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.