Box Office Democracy: “Godzilla”
I needed Godzilla to give me more monster fights. Not monsters destroying cities or people running from monsters but monsters fighting monsters. They knew that’s what I wanted too because sequences would build to those moments where two kaiju would look at each other, screech, and charge at each other only for the camera to cut away to some human doing some dumb thing or another. I know that this movie already cost $160 million and that’s with almost no money spent on cast so I have to assume they put all the special effects in that they could but this movie made almost $200 million in its first weekend and I assure you I do not care what the humans are doing in Godzilla, not even a little bit.
The monsters look fantastic. I tried to parse exactly how they made them through studying the credits and it seems to be some alchemical combination of digital effects and performance capture and I can’t stress enough how perfect and plausible they look. It probably helps that they are usually in dark smoky environments but it works better than any attempt I’ve seen with the possible exception of Pacific Rim and this is certainly trying for a grittier, more realistic look than Rim was going for. The climactic fights are over-the-top brutal but all the way through I was impressed at how it looked like these massive creatures had actual weight and interacted with their environment in consistently plausible ways. A sequel has already been greenlit and I’m beyond excited to see where they go with these monsters.
The humans are another matter entirely. I mean, I guess they always look like they have weight and they interact with their environment in a plausible manner but I’m not sure they ever really affect the story. You could take the actions of every human being out of this movie and it would affect the outcome not at all. Nothing the humans do to stop the rampaging monsters is successful on any level. In fact, the climactic actions of the main human character, Lieutenant Ford Brody, only serve to save people from a mistake the humans made earlier in the film. Godzilla is the title character and he solves the problem all by himself. I never quite got invested in the drama they tried to insert with Brody and his wife or Brody and his son or Brody and some strange other child. I completely failed to care at all about the faceless, practically nameless, other military operatives. I only cared a little about Dr. Serizawa because Ken Wantanabe played him and I honestly can’t tell you what happened to that character in the third act. Everyone just sort of fades away in the backdrop of better monster action. As much as I want to see them expand on the monster action I want them to throw all the other characters in this movie and start over with every entry.
A common lament about film in the last decade or so is that every film is either a remake or a sequel and no one is willing to try new things. While there is undeniable truth to this, Godzilla is proof that there are plenty of new ideas and good movies to be made from old properties. This is as different from the original film as is possible with only passing similarity to what came before. It would be a huge mistake for anyone to dismiss this as creatively bankrupt when it’s such a fresh take on a property that was honestly run in to the ground by The Toho Company some time ago. This is a fantastic action movie and one worthy of praise no matter what its origins are.