Sunday, May 18, 2014

Movie Review: Godzilla (2014) -- Overall Rating 4.5 / 5

Starring Walter White & Godzilla
Directed by Gareth Edwards
Rated PG-13

Story: 5 / 5
Direction: 4 / 5
Acting: 4 / 5
Visual: 5 / 5
Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5
Explanation of rating categories appears at the bottom of each review posting.



Godzilla is the touching tale of a boy coming to terms with loss through an epic battle with a giant lizard.

Ok, for real this time. Godzilla is the reboot of the classic Japanese monster movie franchise. A giant lizard comes out of the ocean and leaves a trail of destruction. Do I need to go into more plot detail than that? Gone are the rubber suits and cheesy miniatures, replaced by CGI rubber suits and CGI cheesy miniatures. This movie was spectacular in the way only a movie about a giant lizard smashing a city can be.

Godzilla is also probably the greatest superhero movie of all time, and that’s saying something. I liked the Dark Knight movies, but where Christopher Nolan takes very seriously the concept of a man who dresses up like a bat at night and fights a clown, Godzilla says “The idea of a giant lizard fighting monsters is absurd, so let’s invent a logic to explain it and then run with it as reasonably as we can”. Where so many of these movies fail is in spending too much time setting up the hero and then giving him/her something to do. From act one Godzilla has something to do and his setup is handled in maybe five minutes of dialogue. That’s all that’s needed. The monster exists, he is bad as all get out, and he’s got business to take care of. Now step aside, puny humans, Godzilla has got work to do.

Yes, it gets a 5/5 for story. This isn’t Citizen Kane or The Seven Samurai. It doesn’t ask deep philosophical questions about the nature of humanity. In the context of movies about giant monsters attacking cities this is as good as anyone is ever going to get it. In the context of popcorn summer films this is as good of writing as you’re going to get. As I’ve already stated this movie invents its own logic and just takes off with it. Gone are the days of Ferris Bueller trying to explain how an atomic bomb turned a salamander into a giant monster. Godzilla exists, deal with it, on to better things.

The direction is good. The humans are probably the weakest link in the story, as they always are in something like this, but they need to be there. Anyone who says “Oh, just give us 90 minutes of monsters fighting” obviously never saw Man of Steel (or actually enjoyed it… do those people exist?). The humans have to be there. They give us context. And honestly for maybe the first time since the 1954 original the humans have motivation and something important to do. There’s just enough peril and just enough shots of people being crushed by buildings or by giant monster feet for us to go “Oh, this is really happening”, unlike The Avengers or Man of Steel where entire cities are destroyed, but it’s fine. Everyone is going to be ok. The action is in perfect proportion to the film. There’s not too much action so we get wore out on it. The film even goes a step further in teasing action, only to cut away and leave us desperate for more.

Visually Godzilla has never looked better. He looks like Godzilla, and that’s what matters the most. Godzilla isn’t some monster, he is the King of Monsters. He looks powerful and regal. When the first full reveal happens it’s awe inspiring. The five year old in me wanted to start clapping and shout "Godzilla is back!"

I won’t go into any more detail than that without a spoiler warning (can there be spoilers about a movie where a giant lizard smashes cities? Yes.). I will say it’s very much a fun movie. It’s what summer entertainment is supposed to be. I highly recommend Godzilla.


SPOILERS AHEAD



YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED


Let’s go down the checklist of what makes a Godzilla movie:

- Godzilla can be recognized as Godzilla (not some funky CGI piece of garbage) – CHECK
- Godzilla fights another monster – CHECK and CHECK
- Godzilla has atomic breath (complete with light up spine) – CHECK
- Humans are powerless against Godzilla – CHECK
- Godzilla protects the Earth from human stupidity – CHECK
- Godzilla is the King of Monsters (even explicitly referred to as such) – CHECK
- When all hope is lost Godzilla gives it that little extra bit and comes through to win the day – CHECK
- Godzilla's classic theme is played -- NO (ok, well it got the rest of it right)

The film skips the usual setup with an unknown giant lizard coming out of the ocean and terrorizing a city. We’ve seen that before. The Japanese themselves have done it twice, America has done it once, skip ahead. I mean, you wouldn’t make a new Superman or Spider-Man movie and piss away half your running time to set up the origin of those characters (which we already know)—oh wait. No, they did that, didn’t they?

The movie starts with a strange giant monster being found. Who can stop it? An ancient predator. The greatest of all monsters, a God, if you will; Godzilla. He exists from a time when there were bigger monsters. He feeds on radiation. Done, he’s been set up. Time for a good old fashioned monster beat down.

There’s even a reference of Mothra. Did you catch it?

Explanation of Ratings

All ratings are on a 5 point scale where 1 is the lowest possible score. A score of 3 indicates the film was simply effective in this regard. A score of 5 indicates perfection in a given category. The overall rating is a simple average of the four scores.

  • Story -- How well the film was written?  Did the story make sense?  Were there plot holes?  Was the dialogue natural for the style/genre?
  • Direction -- How well was the film put together?  Did all of the elements come together properly?  How was the pacing?  Was the tone consistent and effective?  A subcategory of this would be editing, but for the purpose of these reviews it is combined into one category.
  • Acting -- How good were the performances?  In a drama did the lead actor/actress draw the audience in?  In a comedy where the performers funny?  This is an amalgam score of all the performances in the piece. A single great performance can elevate the entire score, but a bunch of bad performances can just as easily bring it down.
  • Visual -- How did the film look?  If there were visual effects were they used appropriately and did they look good?  Did the overall look enhance the telling of the story?

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