Saturday, May 17, 2014

Film Friday: Godzilla--And I'm Aware It Is Saturday, But I'm Still Calling It "Film Friday"

Go, Go, Godzilla!
I saw one of the Thursday-night showings of "Godzilla" because instead of making people wait until Midnight as some film-releases do, I was able to go at the quite-reasonable time of 7:00 PM. I was too busy Friday to write about the movie, but now shall tell you my opinion while trying to not spoil too much--although if you can't stand to have anything revealed, maybe wait to read my review after you see the movie and then decide if you agree with my thoughts. Before we talk about what "Godzilla" is (besides being a good movie) lets talk about what it is not.

What "Godzilla" Is Not...

"Godzilla" is not just about Godzilla.
Godzilla is an important character in the movie but we never get a good look at him until about the first hour has passed. This film is also about other parasitic monster-giants known as Mutos that are wrecking everything, and the philosophical question of if we as humanity have brought such destruction upon ourselves due to it being revealed just how these creatures gain their strength (hint: It relates to our love of atomic weapons).

"Godzilla" is not constant action.
While the last 30 minutes or so of this 2-hour flick are loaded with awesome scenes of monster-fighting, building-collapsing, and explosions, much of the film is in fact a slow-burn. We will at times get the build-up to a big fight, but then only glimpse it being shown as a news report on television. No, much of the movie spends time focusing on the characters and how they attempt to control the force of nature that is Godzilla and the Mutos he fights. Some folk who go into the movie expecting a little more than action will be surprised to see this film actually is often quiet and thoughtful, at least until towards the end when all the anticipation the audience will feel explodes into a gorgeous ballet of destruction.

"Godzilla" is not a movie starring Bryan Cranston, or even necessarily Godzilla.
Despite appearing prominently in all the trailers for the movie, Cranston is barely in it at all, appearing on-screen maybe 15 minutes at the most throughout the film, with this truly being a case where the trailers basically showed every scene he appears in. There is nothing wrong with Cranston having a smaller role, but it just feels like the previews were deceiving when it is actually Cranston's character's son played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson whom is main focus of the film (along with his family)

Taylor-Johnson is heavily involved in dealing with Godzilla and the Mutos with his family serving as an emotional anchor to motivate him, and is probably the most interesting character in the movie besides Godzilla, who is expertly portrayed as not either a hero or villain, but a force of nature.

What "Godzilla" Is

"Godzilla" is fun.
Even though the movie may tackle moral issues such as war, humanity's treatment of nature, and all that, this is still first and foremost a fun movie. The action is spectacular, the characters are interesting, and when I first heard Godzilla's roar I got a rush of euphoria from witnessing a character I loved watching the movies of as a child (ignoring that 1998 abomination) that can not be equaled by too much in life.

"Godzilla" is gorgeous.
The set-pieces in the movie are astonishing. Watching as a Muto and/or Godzilla tear a city apart and then witnessing the aftermath results in some jaw-dropping imagery that is just incredible to look at. Seeing various familiar cities with these giant creatures rampaging around is just expertly done.

Godzilla is actually kind of optimistic.
Despite all the death and destruction, "Godzilla" actually has many elements that make it a feel-good movie in the end. While many movies portray the military as evil and secretive, in "Godzilla" they tell the populace the truth about the monsters in an effort to save lives relatively early on, and even when trying to destroy the monsters there is always talk about and an awareness of trying to help keep civilians safe and alive. Considering how so many movies often show the government and army as being as bad as or worse then the things attacking us, it is kind of refreshing to have a film that shows our armed forces doing what we actually expect them to do, protect people.

Also, the movie makes it apparent that Godzilla may be terrifying in appearance, and not really care much about people, but through his process of fighting the Mutos is in fact a hero--albeit a misunderstood one. Godzilla arriving to inadvertently save the day gets across the message that even if humanity messes up and causes monsters like the Muto to attack us, we at least have help in the form of Godzilla to allow us to survive our mistakes and learn from them.
"Godzilla" is a great movie.
I want to be sure I get across that if there is one thing to take away from this review, it is that "Godzilla" is a really good film. Yes, sometimes the slow-burn nature can make it seem a little sluggish, but the expert balancing of character development and drama with monster-fights and explosions results in a flick that I can say without hesitation is the kind of "Godzilla" movie that both pays respect to the character and his legacy, but also feels fresh and creative.

In Closing
I had pretty high hopes for this newest iteration of "Godzilla". I wanted a movie that wasn't just mindless action, but remembered that at its heart "Godzilla" is a story about the hubris of man's atomic weaponry, and of course enjoying epic destruction. This movie has both those important elements of providing both fun and food for thought, while also spoiling us with gorgeous special-effects. "Godzilla" isn't a perfect movie, but it is one I can happily award a rating of...
4 out of 5 stars.

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