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Godzilla (2014)

GodzillaA review by Nalini Haynes
  • Director: Gareth Edwards
  • Writers: Max Borenstein (screenplay), Dave Callaham(story)
  • Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston

Opening night at IMAX in Melbourne, the foyer is busy. A queue for refreshments winds its way through the obligatory maze before trailing across the foyer to the escalators. Crowds surround the assembled 3 dimensional jigsaw depicting a techno-dinosaur with rider from the upcoming Transformers movie. Ducking and weaving through the crowds, we make our way down the stairs where an attendant scans our numbered tickets, I collect my 3D glasses and free poster then walk into the amphitheatre.

The ads begin.

The line-up of IMAX movies for the remainder of the year sets me salivating. All of the fantasy and science fiction movies – of which there are several – are big-budget special effects extravaganzas. Maleficent, Edge of Tomorrow, Interstellar and Transformers: the Age of Extinction all look like visual feasts. I’m really pleased Transformers doesn’t feature Shia LaBeouf because I’d boycott the movie on principle if it did. Jerusalem is a documentary featuring inspiring architecture on the big screen.

“Please turn off your mobile phones or other patrons are allowed to throw Maltezers at you – not really” is the final ad before the cinema darkens and Godzilla begins.

At the close of World War II, senior US defence force people and civilians sit in a stand watching a nuclear bomb being ‘tested’ in the Pacific. I had the impression they may have been killed or at least affected by radiation; I believe this, at least, was based on historical nuclear testing.

Fast forward to 1999 in the Philippines where Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Dr Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) investigate a mining mishap, discovering an egg and a burst egg sac with a trail leading to the water’s edge.

I think we then go back in time to see Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) lose his wife so then, 15 years later, Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) can bail his father Joe out of jail in Japan before following good ol’ dad into a restricted zone so they can both get arrested. After recovering Joe’s records on FLOPPY DISCS.

While under arrest, a Muto (enormous insectoid monster) emerges from a 15-year dormant phase to attack the humans annoying it then, like a cliché male, wanders off to ‘get some’. Meanwhile, another monster deep beneath the waves listens to the mating calls, wakens and emerges…

Godzilla is a cross between a monster movie and a natural disaster movie; the real star of the show is the special effects. The plot is so weak I chuckled my way through while relishing the monster battles and the destruction of various cities. The 3D comes into its own when obscuring the monsters, like when Godzilla withdraws into the smoke, awesome! In other human/monster scenes when the 3D would have prevailed, I confess I wasn’t even looking at the humans, I was usually looking past them, expecting the monsters to appear. However, the scene on the rail bridge was excellent!

Although it failed the Bechdel Test, Godzilla earns more points than most movies for its diversity. The Bechdel Test requires two named women to talk without a man present and to talk about something other than male characters. The only conversations with two named women talking involved Elle Brody (Elizabeth Olsen), Ford’s wife, talking about Ford or their son. They couldn’t even manage an ‘OMG – MONSTERS!’ conversation.

On the up-side, Godzilla featured an unusual number of women in responsible roles – doctor, nurse, soldier, scientist – and an epic number of people of varied hues. The central characters are two white Americans supporting an unpalatable subtext for the movie and yet I feel like giving Godzilla a standing ovation for diversity surpassing the majority of other Hollywood movies.

The Japanese are right, Godzilla is a fatty: he’s a very overweight cross between a T-Rex and a stegosaurus who apparently lives in the ocean. The Muto’s head is remarkably like a staple remover with eyes lifted from the Shadows in Babylon 5 and a too-sleek insectile body, walking on the back of its ‘wrists’.

Jurassic Park was much scarier. Godzilla has an ‘M’ rating in Australia but if my son was still in primary school I’d have an uphill battle convincing myself and him that Godzilla wasn’t suitable. More murder and mayhem occurs in cartoons and computer games. Godzilla is rated ‘PG’ in the US so it’s more of a ‘family’ movie than a horror movie.

Overall, Godzilla’s plot and characters leave a lot to be desired – unless you chuckle at them, then COMEDY – but if you want an epic monster battle with the destruction  of a few cities, this is a fun movie. I highly recommend the IMAX experience because skyscrapers on the 7 storey screen. Every time the monsters rumbled and roared I felt the vibrations, especially in the back of my seat and through my feet. The sound and enormous immersive image made a fairly average plot with pretty epic SFX an enjoyable movie.

I loved the Honest Trailer for Pacific Rim and I enjoyed Pacific Rim; Godzilla is equally flawed, still enjoyable and makes excellent fodder for another Honest Trailer. Just sayin’.

I feel so shallow. I’m giving Godzilla 3 ½ stars. I confess the plot is probably worth less but I had fun. Don’t judge me.

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.



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