Yesterday I went and saw the new Godzilla movie. I'm just gonna start writing about it and see where it takes me, so expect
The first thing I want to do is make sure it's clear that I enjoyed this movie very much. However, there were certain things about it which niggled at the back of my mind and I couldn't immediately put my finger on, which is why I didn't do this write up immediately as soon as I got home. I have now had time to sort through my thoughts and I think I can convey them adequately, and I freely admit that much of what I bring up here may come across as a tad nitpicky, so cut me some slack there.
There is definitely a lot to appreciate in this film. it manages to be clever without LOOKING clever in a lot of ways. For example, the way opening credits fade in as extracts of classified information which is quickly struck off leaving only the current cast/crew credit. That could easily have come over as very tacky, but the fact that they were presented upon a montage of archival footage (both genuine and made for the movie) from the nuclear tests in the 1950's helps to sell the overall feel of a long-standing government-enforced cover up. Especially since these credits, which are the very first thing we see in the movie, are not even remotely coy about Godzilla being at, and indeed, is the reason *for*, these events. It caught me a little off guard that as soon as the movie opens, we are being given very clear shots of parts of Godzilla, but no actual reveal of the full creature.
This method of teasing us with Godzilla is something which runs heavily throughout the entire film and is genuinely effective, both in raising the audience's anticipation and for pulling away at the last possible instant and making us go "Oh, COME ON!" in the best possible way. It also has the beneficial side effect of making the movie at least feel incredibly fast-paced. If I had not desperately needed to go for a piss during the entire final third of the movie, I would even say that it would probably have been over before I knew it. (You'll be proud I'm sure to know that I held it until the credits finished rolling. Then I went in my seat.)
The MUTOs (pronounced MOO-tohs), Godzilla's monstrous antagonists for this movie, prove to be worthy and capable adversaries. MUTO is an achronym, standing for Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Object. They are interesting in that they are very far removed from the kinds of monsters Godzilla has traditionally fought, and they do feel very 'western' in their design and execution, but they also manage to feel very unique from any creatures Hollywood has conjoured in the past. When all we got were glimpses of them in the trailers, many people felt that they were reminiscent of the creature from 'Cloverfield', but when you see them fully they are very distinct. They even manage to be distinct from each other, despite being of the same species. They get far more screen time than Godzilla does, and despite being the 'bad guys' of the narrative, they are simply treated as animals, and the viewer even feels a level of sympathy for them during the inevitability of the climax.
Speaking of the trailers; boy do they ever miss-sell this movie. This is probably where the nitpicking will begin, by the way.
The trailers very much focus on Godzilla, and the insignificance of man before him. They linger on scenes of destruction while various characters wax philosophical on his existence and what it means to us. The trailers very much sell the movie as being about how Godzilla is this unstoppable and highly devastating force of nature against which we have no hope. The movie, however, has none of that. Most of the time the destruction and poetic musing is actually in reaction or a result of the MUTOs. In this movie, Godzilla is very much back to his heroic 'guardian of cosmic balance' persona of the latter half of the Showa era of Japanese movies. This is, in and of itself, by no means a bad thing. But it is definitely not what we were led to expect. In fact, if you went entirely by the portrayal and reaction to Godzilla himself in this movie, then it feels like a sequel to a movie that never happened.
Again, that's not to the detriment of the movie as a whole, as it never really feels like you've missed something somewhere in regards to the plot. But if this movie were your gateway to the world of Godzilla, it may well leave you with a LOT of questions. Where has he come from? Why is he doing this? How can he do that? All of these questions are dealt with with a vague hand-waving of an answer, almost like you're expected to already know all that stuff based purely on the fact that Godzilla is a historic cultural icon.
Another curiosity from the trailers is that almost every shot you've seen of Godzilla from them is either not in the film, or contains an entirely different effects element to what you expect to see. The MUTOs themselves have been entirely removed from several trailer shots.
But I think my biggest (and *only real*) complaint about this movie was the handling of the climatic battle. As I mentioned earlier, this movie does a LOT of teasing of Godzilla. We glimpse him at the very beginning, and the build up to his first full reveal is breathtaking, but then he is immediately relegated back into the realm of glimpses and teases. And the second time he is fully revealed it is without much build-up, but his presence on the whole is equally sort-lived. And then when we finally get to the third act, the final climatic three way battle between titans... we keep cutting away to follow the human story.
Now, before anyone leaps down my throat, I'm not saying there shouldn't have been one. I'm a fan of the human element in these movies. They make you care about what is going on. There are even some Godzilla movies where the human drama is easily the best thing about the whole film. And I cared about these characters. All of the actors did a wonderful job with their roles, however surprisingly brief they ended up being.
BUT. Come on. This film has teased us with the monster fights twice and not delivered, and we let it go because the climatic battle was on the near horizon. But the climatic battle in this film was of secondary importance to what the humans were doing, the same humans we have already followed for the entire film. And the monsters suffer for it. It feels like half a battle. And if there is one thing that should be a given about monster movies after sixty years, it's that when the monsters are upon each other at the end of the film, you do NOT treat it as of peripheral importance. THAT is what we paid to see. It's also rather bothersome because the humans didn't actually do anything that they couldn't have found a convincing way for Godzilla to do himself.
All of that said, it wasn't enough to ruin the movie for me. I'll be seeing it again this weekend, and I'll be devouring the associated merchandise and eagerly awaiting the Blu Ray release. Because yes, this movie gave me chills, it made me punch the air, and it gave me a lump in my throat. But it was not without it's flaws, and if nothing else it has made me incredibly excited for a possible sequel, now that Mr. Edwards has learned some lessons with movie one. Because visually, his filmmaking was masterful. I've gotten so used to fast and hectic editing during action scenes in movies that Mr. Edwards decision to linger on things makes them seem grander and more impressive. And that he will often put as much as he can into one of these lingering shots makes it feel more immediate and intense. For example, there is a shot from street level of one of the MUTOs arriving on the scene, and half taking out a building as it does so. That same shot then pans back to reveal Elizabeth Olsen's character in the street, and as she backs away from the MUTO we move with her. When she turns to run in the opposite direction the camera follows her briefly before she stops, looking into the distance. And as the camera lifts to show what she's looking at, Godzilla rises, keeping pace with the movement of the camera. Most other film makers would have done that in five or six shots, but here it all happens in one flowing moment, and it grounds it well.
I'm more than happy with Godzilla's design in this movie. It's not my favourite, as sometimes his neck feels a little too short, or his eyes are too small in his wide head, but it manages to convey power and intelligence all the same. He's a character in this film, rather than something that happens, and that's pretty much a requisite for a decent Godzilla movie.
Okay, that's all I got right now. Maybe there'll be an addendum when I see it again. But I recommend it. Go watch it so I can have my sequel.
First Aid and Fortress Maximus (IDW) Bumblebee and friends (G1) Kup (IDW) Wing (IDW) Raiden (G1) Michelangelo Megatron and Shockwave (G1) Jhiaxus (G2) Harleycon Alopex and Ninjara Glyph and Tailgate (IDW) Kup (IDW) Tailgate IDW Raphael and Ninjara Prowl and Arcee IDW Megatron IDW Wheeljack IDW Death's Head and prey MUK
Pharma IDW Blackarachnia BW Arcee PRIME Nightbeat IDW Cyclonus and Tailgate IDW Guiltaur G1 Waspinator BW Soundwave and shockwave G1 Tailgate and Cyclonus IDW