Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Different Godzilla

The original Godzilla was intended as a serious film.  In its original cut (1954), it was a comment of the arrival of the nuclear age and a commentary on the nuclear attacks on Japan in World War II.  When it was dubbed and released for the US, Gojira became Godzilla and the  studio added new scenes using Raymond Burr as the American hook for the movie.  

Legend has it that Burr was contracted for one day of shooting and the film crew took it literally.  They had Burr film every scene at a small local studio for 24 hours.  The film was also re-cut so that all of the anti-nuclear and any negative American references were removed.  The original Japanese film took home the Japanese Movie Association Award (the Japanese Oscar) for special effects and was nominated as best picture.  

The original Gojira was released in the US but mainly for a Japanese=American audience. It was released again in its original cut in the US in 2004 to the acclaim of almost every critic.  The title of "King of All Monsters" was added for the 1956 American version. Since that time, there have been 28 movies, not including the number of spoofs, comic books, and a host of other items that have been inspired by perhaps Japan's most recognizable symbol. It has become a cultural phenomenon.

The movies became for a time a series of silly films with other monsters which began to portray Godzilla not as destroyer but as hero.  The vast majority of the movies have actors in a rubber suit portraying the various monsters.  This would eventually lead to an attempt to return him to his roots, and create a more realistic CGI version in movies like Godzilla 2000.  This also brings us to the 2014 release of the movie which brings us to the newest, movie 28, Godzilla.

The new Godzilla brings everything that CGI monsters have to offer.  He is the biggest to scale Godzilla ever created.  According to scale, the new Godzilla is 350 feet tall, quite a step up from the original scale of 150 feet.  Hopefully you understand that the original was actually a pretty good movie that has been over-shadowed by awful sequels. With that in mind, you'll understand then the following statement: The new Godzilla is the best Godzilla since the original.


The special effects of the movie are quite good.  Godzilla is the hero.  As I pointed out, Godzilla in later films became more and more the protector and less and less the destroyer.  The destruction is created because of Godzilla's size and the monsters he must fight.  That's right, I said monsters.  The new Godzilla is not created by nuclear testing, but was a result of a time when the Earth was more radioactive. This is also true of the monsters Godzilla must face.  He is the great equalizer.  He will bring balance back to nature.  It's his job.  All right, that's pretty hokey, but that's what he does.

Pacific Rim
The original Godzilla the destroyer was a comment on the use of nuclear weapons. He was a metaphor for devastation of nuclear weapons.  The new Godzilla the equalizer too is a metaphor.  He represents the need to for nature to be placed back into balance.  When this is accomplished, we have the classic point or view shots as the survivors watch the great monster returns to ocean until he is needed again.

The other monsters in the movie hearken back to the first monsters that Godzilla fought in his sequels.  I was reminded of perhaps Rodan although the new monsters which feed on nuclear energy also sort of resemble some of the monsters from Pacific Rim.  There is a male and female that like all good monsters must reproduce.  With the unwitting help of the humans and the one Japanese scientist who gets what Godzilla’s job is, Godzilla must set nature to right while the puny humans destroy the eggs laid by the female.  The movie, like most of the modern monster movies, destroys a Japanese town, Honolulu, and San Francisco with devastation that Zod and Superman would be proud of.

So the movie lays out pretty much the way movies of this nature do.  Scientist and the military, many years ago tried to destroy Godzilla.  They failed but didn't know it.  Many years later, mining operations accidentally awaken another monster.  This monster, in pupa form, goes to nearest nuclear source and begins to feed.  The source is a Japanese power plant.  The chief of operations played by Bryan Cranston doesn't know what destroyed the plant and killed his wife, but he knows it’s not a natural disaster.  Flash forward 15 years.  Surviving scientist and his estranged son (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) discover the reason for the destruction of the nuclear plant just as the monster is born.  Bryan Cranston dies in the process.  Monster, the male, calls to another pupa, the female in Nevada, and mayhem ensues as son tries to get home to San Francisco to save his own family in a loosely parallel plot.  Battles happen. Destruction happens. Finally, the military who have not listened to the only scientist who gets it are forced to listen and let Godzilla do his job and set nature in balance.  Happy ending occurs- meaning there is already a sequel in the works.

Godzilla is first and foremost a special effects movie.  It held my attention well enough but seemed a little disjointed in part where actors didn't really have much to do.  I didn't become particularly involved with the characters, but I don't feel I wasted my money.  I did see it in 3-D, but was not really impressed by its use.  Like more than a few 3-D movies, the director didn't really seem to know what to do with it, so there are a few scenes where it almost is like someone suddenly remembered, "Oh yeah, we have 3-D." It is kind of trap especially since the movie must also be cut for 2-D.  I think most folks will enjoy the movie.  I liked Godzilla well enough but I probably won't buy the DVD.