Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Godzilla (2014)

So the kid from Kick-Ass (Aaron Johnson) is all grown up and buffed and in the Navy, doing bomb stuff (he either diffuses them or blows them up or something — it’s unclear). His crazy old dad (Bryan Cranston) has figured out that the Japanese are keeping a giant monster at the nuclear disaster site where he lost his wife 15 years earlier, and soon enough father and son are poking around where they shouldn’t be.

As it happens, the monster isn’t Godzilla (nee Gojira). It’s rather an awesome, Lovecraftian bug-like thing, quite wicked and HUGE. (Godzilla himself, when he finally shows up, is about five times the size of the original.) That’s the greatest strength of this otherwise mess of a movie: the gigantic monstery goodness of it all. The filmmakers have embraced the essence of kaiju, the sheer terror of being attacked and, most likely, crushed beneath the tonnage of a really, really big monster. We’re talking the horror of scale here, and this one element, done quite well, is what saves this film.

Unfortunately, our young male lead isn’t much cop at looking up at 500 feet of horrific monstrosity and communicating the brown trousers moment with anything like visceral terror. His reminded me of the similarly blank expression on Naomi Watts’ gormless mug in Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong remake. Both these actors should look up the boy and girl from the original Jurassic Park — those kids knew how to sell it! Even a spoonful of quivering jello wasn’t lost on them — they got the “holy shit!” moment and ran with it.

Either the screenwriter or the editor are responsible for a storyline that jumps from convoluted to nonexistent — don’t bother trying to keep up. Just know that, like the original, there are scientists and soldiers and giant monsters, and somehow Godzilla, while causing untold destruction and death, is really on our side. Never mind the atomic bomb our human hero’s team is trying to detonate in the middle of San Francisco to destroy the giant evil insect things. In the light of such operational logic, ol’ Godzilla doesn’t seem so bad after all!

So my advice: lean upon this movie gently, don’t expect too much in the way of acting or storytelling, just get into spirit of the thing and you’ll have a good time. Or conversely, you can follow Anthony Lane’s advice: “Skip Godzilla the movie. Watch the trailer.”