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Godzilla (2014) 
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Destoroyah
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After getting the hell away from all media to avoid reviews and spoilers for 48 hours, Saturday afternoon I headed to the theater to see Godzilla. The fact that there have been no reports of blood running in the streets of Dallas, nor any appearance of my mug shot (for those that met me briefly at B-Fest 2012) should alert you to my feelings on it.

Did it live up to my every expectation? Of course not; that was an impossible task. Between the fantastic trailers and my enjoyment of my recent screening of Gareth Edwards’ previous giant monster movie Monsters, there was no way to contain myself, try as I did not to let myself get too excited (did I learn nothing from 1998!?)

Did I leave the theater a happy man? Oh, most definitely. In terms of quality and personal enjoyment, I’d say there are only three Godzilla films since 1984 that I liked as much or more than this one. There are a few from the Showa series that I consider better, and a couple others I like more despite their comparative quality, but this one is definitely in the upper echelon of the series.

There will be mild spoilers ahead, so be warned.

One of the strong points is the director’s status as a Godzilla fan, unlike those no-good bastards Devlin and Emmerich. My first confirmation came, surprisingly enough, in the opening credits: one of the producers is Yoshimistu Banno. I’m sure a few of us recognize that name as the man whose one turn in the director’s chair produced possibly the weirdest (and, consequently, one I was obsessed with in my youth) of the Godzilla movies, Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster. Maybe it was mere happenstance, but that seems really unlikely. Further evidence appears throughout. Naming Ken Watanabe’s character “Dr. Serizawa” was a tad obvious (to be fair, non-fans would not have caught it), but having a similar story structure to Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe was not. The Muto show echoes of the Legion insects in their design. A particular building collapse echoes one in Godzilla vs. Mothra. Godzilla uses a finishing move I recall being used in two previous entries, albeit in different circumstances. There's a nod to Godzilla's nickname, "King of the Monsters." Although there was no reprisal of Ifukube’s Godzilla theme or military march, I did catch at least one instance of a musical phrase lifted from a Showa-era movie in the incidental music. I also noted two pretty strong nods to The Return of Godzilla/Godzilla ‘85, which led me to believe Edwards’ first in-theater Godzilla movie may have been that one (turns out he’s two years older than I am, and it was my first, so this seems even more likely in retrospect).

The acting is all right across the board. My favorite character sadly gets whacked not even halfway through, taking the best performer in the movie with him. Luckily, I found the lead character interesting and charismatic enough to have me root for him, even as circumstances got more and more "been there, done that." The human stuff is nothing special and no stranger to cliché or contrived situations, although I felt it was a bit better than that in Pacific Rim. I was never bored during the running time thanks to good pacing.

Let's face it, though: I'm here for the giant monsters, and what I got I loved. The movie doles out the monster stuff carefully, escalating more and more until the end where it’s pretty much mad monster party time. Said monster stuff is well-executed; the giant monsters never move so fast that they seem unrealistic, but instead with movements that make them appear to have the bulk they would. The fighting is the opposite of the stylized combat of Pacific Rim. This makes sense given these are supposed to be animals; and they fight as such (Godzilla’s last attack notwithstanding). No throwing buildings and planes at each other, just tooth, claw, and (in one wonderful instance) tail. Godzilla’s well-established problem with flying foes is even present. The final fight is very entertaining, and I’d put it among the better of its kind. The reveal for the monsters are all very nicely done. I mentioned in my Monsters review that there was a fantastic moment of misdirection leading to a monster reveal. Well, Edwards does it again here, and it’s even better than the last one.

The effects are quite good; the CG is well-done, and the city-smashing is great. There’s a surprising death toll, and I don’t just mean in the usually-unacknowledged “there’s no way all those buildings are evacuated” manner we’re used to. Some things happen that would lead to a horrific body count, and we’re witness to them. This could make it a bit intense for younger viewers (the Hawaii scenes in particular), as could some of the vicious monster fighting.

Everyone at the showing seemed to have enjoyed it, and I know not everyone could’ve been a Godzilla fan. Okay, one meathead derided it in a general sense as he left, but since he 1. Gave no actual reasons outside of general insults and 2. Was the guy who wouldn’t stop shifting and moving his legs for the first half an hour, monkeywrench him and his opinion.

I'm definitely recommending this, warts and all. I will probably see it a second time, this time in the fancy-schmancy 3-D whatever version (saw it unadorned, mostly because it was cheaper and I also figured there would be less people seeing that version), just for the hell of it.



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Mon May 19, 2014 8:40 pm
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Mothra
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Hi Rev. Excellent review! Is Banno the guy who was informed he would never work on a Godzilla movie after Hedorah?

I would only add that Juliette Binoche was only in this film for a few minutes but managed to turn in a fantastic performance as always!


Tue May 20, 2014 1:51 am
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Destoroyah
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Ro_manJohn wrote:
Hi Rev. Excellent review! Is Banno the guy who was informed he would never work on a Godzilla movie after Hedorah?

