Godzilla

By on May 20, 2014
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Oh no! They say he got to go…and do a reboot! Oh no, Godzilla!

That about sums up my initial reaction to the announcement that there was going to be yet another Godzilla flick, especially given the last stab at one in the States, the perfectly-dreadful one from 1998 with Matthew Broderick. Because, you know, when you think Godzilla, you think “Ferris Bueller,” right? Um, no. Just no. You can keep that, and your god-awful Zeppelin-sampling Puff Diddy Daddy whatever-he’s-calling-himself these days soundtrack, thank you very much. (If you must, see/hear what I’m talking about here, but don’t say you weren’t warned.) People who think the 90’s can do no wrong, I give you exhibit A of how off-the-mark you are.

But then the director was announced, and it was Gareth Edwards, who did a nifty little creature-feature called “Monsters,” which you should totally watch on Netflix or rent/buy/whatever asap, if you haven’t seen it. It was a smart move, and one that should have put those in-the-know at ease, because what it says is: we’re not doing another one like that ’98 version, all bombast and no brain.

Granted, advance buzz was mixed at the final results, but Edwards gets it. He knows his “Jaws,” his “Alien” and he knows his “Godzilla.” Edwards knows that part of the fun is the time spent not seeing the creature at hand at first. It’s all about the build-up, the anticipation. If you saw too much of “Jaws” the first time around, or the “Alien,” it wouldn’t be half as effective, so by God, Edwards is going to wait until he gives you that pay-off you want and expect, and if you’re impatient about that, well, that’s your problem.

Oh, I know, I know. This is the Internet Age. Where everyone wants everything hand-delivered to their doorstep asap. If you can’t push a button and have it happen now, then it’s an epic fail. Well, I disagree. Patience is a virtue, and it’s high time some of these Internet yahoos learned some. I get ticked off when the Internet runs slow or I see the Spinning Wheel of Death, like anyone else. But that’s doesn’t mean I want my movies to suffer from ADD.

You see, we tried that already, in the 80’s, with the MTV-inspired, flashy, full-on, non-stop assault on the senses that were the trademark of the era. Most of that stuff didn’t age well, but the stuff that does work, still works, and in “Godzilla,” that mostly rings true. By putting off the inevitable city-stomping antics and monster-on-monster death matches we expect, Edwards makes us anticipate them that much more, and it’s a time-tested tradition that still works to this day.

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Oh no, they say he got to go, go go Godzilla! Courtesy of imdb.com

Of course, it would amount to naught if he didn’t deliver the goods in that department, and I’m happy to say that when the big lug finally makes his appearance, it’s well worth the wait, IMHO. Edwards wisely combines the look we all know and love of a guy in a suit with modern technology without overdoing either one, essentially. The new-if not necessarily improved-Godzilla looks pretty cool, pretty fierce, and pretty much totally bad-ass. When he tears into his foes, it’s still a thing of beauty.

If the very idea of Godzilla doesn’t appeal to you, then guess what? This is not the movie for you. For the rest of us, this is monster movie nirvana, never more so than when he battles these weird bird-bug hybrids (no, not established foes like Mothra or Rodan or what have you, these are new), smashing up everything around them without concern for the puny humans down below running and screaming for their lives. If that’s what you want to see, then you’re going to love it, especially in 3D. This is the sort of movie that was made for 3D, and it delivers the goods in that respect, big time.

One thing that’s especially cool is the way Edwards shoots the movie, with lots of low angles early on, teasing you with a glimpse of a hulking foot or Godzilla’s tail before revealing the whole enchilada in all its Big-Lizard-in-the-Back-Yard splendor. It’s a trick he adopted in “Monsters” and it works wonderfully here, as it does in countless other monster movies. Like I said, if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it. Edwards knows when to leave well enough alone and that’s half the battle.

Now on to the bad. Is the acting first-rate, with super-memorable characters that you’re going to remember the names of later and celebrate their awesomeness? Um, no. We all know that Bryan “Walter White” Cranston is awesome. So is Asian superstar Ken Wanatabe. As are solid character actors like Juliette Binoche (“The English Patient”), Sally Hawkins (“Blue Jasmine”), David Strathairn (“Lincoln”), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (“Kick-Ass”) and rising star and better-than-the-average-twin Elizabeth Olsen (“Oldboy”).

But are their roles here the sort of thing an actor longs for his or her entire career? In a word: no. This is “Godzilla,” not freaking “Macbeth,” for God’s sake. You don’t go for the acting, you go for the big guy in the lizard suit, or CGI beasties or what have you. If you go in expecting Oscar-worthy performance and amazing writing, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. The writing is adequate, and the performances are fine, but nothing special. The actors do the job they were hired to do, and no one embarrasses themselves by overdoing it. That’s about the best one could hope for, isn’t it, really?

But if you’re in this for the big guy, you’re not going to be disappointed. It’s a whole lot of fun, the action is impressive, the effects solid and eye-popping at times, and about the worst thing I can say is that the infamous Blue Oyster Cult song doesn’t make an appearance. (Or the one by the Creatures, for that matter.) But hey, there’s always the sequel.

So, in summation: the movie may get a B+, but “Godzilla” will always get an A+ in my book. Go go Godzilla!

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
 
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