GODZILLA (2014)

MUTO

A MUTO. Another rehash of the Cloverfield Monster.

In the early to mid 1960’s Toho’s special effects team were at their absolute creative pinnacle, cranking out designs for Mothra (1961), a menacing reptilian Godzilla (Kingoji) in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), Manda from Atragon (1963), Matango (1963), Dagora (1964), Ghidrah: The Three-Headed Monster (1964), Baragon from Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965), Ebirah (1966) and Sanda and Gaira from War of the Gargantuas (1966) to name a few. These monsters were rendered as sketches on paper. No computers were involved.

Toho’s chief special effects man was Eiji Tsuburaya and he was largely responsible for many of Toho’s Kaiju. The monsters were original and had personality, and even though Gojira (1954) was clearly inspired by Ray Harryhausen’s The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), Toho’s creation had the trade mark call and radioactive breath. Godzilla was original and I believe director Ishiro Honda recognized the importance of his original film, and toward the end of his directing cycle just let the films become matinée kiddie fodder. They are still entertaining. The original Gojira, although deep at heart still a giant monster on the loose film, is more political and dramatic than American audiences were led to believe with the Raymond Burr re-cut. It’s difficult to pay homage to or update originality. Frankly, I wish Hollywood would just give up.

It just floors me that special effects technicians, working with sophisticated computers and powerful computer-aided animation tools can only come up with a rehash of the Cloverfield Monster. Come on people. Can we create a monster with color? Bad computer people. The designs sucked. The Godzilla design sucked —this is a fat slumbering zombi-Godzilla with pachyderm feet. The MUTOs sucked. Can we just give up on computer monsters already? I was wrong yesterday when I blogged I can live with CGI. I can’t. Give me Ben Chapman and Ricou Browning in Gill Man suits anyday. Want original? Go rent a Gamera vs. Gyaos film.

Gareth Edward’s Godzilla (2014) is an unneeded and weak retread of material we have seen before. I’ll be right up front and say 1) I didn’t like the CGI (again much of the film is set against a dark backdrop —see my complaints about Pac Rim), 2) I didn’t like the Cloverfield Monsters of Unknown Terrestrial Origin (MUTO), 3) Godzilla looks, well —asymetrical and unrealistic like he was, well —rendered in a computer and is he ever boring, and 4) most importantly, the leads didn’t keep my interest. The cast wavers from good (Ken Watanabe and Bryan Cranston) to bad (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).

The first 30 minutes, with Cranston (in a bad wig) and Watanabe as Dr. Serizawa (tip of the hat to the original) searching for answers and globe trotting is fun. With jumping locales, fairly quick pacing and introduction of several characters, the opening moments of the film reminded me of Shûsuke Kaneko’s Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995) (see his Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001), which is the best of the modern Godzilla films). I was psyched. But, by the time the film settles into the second act -yawn- we get stupid military maneuvers and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the lead and Elizabeth Olsen his wife. There’s even a cute kid stuck in a school bus and an Admiral (David Strathairn, miscast) wanting to plant a nuclear warhead in San Francisco. Ugh.

The title beast is in the film for perhaps 20 minutes. Why does he swim alongside U.S. Navy ships for most of this footage? Isn’t there something more interesting to do with Godzilla than have him swim with ships?

For all my bitching the film is clean family fun. Godzilla saves the day and swims back into the ocean to return another day to battle CGI Cloverfield Monsters.

Godzilla 2014. 2.5 stars out of 4. Huge disappointment.

7 Responses to “GODZILLA (2014)”

  1. You need to get your eyes checked, now. The MUTOs look nothing like the Cloverfield monster, besides having long legs. They have vastly different faces, leg structure, and one even flies!

    Also, if you think this godzilla is fat you need to take your nostalgia goggles off ASAP because this is the strongest and mind you, most realistic representation of Godzilla from texture and detail down to even his proportions. Nothing about this incarnation is fat or weak looking.

