Monday, May 19, 2014

'Godzilla' (Movie Review)

There was a time when horror movies were synonymous with “giant stuff.” Sometimes it was giant ants. Sometimes it was giant blobs. The king of these, always, was Godzilla. Horror really evolved after its “just like this thing you know, only gigantic” phase into darker toned, more personal fears. The genre became less concerned with what a raw force of nature could do to an entire civilization, and instead focused on stories that traumatized small tribes of individuals.

This evolution of a genre made myself and others who grew up on kaiju cinema think that a giant lizard could never again be scary. Then Steven Spielberg proved us wrong by putting a cup a water on top of a guitar to make what was probably the most memorable special effect of the 90's. Suddenly two things were true: I was irrationally afraid of T-Rex's and couldn’t wait until a modern Godzilla movie gave our favorite movie monster this sort of treatment. Cue 1998, Matthew Broderick, that guy who made Independence Day, and a mountain of fish and disappointment. Not even the kick ass Jean Reno could save it.

Now, sixteen years later, the new Godzilla trailer promised a movie that finally lives up to that hope I had when I watched Jurassic Park. Godzilla would be horror again. Kaiju horror for a modern age. Better yet, it stars Bryan Cranston. That dude from Breaking Bad was totally was totally going to be in the new awesome horror Godzilla that we’ve craved for twenty years.

First disappointment: Cranston is barely in it. I get why they lied to us in the trailers. They wanted my money. I get it, but don’t short me Walter White. Second disappointment: The movie is terrible. It’s broken at a script level. Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), the only character that is worth watching, is superfluous. The military doesn’t seem to operate logically (for instance following third in line behind skyscraper-sized, civilization-bound monsters rather than utilizing their resources to, I don’t know, barricade the monsters to protect the American shore or something).

The actual main human character is so boring that I found differentiating my popcorn more entertaining.  At one point, he randomly ends up with a kid separated from his parents.  One action scene later, the kid is returned. Neither character is changed and we never see or hear from the kid again. Like so much else, it’s just pointless. Our titular character doesn’t show up until late in the film, and not in that cool, Jaws, kind of way.  Jaws is brilliant and cleverly written, and engaging whether a shark is on screen or not.  This film does not have that luxury.  Admittedly, some of the monster fighting is cool (Godzilla giving what is basically the Cloverfield monster a fire-breathing, porno finale is fantastic) but there is far too little of it.

Perhaps one day I’ll get my horror film that makes a giant lizard terrorizing civilization scary again. Until then, I’ll have to watch the last fifteen minutes of Lost World where a T-rex makes it to the mainland.

Grade: D+
Reviewed by Jeff Conolly in theater

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