within the first thirty minutes you get a monster fight and see three of Godzilla's co-stars on the Hollywood screen has been so worth the wait. I am still very suitmation and smashing models but these two American films made me realize that CGI does some things that a suit cannot. I must say this might be my favorite rendition of Ghidorah in which for the first time we see each head has a personality and sometimes the bicker. Rodan reminds me of Starscream and Mothra is both gentle but still fearsome. I'd say both Godzilla 2014 and Godzilla King of the Monsters are dreams come true for me. Shin Godzilla was very much also a treat and I enjoy side by side Godzilla movies that are disaster flicks, social commentary or straight monster fight films. What a time to be a Godzilla fan!
I don't really get what the critics have against this movie. The monsters are majestic and terrifying, the human characters do their job thanks to good performances from an A-list cast, and the action is pretty much everything you could want from a kaiju movie.
The 4 main monsters, Godzilla, King Ghidorah, Rodan, and Mothra are all perfectly realized. They are beautiful to behold. I do wish Mothra had more screentime, but other than that the monsters were perfect. Ghidorah in particular is stunning.
The first half of the movie has a constant feeling of tension and dread that makes it feel like a horror movie, complete with a jump-scare. With these titans that is well warranted.
If you are a Godzilla fan, see this movie. If you aren't a fan but enjoy the experience of a popcorn spectacle, see this movie. If you want a deep plot and something thought-provoking, maybe see the original Gojira from 1954 instead.
I do have one pretty big complaint. There's a submarine sequence where the cast makes what should be a momentous discovery that changes everything, and the movie just ignores it. Why is that there in the first place if it is going to be discarded so quickly?
I don't know what critics expected to see when going into this movie, but whatever it was, they obviously didn't get it. As for audiences, I'm confident I've got an idea what they expected, and the movie seemed to have delivered on that.
A lot of the criticisms of the movie, the bland characters, and the thin storyline are very valid, but neither are clearly meant to be the focus. There are a few twists, but they aren't dwelt on much, and if anything, the story is something of a side note. In a move actually reminisce of some of the classic films, its mostly just a device to set up giant monster scenes, and the human characters are mostly there to go "oh" and "ah" at the monsters, and provide the exposition. And by God(zilla) are the monsters awesome.
Clearly the real stars of the movie, when the monsters finally do come together for the big clashes, its something to behold. The designs are instantly recognizable, but also provide their own new take on the monsters. The fight scenes are suitably grand in scale, filed with roars, explosions, crashing buildings, and all the stuff people can expect from a giant monster movie. Now there is some shaky cam, but it was never a problem really to me (I'll admit I've got good eyes, and I don't have much trouble with it it general, so your milage may vary).
At times the movie can really slow down, especially when it decides to put attention on the human characters. Also, the environmental stuff can get preachy, but all things considered, that was a recurring theme across all the Godzilla movies, just taking on a different aspect (overall climate change is a bit more recognizable in America than nuclear danger).
As a final note, the soundtrack of this movie is really good, especially with the revived Akira Ifukube theme.
If one's going into this movie expecting a really in-depth story, or multi-faceted human characters, then they're going to be really disappointed. But that is clearly the wrong mindset to be in for this movie. If you want to see the classic giant monsters go at it on the big screen for the first time in decades, definitely check this out.
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