A new month and hopefully some well deserved free time for this wee lady following a busy few weeks. How best to celebrate? Well… how about we start off with another of our trans-Atlantic shared film reviews with our fellow Asian film fanatic Stephen over at Gweilo Ramblings? Yep… now that’s just the ticket… 😉 Our film choice for this time out? Well how about we skip our usual cozy DVD-at-home for an evening out at the real cinema and a quick look at the recent Americanized reboot of an old monster movie classic, “Godzilla”? Giant monsters… army guys fighting said giant monsters… lots of crazy destruction and mayhem to be had by all. Hehehe.… and they even do it all with mostly English dialog to boot. My sweet Carolyn will be soooo happy… 🙂
Not sure “Godzilla” is really a method of celebration! But thanks for welcoming me back to the Litterbox. Now this one is a film I was somewhat suspicious about. The trailers didn’t look hopeful, but I knew the director had a lot of genre love for monster movies. But for me – could it beat that one scene in “Pacific Rim”? Anyway, how about you give us a little cat girl-styled synopsis?
Let’s see… our synopsis goes like this here: “In Japan, dedicated nuclear power-plant manager Joe Brody reports to work at the plant with his wife Sandra, who works in the reactor, where not all is well. Joe has begun to suspect that some recent suspiciously patterned seismic activity may be something more sinister than shifting tectonic plates and is actually a grave threat to the plant itself. Once there, a freak earthshock causes the plant to go into meltdown and Sandra gets caught on the wrong side of the containment door, dying literally before Joe’s eyes. Following the disaster a massive cover-up ensues. Fifteen years later, Joe’s son Ford has grown up and become a bomb-disposal expert in the U.S. military. He’s just returned home to his wife Elle and their son Sam when he gets word that his father been arrested in Japan. Long estranged from his father, who was written off as a conspiracy theorist nutcase for his failed efforts to prove the Japanese government was attempting to hide something about the earlier disaster, Ford nevertheless ventures to Japan to get him out of jail. Once there, he is drawn into his father’s obsession and reluctantly agrees to join him in traveling to their old home in the quarantined zone. Subsequently taken into custody, the pair end up in the very plant where Joe used to work, and where scientist Dr. Ichiro Serizawa is studying a massive cocoon-like structure that appears to feed on radiation. The situation turns critical when the events of the present begin to mirror those of the past, and a terrifying winged-creature dubbed a “MUTO” is unleashed. Meanwhile, as the military attempts to devise a plan to destroy the beast, signals indicate that it had been calling out to something before it broke free, and the scientists learn that it has also awoken a towering, godlike leviathan dubbed “Godzilla”, that has lain dormant for decades, and may be mankind’s only hope for restoring the balance of nature.”
Ok … sounds like it’s a pretty basic plot. So then, there’s no possible way they could screw this up, right? Weeeelll… don’t forget… we Americans have tried this before. (At least this time they haven’t invited Matthew Broderick to the party…. Thank goodness…) So with that in mind, let’s all see how it plays out shall we? Grab your popcorn… 😉
Maybe best not to waste too much time on the last effort by Hollywood. That was an awful disappointment!
So… If you grew up in the 70’s and 80’s like a certain goofy Catgirl, then you probably spent a number of hours gleefully watching all those crazy “rubber suited” monster epics that rolled out of Japan to become as much a part of American movie entertainment as they did Japanese movie culture. Yep. At their heart they were pretty darn goofy. Big silly clumsy leviathans that staggered around miniature city sets like crazy baseball mascots crossed with drunken ex-boxers hopelessly lost yet still looking for that one last big championship fight. Somehow they always managed to destroy that city…. face off against the teeny tiny military forces arrayed to stop them, and usually have some big no-holds-barred grudge-match smackdown with another of their kind… all for the entertainment of oodles and oodles of kids that couldn’t ever get enough. Yep. That was the formula. But the craziest thing…. That silly formula actually worked!! Every… darn… time.
Lil’ Miyuki saw them all. The King of them all was, of course, “Godzilla”…. or “Gojira” as my Mom always corrected me… Ishirō Honda’s iconic walking talking metaphor for the atomic bomb. Main character of some 30 odd films, it’s fair to say the impact of the character on the genre is as enormous as Godzilla himself. Naturally… even we here in America have been impressed. So much so that we’ve been tinkering with things since the very beginning. 1954’s classic didn’t even make it to the screen without… **ahem**… a few American touches thrown in to make it more, shall we say… “viewer friendly” for a US audience that isn’t always as forgiving of foreign movie fare as we might be. Oh yes…. I still remember my Grandma’s perplexed reaction to Raymond Burr when this one played on Saturday morning TV.
But even the dubbing… the edits… the endless tinkering just wasn’t enough. So… it was inevitable that eventually we Americans would have to take a crack at Godzilla ourselves. And so… in 1998… Roland Emmerich screwed it up. Royally. There’s just no other polite way to put it. But let us not dwell on the craptastic nature of that film. Instead let’s just be glad that Japan didn’t demand we never, ever go anywhere near their beloved monster again.
I did tell you not to dwell! Personally although we are of a similar vintage, I never really watched too many of these films in the past. I have seen one or two, and I know the basic ideas and general goofiness around them. My real introduction was the bizarre Hanna-Barbara/Toho produced cartoon. Which was a strange sort of Scooby-doo clone. With a version of Scrappy-doo called “Godzooky”. So there is worse than Emmerich out there I promise you.