I would only add that Juliette Binoche was only in this film for a few minutes but managed to turn in a fantastic performance as always!

Thank you very much!

Yes, that is indeed who Banno is.



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Tue May 20, 2014 3:17 am
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Destoroyah
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I also enjoyed the film. The monster action tease was the way to go.

However, I'm not sure the film- makers know how an EMP actually works. However, I am glad tha the MUTO's had some way to negate long range missile attack, otherwise it wouldn't have been much of a movie. Did Godzilla also give off a similar EMP field? After all, both he and the MUTO were said to consume and live off Radiation near the Earth's core.

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Thu May 22, 2014 4:04 pm
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Easy E wrote:
I also enjoyed the film. The monster action tease was the way to go.

However, I'm not sure the film- makers know how an EMP actually works. However, I am glad tha the MUTO's had some way to negate long range missile attack, otherwise it wouldn't have been much of a movie. Did Godzilla also give off a similar EMP field? After all, both he and the MUTO were said to consume and live off Radiation near the Earth's core.


I was reading the Wikipedia article about EMP the other day and it was commented that films in general don't know how EMP works period.

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Thu May 22, 2014 4:23 pm
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Ro_manJohn wrote:
Hi Rev. Excellent review! Is Banno the guy who was informed he would never work on a Godzilla movie after Hedorah?



It's the very same man. I think he proved himself, to say the least. It makes me wonder how Hedorah would have been different if he had not been sweating bullets the entire time he was making it about what Tanaka-san would think of the finished product. This one -- in spite of the countless delays -- has the feel of a movie that wasn't interfered with from the first frame to the last.

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Thu May 22, 2014 11:03 pm
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Cliffie wrote:
Ro_manJohn wrote:
Hi Rev. Excellent review! Is Banno the guy who was informed he would never work on a Godzilla movie after Hedorah?



It's the very same man. I think he proved himself, to say the least. It makes me wonder how Hedorah would have been different if he had not been sweating bullets the entire time he was making it about what Tanaka-san would think of the finished product. This one -- in spite of the countless delays -- has the feel of a movie that wasn't interfered with from the first frame to the last.

I missed his name in the (excellently-done) opening credits, but the second I saw that glowing cocoon absorbing pollution from the ruined power plant I said, "Man, Yoshimitsu Banno had something to do with this, didn't he?"

Saw this in IMAX 3D, because I figured if I'm shelling out for IMAX on anything it be this, and the 3D conversion was at least not super-distracting, which is the most I ask for when I see something I wish wasn't being presented in 3D. Overall a good time at the theater, although I have a bit of a mixed opinion on it.

The Bad
-Hollywood's Only Japanese Person Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins were completely wasted. Watanabe in particular spent the whole movie standing around staring into space with his mouth half-open, looking vaguely urpy.
-If you're going to be stingy with the 'Zilla until the end (which is certainly a time-honored way to pace a kaiju movie), the human story needs to carry that weight, and while the story here was serviceable, switching out Juliette Binoche and Bryan Cranston for Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson was definitely trading down.
-Dumb army is dumb (would it kill you to check both sides of a mountain next time?)

The Good
-The creature design was excellent. The MUTOs did the Cloverfield body type much better than Clover itself, and having a sexually dimorphic pair of monstrous antagonists was a fantastic idea.
-The pseudoscience mumbo-jumbo was completely bonkers in the best Godzilla tradition. Giants from an age when the Earth was bathed in radiation? Converting nuclear decay into EMPs? Cross-continental echolocation? I was loving every minute of it (even though the MUTO life cycle makes zero sense, and the female's eggs were clearly already fertilized before she came in contact with the male).
-Edwards is not a great director of actors, but damn if he doesn't know how to frame a monster shot right. Godzilla's first appearance in Honolulu and the halo drop sequence towards the end were both bravura scenes.

I'm also just happy that the success of a modern Hollywood giant monster movie, a long-stymied proposition, will yield more entries in the genre, some of which I hope are better than both this and Pacific Rim (both of which I enjoyed!) A man can dream, can't he?

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Sun May 25, 2014 3:45 pm
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MegaLemur wrote:
Giants from an age when the Earth was bathed in radiation?

I've been trying to figure out when we're meant to believe that was, but I'm coming up bust. Any ideas from the professional paleontologist?

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Tue May 27, 2014 1:29 am
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El Santo wrote:
MegaLemur wrote:
Giants from an age when the Earth was bathed in radiation?

I've been trying to figure out when we're meant to believe that was, but I'm coming up bust. Any ideas from the professional paleontologist?


When I heard that, my mind immediate said, "This is some sort of reference to the fire monster lecture from Gigantis, the Fire Monster, isn't?"

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Tue May 27, 2014 1:47 am
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Hman wrote:
El Santo wrote:
MegaLemur wrote:
Giants from an age when the Earth was bathed in radiation?

I've been trying to figure out when we're meant to believe that was, but I'm coming up bust. Any ideas from the professional paleontologist?


