Thursday, May 29, 2014

Godzilla, Still King Of The Monsters

Gojirah returns in a fitting reboot of the world’s most notorious Atomic fire Breathing Lizard. 


ARTH VADER (AV): In 1953 (1948?) TOHO Japan released the first in what would be a 60+ year love affair the world would have of downright campy films about a giant 300-foot bi-pedal lizard who emerges from the ocean to lay waste to mankind as punishment for all the nuclear testing performed in the Pacific. He also spews radioactive fire like a 19 year-old who swears she can down half a bottle of Taquilla in one sitting. Godzilla captured the imagination of us all and quickly went from destroyer of worlds to savior of mankind. We soon had such a fondness for the big guy, the storyline quickly evolved into tale sod Godzilla saving us from such horrible nightmares as Rodan, King Ghidra and (my favorite) the smog monster. They even had King Kong go a few rounds with Godsy. So it comes as no surprise that Godzilla is not really a terror but an avenging knight who rises from the sea when giant misters threaten us all. Pontificator, you are a giant in your own right, how say you? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): This film is definitely a throwback and nod to the original Godzilla films of our youth Vader. It’s everything we saw as children, but with updated… well, everything! They even set the film in Japan which absolutely had to be done, in my opinion, since doing the film right means going back to his roots and staying true to the character. This is nothing less that an icon getting his due…finally.


AV: When I heard Godzilla was coming out, I thought to myself “Yes! Finally we’ll get an American version done well!” When I go see a Godzilla movie, I want monsters, disaster porn by the zip codes and lots of fire-breathing action. You know what I don’t want to see in a Godzilla flick? A love story. Aaron Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen spend so much time searching for each other and their young son that there were times I was questioning what film I was watching. Even the uber-talented Bryan Cranston couldn’t make this story matter. So stop it. I want to watch some ugly monsters get stomped by the Big G and I want to watch some tanks get crushed and I don’t want know how Nurse Olsen’s patients are doing. 

TP: Well…uh, ok Vader. Let me say that the supporting cast was very good (I say supporting because Godzilla is obviously the star). I was particularly moved by the performance of Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody. His delivery really gave weight and credibility to the film.  Aaron Taylor-Johnson also did very well, especially in those scenes shared with Cranston as we saw the strained relationship between father and son in the wake of a past tragedy. Going on to play the hero (with Godzilla) was more meaningful in the wake of the character’s past, and present circumstances. Although Ken Watanabe played more of a supporting role, his screen presence is always pronounced and memorable. The film had a moderate flow, knowing when to tug on emotions and when to dazzle with action.


AV: So this movie is the bomb when it comes to visual effects. A terrific visual event. Loved watching the US Navy escort Godzilla across the Pacific. Seeing the giant buggy-things decimate Las Vegas is funny and fun. And don’t even get me started about the final fight sequence. As Johnny Bravo would say “Ohh-h-h-h—Momma!” From the collapse of the nuclear power plant in Japan to the shootout with the buggy-things in Nevada, the visual effects are top-rate, Ponitificator!

TP: IMAX 3D is always my preferred venue and the roar of Godzilla was certainly made for it. There was really no way to go wrong here, and they didn’t. Giant monsters have been done successfully already (Pacific Rim) and in this film there was more of the same but with probably a bit more refinement. The angles were excellent and the cinematography just enhanced the experience. Although there was no new ground broken, the fact of bringing old material into the present so spectacularly certainly counts for some extra points in my book.


AV: If ever a movie did NOT need a deeper look, it’s a Godzilla flick. If you are looking for deeper meaning, engaging screenplay or solid emotional melodrama, you are looking in the wrong blast crater. The true flaw to this film is the belief that anyone care about Aaron Taylor (Kickass but not yet Quicksilver) Johnson and his dopey family issues. I don’t care about him. Not here. When he shows up as Pietro Maximoff in next year’s “The Avengers 2” I’ll be a big fan. But Aaron, take your dopey family out of my Godzilla movie. Replace his 35+ minutes with more Godzilla kick-assery (see what I did there?) The vapid, empty-headed, lam-duck lives and dialogue of this film’s too-many-to-count one-dimensional characters were less interesting to me than watching a congressional hearing on the national state of crosswalk buttons. The only dialogue I need in a Godzilla flick is “Run!” “Fire!” and “Lookout!” 

TP: Well sue me O’ Dark One…I actually did look a little deeper, my apologies. At the core of this film is the narrative of man versus nature and how nature will always find a way to endure and correct the hubris of man. It is not a fictional narrative, not by a long shot, as we can easily look around in our world and see where nature is being violated by our ignorance and apathy. Godzilla has traditionally been the product of our nuclear carelessness and it’s only fitting that the demise of man be bound to this. Of course, man has to endure (or else Hollywood can’t cash in on a sequel), but it’s only by the forgiving nature of, well, nature…that we are able to do so. Aside from that, the narrative that we can’t trust government (any government) is obviously a given (or at least it should be by now).


AV: In Hollywood, a movie deemed to purposefully be a ‘franchise-starter’ is called a tentpole movie and Godzilla is certainly pitching them tents. I am all aboard minus more scenes of Ken “The Last Samurai” Wantanabe uttering heart-felt please to the US Admiral to “let them fight.” If the teaser shot of Mothra was any indication, we could be in for some more Monster-on-Monster awesomeness in years to come.

TP: I would be surprised if there wasn’t a sequel. The film obviously resonated with everyone that has ever watched classic Godzilla in their youth, and thus there is a proven market for it. While the MUTOS in this film were not the classic Godzilla adversaries, that simply left the door open to introduce more of our childhood favorites down the line.


ARTH VADER rates Godzilla: If you’re looking for lovey-dovey love story crap, tales of human perseverance in the face of adversity, poor scientific explanations for hyper-fantastic events with lots of monster-riddled disaster porn, then the frustratingly fun eyegasm-inducing hot mess that is Godzilla is for you!  Honestly, the screenplay is all over the darn place but I am nothing if not a dyed-in-the-wool Godzilla fan, right down to my irradiated DNA. I even had a 2-foot plastic Godzilla as a kid that had fire-breathing tongue that emerged when you pressed down on the lever in the back of his head. And for that little boy that still breaths atomic fire who still resides in me, well, he was thoroughly satisfied. With that set up, my tail lights up and blows out 8 radioactive busted blocks. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Godzilla: Being an updated version and throwback to the classic Godzilla films, this movie hit all the right cords. From solid acting and story to spectacular special effects, there was very little room for this film to go wrong, and it didn’t operate in those small spaces. Instead it delivered a childhood favorite, vaporizing eight (8) busted blocks with radioactive breath and a thunderous roar.

Godzilla: 8 / 10 Busted Blocks

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