Lucien’s Review: Shin Godzilla

What a fascinating film I just watched.  I love me some old Godzilla movies.  The effects are so bad, but the kaiju fighting is just too much fun.  Plus, watching them dubbed adds an extra layer of cheese that cannot be compared.  I didn’t really like the new Godzilla movie that America made, partly because there was so little of the actual monsters.  A similar criticism could easily be leveled at this movie, but I won’t.  Why?  Because this film just took the most fascinating approach.  There is a lot to unpack here, so let’s get down to it.

The plot of this film is just focused exclusively around Godzilla.  No other kaiju to fight.  This movie has our titular monster as the big bad, which again sounds like it would be boring, but this movie just so odd.  It tells the story of a new Godzilla in a world where he never existed, now coming for Japan (what is his beef with that place?  What the fuck did they do to him?) and the Japanese government desperately trying to save their country from destruction.

This film is perhaps the most political movie I’ve seen in years.  It’s weird.  95% of this movie is spent with characters just talking.  There is so much talk about Japanese politics that you almost forget that you’re watching a Godzilla film for a while.  I wanna hate that, but I don’t.  Getting to see this Japanese government and some genuinely-likeable characters desperately trying to figure out what to do in the face of an international threat that is looking to take excessive measures to stop Godzilla is genuinely touching.  The head of a special department who is trying to figure out a way to stop Godzilla specifically is my favorite.  You genuinely get the feeling that he is invested in this effort to save his country.

Since the entirety of the movie revolves around the political sphere, if you hate listening to people talk about politics for almost the entirety of the 2 hour runtime of this film, you’re gonna hate it.  That’s the big and small of it.  Even when you see things happening in service to the plot of the film, they always find a way to bring it back to the the government’s efforts and how international pressure comes into play.  It’s actually kinda smart.  You genuinely feel for these people who are stuck in a world where they have red tape and public to worry about.  I like this perspective.  In the American film, it was all about a small section of military characters, none of whom were particularly interesting.  This movie has a kind of authenticity because they keep it focused on Japan and make the outside world as not evil, but disconnected.  You can take all this for what you will.

That being said, this film has a LOT of elements that are silly to the point of ridiculousness.  Since there are a lot of American characters in this movie, you get some genuinely funny Engrish.  This female character who is the American liaison to Japan is my favorite.  It’s clear that she’s a Japanese actress and English is NOT her first language.  But believe it or not, they get real American actors to play American parts.  The problem is that the writing for these actors is clearly done by somebody where English is their first language.  So the dialogue is so fucking stilted.  It’s kind great.  Oh boy.

Speaking of ridiculous things, let’s talk about the effects in this movie.  In the old films, it’s clearly someone in a suit.  This time they decided to trade in the suit for CG, and it’s…terrible.  I love it.  When you first see Godzilla in his original form, it looks so bad that I was laughing my ass off.  The eyes especially.  That was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time.  Maybe that’s why they worked so hard to keep the focus off him.  Because too much time with the monster and we would have been laughing our asses off.

But it isn’t devoid of cool effects.  There is one scene that just blows me away.  It’s when they finally do real damage to the monster, and he loses his cool.  What follows may not be amazing, but is done with so much finesse and really good musical cues that you feel how desperate the situation is.

One thing I do wanna point out is a track used in this film.  When I first heard it, I laughed my ass off.  It’s so clearly robbed from Evangelion.  I mean, to the point of shameless.  If it wasn’t for the fact that I know that FUNimation is at least partly licensed in the production of this film, I’d be amazed that they haven’t sued the living shit out of this studio.  It’s so obviously the track from Evangelion.  They do change it just a little bit later in the film, but it’s not enough to make me think it’s anything else.

I also wanna talk about this film’s weird habit of suddenly taking strange angle shots right the fuck out of nowhere!  I mean nowhere!  They’ll suddenly have a shot from the weirdest angle and then cut away.  Whoever was behind that decision, I want to know why.  These shots just come and go in a split-second, and serve no purpose in any scene they are in.

Overall, I’m not sure how to rate this film.  There are a TON of flaws that one could easily nit-pick to death.  But, I had fun watching it.  This is a genuinely entertaining movie, for me.  Maybe it’s because I liked these characters, and the politics they were talking about was genuinely interesting.  I don’t know.  But your mileage with this movie will vary.  So glad I watched it with subtitles.  If I had had to suffer the dub, I know I wouldn’t have been able to take ANY of it seriously.  The genuine strength of the performances comes out only in original Japanese.  This review may not make much sense to you, but this is the best I can talk about it.  Do with my review what you will.

