I wrote a first draft of this Godzilla movie review, and you know, it didn't do it for me. The review, that is. The movie as well -- I'll spoil that one for you. But there's more going on than the simple "Godzilla movies are generally pretty bad, so this one was pretty good."
If you don't normally read the blog, or follow me on twitter, let me tell you: I literally swear by Godzilla. It's my way of being agnostic. My dad and I bonded over Godzilla, over Halloween TNT day-long "monster" marathons that ended up just being all Godzilla movies. She's the biggest, baddest monster there is, a monumental fusion of natural and man-made power. But to really explain how I feel about this movie, I'm going to give you a short history lesson on Godzilla.
Godzilla's monster friends are often shown to be aliens, or dinosaurs, or other horrible creations like Godzilla herself. But there's one difference between Godzilla and the rest. She's a product of an accident. There are other monsters with this theme that came out before and around 1954, but none of them match up to the seminal film. The Original Godzilla pulls together the heart of the matter; that there are powerful natural forces in this world, and human mistakes amplify them. And we will pay the prices for those, doubly so. Unsettling nature will not result in good things.
Over time, Godzilla became less of a natural force made wild by man and more of a natural beast, the king of a race of monsters. If we're carrying the supposed metaphor of natural disaster/bomb made living, then Godzilla is the biggest and the meanest hurricane ever mixed with a meteor that's also a hydrogen bomb. Then, as the sixties transition to the seventies, Godzilla becomes something else. King of the Monsters, surely, but also a dancing, clapping, thumbs-upping friend of Japan. She's there to protect humanity from "bad monsters."
This is essentially the Godzilla we were given in the 2014. A misunderstood but fairly cute creature that happens to be a gigantic reptile that breaths blue fire. She looks cool, she roars in awesome ways and has a predilection for sneaking up on the miniature human naval vessels. Don't get me wrong -- the Godzilla in this movie is big. But there's no character to her. She appears to fight our new mistakes -- some other monsters -- and only causes damage unintentionally or if she's attacked. She makes eye contact with our incredibly bland hero as she nearly dies, and we are supposed to feel an emotion for this creature, this "force of nature." But somehow, despite my endless love for Godzilla, they kinda failed. A few moments were very visually cool, and the final finishing move put on by Godzilla is excellent, but we're kept distant from the fights for so long. It's a different answer to the question of how to make giant monsters scary. In Cloverfield, the monster's always disappearing in and around buildings. In this movie, we see them on TV or maybe vanishing into a giant cloud of debris. The other major issue I had with this movie, besides bad acting by everyone but Cranson, bad writing for everyone but Cranson (especially bad for Watanabe) was the sound. The music was either reused or awful, and they didn't even bother to reuse good Godzilla music, and the sounds of combat were distant and dull, keeping us separated from the action even further.
There's another elephant in this room, one of American centrism and whitewashing of the cast, but that's so expected from Hollywood I'm not even going to bother. The reduction of Godzilla to an even tamer version than the one I saw in cartoon form in the early 90's burned me well enough. I felt no fear of this Godzilla. I did not feel like a god, or a tornado, or a hurricane or volcano or bomb or whatever was coming my way. It didn't feel like a metaphor for global warming. If this movie's Godzilla was a tornado, it would have politely carved through a town hitting only rapists and corrupt hedge fund managers. Tornadoes aren't our friends. Hurricanes aren't saviours come to rescue us from a nuclear plant meltdown. The point of Godzilla isn't to remind us that there are monsters, some friendly some not, it's to remind us that when we fuck with nature, nature fucks us back, and harder than we ever could.
That said, I'm glad there's gonna be a sequel. Maybe it'll be better. And to be fair to the people that liked it -- most Godzilla movies are awful, so by that mark, this one is maybe the third or fourth best one made. But this Godzilla -- this individual monster -- I'm putting down near the bottom. My advice? If you've never seen a Godzilla movie, skip this one. Go on Netflix and watch the original 1954 japanese version. If you've seen Godzilla before, just go watch the 1954 anyways and nod to yourself knowing that you know what's best. The lessons in there are just as necessary today.