Among several other activities last weekend, I managed to see last year’s second attempt by Hollywood to make a real kaijū eiga, Godzilla.
I was very pleased to see that it was far, far better than the first attempt… which I can’t even bother to watch all the way through. While it is flawed, it definitely fits in the canon with some genuine thrills and spectacular visuals.
Godzilla emerging from the Stygian depths to put the smack down on some giant insect-looking creatures, that’s classic Toho.
Visually equating Godzilla with the forces and balances of nature (storms and tidal waves presage his appearance), hail Gojira, Lord of Storms!
Effectively turning Godzilla into a Lovecraft-ian Old One, that’s cool. “In his house at R’lyeh, Gojira waits dreaming”.
The inversion of the Godzilla from creature deprived of a home by humans and the atomic bomb to corrective force of nature unconcerned with humans was an interesting one.
Visual references to most of the large scale human disasters in the last 15 years worked well. We had, in no particular order: nuclear reactor failure on a Japanese coast, tidal waves destroying large swathes of coastal shoreline, and another massive destruction in an US city.
The new Godzilla design and roar were awesome.
While Pacific Rim embodied the brightly colored Godzilla movies of the 60’s and early 70’s, this movie reached back for the moody atmospherics of the original 1954 film.
You could tell that Bryan Cranston and Juliet Binoche had to be doing it for the love, because their roles were FAR too small for actors of their talent.
Ken Watanabe was also under-utilized. He tried to go for the stoic sort presence that Takashi Shimura had in the 1954 film but it didn’t work for me.
The first person narrative of one character at all the points of action was too difficult for the film to sustain for its entire length.
After watching the movie (only once), I awoke the next morning and realized that I couldn’t tell if the final battle took place around Chinatown in San Francisco or Chinatown in Oakland. Since it was shot in Vancouver, that’s not surprising, I guess. I think they even got the BART logos wrong at one point. Would recognizable landmarks be too much to ask?
Bryan Cranston’s toupee was beyond awful. I know he’d just come from filming Breaking Bad and all, but still.
The stupid stuff:
- floppy disks that are still readable after 15 years in a dilapidated house with data files that modern software can still understand,
- inconceivably stopped traffic on the Golden Gate when San Francisco is being evacuated that no one seems to doing anything about (and a bus driver who doesn’t roll down a window to hear what a cop is saying),
- eggs of creatures that can survive dormant for millions of years being destroyed by a gasoline fire,
- a clockwork nuclear fuse that somehow uses absolutely no electrical circuitry to trigger a nuclear weapon,
- a nuclear missile that six guys can carry like a casket or a coffin.