When I heard that, my mind immediate said, "This is some sort of reference to the fire monster lecture from Gigantis, the Fire Monster, isn't?"

Yeah, I think it must be--the last time Earth had significantly higher sustained levels of radiation than it does today was billions of years ago, deep into the Precambrian, due to the combination of A. lack of modern atmosphere allowing greater cosmic radiation to reach the surface, B. presence in large quantities of radioactive elements at the earth's surface, before a billion years of decay neutered them, and C. greater solar wind related to more intense oscillation of the sun and introduction of foreign bodies into the solar system as the result of galactic tide. Certainly long, long before any dinosaur-shaped things (or multicellular life of any kind) had evolved.

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Tue May 27, 2014 7:10 am
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MegaLemur wrote:
Hman wrote:
When I heard that, my mind immediate said, "This is some sort of reference to the fire monster lecture from Gigantis, the Fire Monster, isn't?"


Yeah, I think it must be--


I now demand that the sequel have an Easter Egg in the form of a copy of Angillasaurus: Killer of the Living seen briefly in a bookcase.

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Tue May 27, 2014 12:23 pm
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I enjoyed the film a lot, primarily due to the excellently-staged monster battles. So did the audience at my screening.

But since most of the film involved people, I was puzzled with the rest. Having seen Monsters, I thought Edwards would put a lot more effort into the character interaction aspect. Instead, he made the monster aspect excellent and the rest kind of throwaway. You could have picked a dozen or more actors who could have done a better job at the two leads than the two they picked. And you could have written their parts ten times better.

That said, a few of the little things caught my attention. Edwards was trying to separate himself from the concepts which drove '98 version. He made it clear that Godzilla was NOT merely an animal - it was a god, an integral part of the natural world. I especially liked the scenes where the navy was shadowing Godzilla as he swam across the ocean - even the US Navy is beneath Godzilla's interest.

Also, regarding EMP attack - I wonder if del Toro and Edwards came up with that independently.

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Tue May 27, 2014 2:14 pm
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Charnelhouse wrote:
I enjoyed the film a lot, primarily due to the excellently-staged monster battles. So did the audience at my screening.

But since most of the film involved people, I was puzzled with the rest. Having seen Monsters, I thought Edwards would put a lot more effort into the character interaction aspect. Instead, he made the monster aspect excellent and the rest kind of throwaway. You could have picked a dozen or more actors who could have done a better job at the two leads than the two they picked. And you could have written their parts ten times better.

That said, a few of the little things caught my attention. Edwards was trying to separate himself from the concepts which drove '98 version. He made it clear that Godzilla was NOT merely an animal - it was a god, an integral part of the natural world. I especially liked the scenes where the navy was shadowing Godzilla as he swam across the ocean - even the US Navy is beneath Godzilla's interest.

Also, regarding EMP attack - I wonder if del Toro and Edwards came up with that independently.

I found myself wondering if maybe either someone else wrote the screenplay, or if he was asked to "Hollywoodize" things re: human relations. I was expecting better overall on that front due to Monsters.



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Hopefully the next one will do better on that end.


Tue May 27, 2014 5:58 pm
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The Rev. D.D. wrote:
Charnelhouse wrote:
I enjoyed the film a lot, primarily due to the excellently-staged monster battles. So did the audience at my screening.

But since most of the film involved people, I was puzzled with the rest. Having seen Monsters, I thought Edwards would put a lot more effort into the character interaction aspect. Instead, he made the monster aspect excellent and the rest kind of throwaway. You could have picked a dozen or more actors who could have done a better job at the two leads than the two they picked. And you could have written their parts ten times better.

That said, a few of the little things caught my attention. Edwards was trying to separate himself from the concepts which drove '98 version. He made it clear that Godzilla was NOT merely an animal - it was a god, an integral part of the natural world. I especially liked the scenes where the navy was shadowing Godzilla as he swam across the ocean - even the US Navy is beneath Godzilla's interest.

Also, regarding EMP attack - I wonder if del Toro and Edwards came up with that independently.

I found myself wondering if maybe either someone else wrote the screenplay, or if he was asked to "Hollywoodize" things re: human relations. I was expecting better overall on that front due to Monsters.



---------------------
Hopefully the next one will do better on that end.


I think the screenplay/story problems stem from the whole "Too Many Cooks" syndrome, since the contributors include Frank Darabont, David Goyer, Max Borenstein(sp.) and the guy who did the first The Expendables film. Also, I think the script wasn't quite finished when the film was rushed into production as soon as the lawsuits/countersuits by/against the original producers began, which probably took away a month or so of fine tuning. I think the sequel will be a little bit more focused on the pre-production department...at least I hope it is.

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Tue May 27, 2014 6:53 pm
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A grievous misunderstanding of how EMPs actually work has shown up in a lot of high-profile scifi lately, so yeah, I'd put it down to coincidence.

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Tue May 27, 2014 8:09 pm
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