Final Verdict
7 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Godzilla (2014)

GodzillaI don’t like this movie.  A lot of my people talked about how this was a Godzilla film that they had always wanted, and I’m here to tell you that that is not the case.  Not the case at all.  It isn’t nearly as bad as the Godzilla film by Roland Emmerich, but that doesn’t make it a good movie.  I don’t believe that this is a bad movie.  I genuinely don’t.  However, given what this franchise has going for it, some of the elements of this movie are just baffling to me.  Still, I suppose I should get into this film before I list my problems.  Let’s get started.

The plot of the film gets remarkably confusing.  At first, you see a old-timey video of a nuclear test.  However, it hints that the test was more than that.  In the future, a Japanese scientist, played by Ken Watanabe, is investigating some unknown creatures that were massive in size.  Then the film goes to Bryan Cranston’s character, who runs a nuclear power plant in Japan.  An event happens where some kind of seismic event destroys the plant, killing his wife, who is oddly played by Juliette Binoche.  Sixteen years later, his son is now a bomb disposal expert in the military, who gets caught up in his dad’s scheme to figure out the truth behind what happened to his wife.  Little do they know, a needlessly complicated plot involving a secretive organization has gotten everyone mixed up in a battle that was millions of years in the making.  Yeah, this movie goes all over the place.  We’ll get there.

Before I go off on the elements I don’t like about this movie, I should talk about what the film did right.  For starters, a lot of the casting choices.  Bryan Cranston has yet to suck in anything I’ve seen him in.  Juliette Binoche is good, for what little screen time she gets.  Ken Watanabe has a reserved but still good performance.  He’s another good actor.  The guy they have playing the Admiral who has been tasked with dealing with the problem once it gets too big for the secretive organization to handle is also nice.  He’s believable, being faced with a problem that is WAY bigger than he could handle.  However, the person who plays grown-up Cranston’s son is AWFUL!  For real, this guy is so utterly dull that he might as well not be in this movie.  Same with his wife and kid.  Why were they in this movie?  It makes no sense!

Next up is the effect.  Godzilla looks awesome!  Unlike that OTHER movie, this time they got the creature to form, and it looks awesome.  The other creatures in the film also look pretty cool.  The fight sequences between Godzilla and the monsters is so cool.  But we’ll get back to that.

Now, we get to the complaining.  For one – why was Bryan Cranston only in this movie for less than an hour?  For real, he is in this movie and then leaves in such an anti-climactic way.  Same with his wife.  When you have two A-list actors like Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche, making such little use of their talents is baffling, to me.  Cranston was the most believable and sympathetic character in this entire movie, and how they just excised him makes no freakin’ sense to me.  Especially since the person who played his son was boring as fuck.  The ENTIRE plot with his son and his son’s wife could have been excised and this move literally would have not changed because of it.  For real, nothing would be different.

Then there is the fact that this film’s plot goes all over the place.  It couldn’t decide what it wanted to be.  Does it want to be a monster movie?  Well, we’ll get to why that didn’t work out.  Does it want to be a story about man vs nature?  That would be fine, if man showed any sign of being able to do shit to stop nature.  Man is getting their ass kicked the entire time in this movie.  You see so little of the battle against the monsters, since they have a REALLY convenient plot element that makes mankind the monster’s bitch.  Does it want to be a story about a family surviving?  Well, that doesn’t work because of how little time we get with the family characters.  The fact that the only family in the film by the end of the film and how boring they are doesn’t help.  This film tries to juggle too many elements, and it doesn’t work.

However, the worst insult, to me is this – Godzilla was only in this movie for 8 minutes!  Someone kept trick, and that just blows my mind.  This is God-fucking-zilla!  Why is he only in a movie that has his name on it for 8 minutes?!  Each time that you see the fights starting, it cuts away.  Only at the end do you see it genuinely ramp up.  There is even the use of one of Godzilla’s signature weapons that just made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  It was a totally epic moment, but it didn’t make up for how little of the titular character we got to see.  People paid to watch a movie with Godzilla beating the fuck out of another monster.  We didn’t get that.  This is not cool.  I love this monster, and some of those old movies where he is fighting it out with other monsters are sick.  The old Japanese films knew where to keep their focus, with cutesy little stories about the humans going on on the side.  That makes sense.  This movie tries to focus on that WAY too much on the people.  Since this film had a sequel-bait ending, I hope the next iteration learns from its Japanese counterparts.

This isn’t a bad movie.  The elements that the film gets right, it actually does shine.  However, I simply can’t ignore how bad some of the mistakes are, so that’s going to make the verdict on this movie suffer quite a bit.  Sad, but true.  I do hope any future sequels get it right, because there is potential here, with the right talent behind it.

Final Verdict
6 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick