I watched the 2014 reboot of Godzilla a few weeks back. It was my first Godzilla movie. Before that my only Godzilla experience was watching the animated series (featuring the son of Zilla) when I was a kid. It wasn't quite what I was expecting so I did a little reading while composing the first draft of this review. I decided to watch the very first Godzilla movie (Japanese original, not "King of Monsters" adaption) before finishing this review. Next week, I'll post a review for the original, kind of like what I did with the original and reboot of Robocop.
What we have here is jumbled. The prologue starts in 1954, in the ocean. Then it jumps forward half a century to the Philippines, and then another time and space jump to Japan and then another of fifteen years to America. At the start of the first act, the protagonist then immediately goes back to Japan. As if that weren't enough, the movie shifts back to America a couple scenes later. It's disorienting and it makes the movie feel like it's confused about its identity.
The focus on Ford Brody increases the confusion. He is only tangentially related to the MUTO or Godzilla by way of his father's research. After his father's death, he spends a good portion of the movie simply trying to go home and this coincidentally puts him in the MUTO and/or Godzilla's path. There are frequent splits between traveling and MONARCH working with the Japanese and/or American military trying to get a handle on the giant radioactive monster situation.
The plan to kill both monsters is stupid. You have a creature that feeds on radiation and your plan is to throw a nuke at it. This is despite the fact that the first scenes of the movie is a similar plan failing. The scientists point this out, and the military basically says "that plan failed because we didn't throw big bombs at them".
Considering the solution and its dilemma in the original, I wonder if the writers for this reboot watched it. If they did, they've either forgotten or didn't care.
The MUTO steal the warheads, take them to a heavily populated city, and the military has to radically adjust their plan to getting the bomb out before it goes off. Dr. Ishiro Serizawa says "let them fight" and this time the military listens.
Now, about Godzilla and his treatment in this film. I say the following after having watched the original uncut Godzilla (Gojira) in the original Japanese (with English subtitles).
I understand the whole "build up anticipation" thing and "nothing but action gets boring" thing. It works very well in the original. The problem in this movie is that it is not "sneak peaks" and instead teasing. When viewers see a full body shoot of Godzilla, hear him roar, and he's facing another monster, they expect to see a fight. Instead, the film immediately jumps forward to after the fight and only shows a couple seconds in a in-universe TV. That's not delayed gratification. That is laziness and saving on the budget.
I think the Monster Delay trope works well in the original. I don't think it's handled well here. At least, it's not in regards to Godzilla. The MUTO are handled better. That early scene where they cause the tragedy at Janjira is perfect as an introduction scene. It has alarms, mechanical destruction, and all that stuff that is nice to set up danger. A couple scenes later, there is a dark and shadowy scene where a MUTO fights soldiers. That's also good. Everything else until the climax is simple chain jerking.
The ending feels...off. After killing both monsters, Godzilla goes back into the sea. Since he was described as an "apex predator" I would have liked to see him eating the dead MUTO.
There isn't much to talk about in regards to characters. The military guys, including our protagonist Ford Brody, are kinda dull and interchangeable. The scientists guys are mostly here for exposition. The civilians, like the Brody family, are here to scream and run away. This is the case for the better part of two hours.
Ford Brody feels like a plot prop. He emphasizes how isolated his father has become in his search for the truth of the Janira Incident. He provides a piece of knowledge to MONARCH after his father dies. He enables the plans for the nukes because he's a bomb disposer for the military. Besides this skill and his marriage, there's nothing to his personality but Stoicism. He watched his dad die when they were on the verge of reconciling and this doesn't matter for more than a scene and only because MONRACH needs the above state nugget of knowledge.
He doesn't seem to care that there are giant monsters running around and at times it sounds like he wants to leave the story entirely and fade into the background like one more civilian.
The problem I have with this movie, and all the Word of God and hyper defenders and apologists of it, is just this. They talk about the minimal Godzilla and monster fighting because they want something more human, emotional, and True Art instead of sheeple-pleasing CGI and destruction. YET THE HUMAN CHARACTERS DO NOT DELIVER. Thus, it sounds like an excuse to save on special effects than anything "artsy".
The one exception to this is Dr. Brody. He is a passionate man. He has a connection to the plot through the Janjira Incident. He has a personal tragedy and a drive to overcome it that makes him cheery worthy. I don't understand why the plot starts with him and then time skips fifteen years to focus on his son. The only reason could be to prove that Anyone Can Die, but you'd think that they wouldn't hand protagonist duties over to someone as uninvolved in the plot as Ford.
The giants monsters, MUTO and Godzilla alike, are stronger characters than Ford despite their lack of lines and screen time. They are more active characters to be sure. They have a plan and carry it out. Despite being on screen for less than ten minutes out of two hours, they carry the entire movie. Without them, there would be no movie. The humans are interchangeable and lesser in importance. If you want a disaster movie, use a tornado or something.
The pacing is funky. It's like start and stop in a car. If the climax were the only scene to have the monsters, that would have been sufficient. My problem is the constant jerking away.
Godzilla and the MUTO look great. The revealing shot of Godzilla, in particular, is fantastic. Starting with the foot of stomping, trailing up the body to show a full shot and cap it with a roar. It was awesome! Now if only they didn't cut away until after the fact. Seeing them on TV is a let down, and now that I think about it, a Take That against the audience.
The final battle is also awesome. There's an extended full fight between Godzill and both MUTO. The Big G's breath weapon looks amazing. Watching the soldiers HALO jump into their midst and sneak into the MUTO nest was also pretty cool.
Trickster Eric Novels gives Godzilla 2014 a C
I might as well say right now that I prefer the 1954's original, man-in-a-suit and all. You can see why in my next post: Godzilla 1954 original