    To say you’re not a fan is one thing, but insulting the people who worked hard as hell on these VERY solid designs is petty and just immature.

    • That is respectfully your opinion. I think the Godzilla design was all wrong. Why would a 300 foot tall bipedal creature have peg-like feet? The feet should be splayed to distribute weight. The head was too small. Regardless of the faces flight and myriad limbs the creatures were still bland and boring. I wish they would’ve been kinetic like the Cloverfield Monster. This film is going to polarize Kaiju fans. I’m standing ground.

  2. Well, monsterminions, maybe it’s time *you* made a movie the way you want it to be. Godzilla is cleverly structured, looks terrific (and at times is sheerly beautiful), and despite some clumsy expository dialogue and an execrable performance by Cranston (shouting and ranting as if he thinks that’s what ‘acting’ means), it’s a movie that does exactly what it says on the tin, so to speak. And in years to come it will be regarded as a classic addition to the Godzilla legacy. And Steve Delvillar, snitty as he may sound, is right about one thing, and it’s the same thing that bothers me – why on earth do self-styled fans of a genre start undervaluing and trivializing the work that goes into making a movie – *any* movie – with reductive approaches like the Cloverfield comparisons? Of course the MUTOs were like Cloverfield. And also resembled Daiei’s kaiju Gyaos. That is intentional. There are other tributes/references galore throughout Edwards’s epic – tributes to The Birds, to Close Encounters, to Jaws (the hero’s name is Brody, same as Amity’s police chief) and that’s just the obvious references. It’s a movie buff’s creation made for movie fans to enjoy, and Edwards must be as proud of Godzilla as he is of Monsters.

    • Yes a sequel has been green lighted. Perhaps Toho will allow licensing of Rodan or Mothra. I’m not certain where another film can go except monster vs. monster. Edwards has established Godzilla as a non-threat to humans.

      Frankly I found the film to be a giant bore.

      >

      • Maybe I’m biased, then; my sister-in-law was an AD on visual effects photography in the Hawaii/tsunami sequences, plus a dear friend has a modest role in (again) the Hawaii episode. All of which means that I am aware of the phenomenal amount of work that went into the movie. But then again, I think your expectations were (unrealistically?) high and you grew ‘bored’ with the movie simply because it wasn’t the movie *you* expected to see, and this literal pre-judice means that the manifest pleasures on offer went unnoticed by you.

  3. I was let down also…. I blame the advertising… The trailers, the Empire mag covers, even the car commercial all portrayed Godzilla as the main threat. It looked dark and apocalyptic. Godzilla was back to his 1954 form with Bryan C as the star… But nope… We get a warm and fuzzy Godzilla… No feeling of real danger… No battles with the military.. No real city wide destruction with people running through the streets for their lives (except Hawaii). Hell San Fran was so cleared out and the lights were all off that Godzilla and the Mutos could have been fighting in the Gran Canyon. I was very let down. I did not have all the problems you did. I liked Godzilla’s design. I liked the CloverMutos. I thought they stumbled with the characters.. But more then anything they falsely advertised what kind of film this was. I am hoping that with a second viewing I will enjoy it more now that I am expecting more Godzilla vs Gigan then Godzilla 54.

  4. Right on. I thought it sucked. Big GZ fan here. I don’t like digital effects. At least a suit looks like a real thing. Digital monsters look like math. Everything looked like a video game, as expected. CGI has ruined movies. And yes, the humans were really tedious. Sucky acting & boring characters – admittedly, not unusual in a GZ film – were CONSTANTLY on the screen. A half hour could have easily been cut out of this yawn-fest. GZ’s character was a pussy, too. Yes, he’s saved the planet before, but he’s always given the humans a beating, too, cuz that’s what happens when the King is disturbed. This GZ acted more like Gamera (who I like, but he’s a different character). This movie sucked sucked sucked.

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