Extended Review of Godzilla

godzillaIt was fun. Okay, okay, it deserves a little more than that. But not much. The cinematography is excellent, sometimes even beautiful. The script attempts to rise above the cheezyness of the source material without upsetting the die-hard, traditionalist fans too much. It's an impossible task. I'm somewhat sympathetic. They opted to try to make the movie serious rather than tongue-in-cheek, and that was a good choice. Case in point: No one ever peals out on Godzilla's tongue like they did in the Roland Emmerich 1998 version. That's a win. On the other hand, if they were going to go for something heavy-handed, they might as well have worked on something more significant. Personally, I was hoping for a global warming allegory. The Godzilla myth fits that so much better than the recent remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still in which aliens are mad at us for destroying the planet. The writers of Godzilla hinted at some kind of fable about the relationship between man and nature with a frame story about nuclear testing and nuclear disasters awakening monsters from deep in the earth, but because they felt compelled to have Godzilla save us from some other monsters, the whole story was kind-of a mess. Nature is punishing us but also saving us because it loves balance? Huh? I felt bad for actors like Ken Watanabe who had to recite some pretty painful lines. He's a good enough actor that he was much better at expressing himself when he didn't have to say some of the things that were included in the confused script. Unfortunately, I was reminded of Harrison Ford's (possibly apocryphal) comment to George Lucas: "You can type this shit, but you can't say it." No one will be winning any Oscars for these roles.

What? No Oscar?

Sorry, Ken.

Again, that's not the point of this movie. This movie is about spectacle, and it rises above expectations due to very sharp art direction and good sense of suspense. There are some wonderful scenes where we're pretty sure one of the 900 ft. tall monsters is hiding right behind the characters, ready to stomp on them (and maybe on us), and the director knows just how long to leave us in that state before something crashes loudly, explodes, or screams a giant, alien scream.

If you don't try too hard to figure out the strange back-story of the rising of the monsters or the silly twisting and turning necessary to make Godzilla the good guy and the other monsters the bad guys, you can enjoy this movie. If you really focus on the framing, the use of color, and the camera angles, you can respect it, too.