OMG!! I remember that cartoon! That version portrayed our Godzilla as a pretty much “trained poodle” pet of some bunch of scientists who could be called up to whup on monsters and aliens and the like. Soooo demeaning!! You’re right… so much worse…. 😳
That means this one’s better? Right? Is that what your Favorite Catgirl is hinting? Ummmmm? Errrrr? Well…. Sort of.
It is fair to say we here in America learned what not to do with Godzilla. Unfortunately it doesn’t mean we figured out what we could do with him.
Sigh…. Basically I’m sorry to say, we somehow missed yet again what the entire “Kaiju” genre is all about. It’s not a platform for deeply emotional human stories like the ones that take up most of this film. It is occasionally a metaphor for other stuff…. stuff we feel uncomfortable talking about without putting those ideas into fictional form. Like the horrors of nuclear war… or the destruction of a modern world by forces completely beyond human control… or the ultimate futility of human excess and greed in the face of unstoppable natural forces. But…. more than anything else… it’s supposed to be about giant unstoppable crazy monsters beating the living hell out of each other while smashing stuff to utter crap. Yep… nothing deep or meaningful. Just the guilty joy of witnessing utter destruction on a scale completely beyond reality.
I could beg to differ. Godzilla is very much born out of the Japanese experience with Atomic energy. But then gain. You can have the subtext and still have giant monsters bashing the living crap out of each other. And this one very much kept that on the periphery on the whole.
Unfortunately for those of us who watched this one… we didn’t get all that much of that. Not that there weren’t plenty of opportunities. The vague pictures shown in the background news reports suggest that the slug-fest between Godzilla and his insectoid foes in Honolulu was a doozy. What did we get instead? Lots of lame subplots with our army hero and some nameless lil’ Japanese tourist boy…. Oooohhh…. and the doggy that almost drowned. Grrrr. Well… OK. Las Vegas gets trashed too. But again…. we mostly get some pretty CGI pictures of the aftermath.
Some of those subplots…. just totally underdeveloped. And went nowhere. The little Japanese boy one was particularly galling. It went nowhere. And seems utterly unlinked to anything else in the movie.
All of this is a real shame too. When Godzilla is front and center, it’s plain to see that this time out, they just about got him right. He’s big. He’s hefty. He’s got a mean look like an aging Mike Tyson somehow crossed with both a pit bull and a crocodile… and just as ornery as that combination suggests. He’s really got the look of a contender for “King Of The Monsters”. One look and you know he’s here to kick serious ass. I just sooooo wish they had let him.
Agreed, visually I loved this Godzilla. He had heft. But also he looked somewhat old and world weary. I wasn’t so fussed about him taking an hour to appear, but the way they kept bringing him up only to pan away to much less interesting stuff became quite wearisome.
So then. That means that our story has to hang solely on the human characters. But here… “Godzilla” blows it yet again, giving us nothing more than a mostly bloated cast of mostly cardboard stereotypes and a lame “all American” boy-next-door and his wife and kids to try to hold our interest. Why even our main “hero’s” biggest climactic moment…. standing bravely at his moment of his certain near death… pistol in hand… made me just so darn disappointed with it’s utter stupidity. I mean really… a 9mm pistol? Really? After watching these leviathans take pointblank tank rounds without so much as a tickle? Was he that badly hit in the head that he thought that was going to do anything useful? But yet that’s what the writers would have us believe is the “heroic” thing to do at a moment like that…
I don’t mind focusing on the human interest. If the people are interesting. But really. Ford Brody is utterly lacking in anything interesting at all. And the whole pistol thing was mind-numbingly dumb. I understand stress. And the heat of the moment. But seriously!!
I think I would have been able to invest more emotionally in those human stories if there had been a better overall balance between those story elements and the action, but the scales seemed awfully out of balance. At least to me anyway…
Yep. That’s pretty much this film’s notion of story in a nutshell. It also explains why it left me so cold. Ultimately… “Godzilla” ends up being a “monster movie” that doesn’t really want to be a “monster movie”. Problem is… it doesn’t want to be anything else either. With that, I can really honestly give it a paltry 2 “Meows” out of 5. Seriously. The CGI made a credible Godzilla a very real possibility…. and for the life of me I can’t understand why it wasn’t gone after with even half the effort and craft of the most low budget Scifi “Sharknado” sequel. Oh well. Chances are we’ll see another attempt… probably right around summer, 2020 if experience tells me anything. Maybe next time out, we’ll get somebody who actually likes Godzilla behind the scenes rather than one that just figures there’s money to be made. One can only hope.
I actually am going to go against convention here and unusually like a movie more than you. I think it is worthy of 3 “Meows”. I loved the opening 30 minutes, and technically it was fantastic. It just failed because of the rubbish human interest plot lines and a central character that was so dull it defies explanation.
Hehehe… it had to happen eventually, Stephen. I guess I’m just a lil’ goofy when it come to these sorts of films. For me, “Monster Movies” are all about the monsters…. Anyways… as always, it’s been fun sharing opinions with you, and until next time, here’s to our next foray into cinema goodness!! So… for more Kaiju goodness don’t forget to check out the extra added “flip-side” to my ramblings by checking out Stephen’s “Godzilla” review at his blog HERE!! And, before I forget, as is customary here at the ol’ Litterbox, naturally we end things with a Trailer. 🙂