Godzilla: He’s Famous, He’s Fierce, He’s Full of Fire

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In the early 1950’s the re-release of King Kong and the success of a film called The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms set the stage for one of the worlds most famous Japanese monster franchises to hatch, and that force to be reckoned with was named Godzilla. In 1954 director Ishiro Honda and special effects artist Eili Tsuburaya combined their visions to bring one of the most feared and well respected monsters ever known to the screen. The popularity of Godzilla was so astounding that their have been 28 Godzilla films created in Japan, 4 here in the United States and 1 by an Italian director in Italy. As in most giant monster horror films the original was mostly based on the terror of Godzilla’s destruction, however for Japan, 27 out of the 28 films landed a spot for monster c0-stars for Godzilla to battle. There were Baby Zillas in the 1998 film which still counted as monster co-stars, however, here in the states the first full on monster battle for Godzilla wouldn’t happen until the 4th film, which was just released and once again titled, Godzilla.

1954 Godzilla

Over the long and popular period in which Japan has had success with their fire breathing hero, they have broken the series  into different periods in which the Godzilla films can be categorized. The first period is known as the Showa Series, which lasted from 1954 until 1975, and all of them were created before the death of Japan’s Emperor Hirohito. While Godzilla started out as a horrific creature that aggressively terrorized the people, he began to evolve into a more friendlier beast that defended mankind from his rivals. The Heisei Period lasted from 1984 to 1995 which revamped the franchise by starting the series off with a sequel to the 1954 original of Godzilla. It was during this period that for the first time the directors began to develop a reason for Godzilla’s abilities and they had finally shown how he became the creature by adding some backstory to the character  due to radiation exposure mutating Godzilla into the fire breathing force to be reckoned with that we know of today. The Millennium Series was from 1999 until 2004 and then Toho Studios said that they wouldn’t be a part of another Godzilla production for at least 10 years, in which now, they did come together with Warner Brothers to deliver the 2014 Godzilla reboot to the franchise.

He’s famous, he’s fierce, he’s full of fire… but did Godzilla’s 2014 release deliver the heat we expected? 

For months now I’ve seen the awesome trailers for Godzilla and I even stopped by their website from time-to-time to see what they might be up to. When King Kong was last made there were all kinds of behind the scenes videos and snippets for the public to check in on to get hyped up with and Peter Jackson made an entire deluxe version of behind the scenes day to day things available to see how the magic of movie making allowed them to bring the famous King Kong back to life. I’m surprised that Godzilla didn’t have something like that on their site for die hard fans of the monster franchise to sneak a peak at. I thought, well maybe they are brilliantly hiding behind the fact that in the trailers they kept a lot hidden from the viewers to gain a curiosity for the new film. After viewing the movie myself, I’m almost wondering how much they were really relying on the hype of the film and not the actual film itself to sell their tickets.

Thursday evening the theater was packed, you know, because for the box office the weekends start an extra day early now.  I’m more than happy to spill my brains about my opinions on this film, but I warn you, It will spoil the hell out of it for those of you whom haven’t seen it yet. That was your warning. I love to watch films. I like to write. I like to pick stories apart to make sense of it all. I might like that a little too much at times because I felt like some of the audience was feeling parts of the film that I just didn’t feel at all, but, I’ve come to the conclusion that in many cases when you fill a room full of people that want the film to succeed they will clap and praise the film every little chance they get. In the case of Godzilla’s reboot, the 2014 version yielded little chances to do so. Now, before you think I’m a hard ass like some of those crazy Rotten Tomatoes critics, let me plea my case.

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Godzilla has inspired films such as Cloverfield and Pacific Rim to be made. Though Cloverfield made the audience suffer from nausea due to them taking the “found footage” angle on their story, I have to admit that there were times in which even Cloverfield delivered more action and terror to their film than this version of Godzilla.  For a large portion of the film I didn’t feel that humans were in as much danger as the dialogue was. I thought that surely with 5 screenwriters they could have added some clever obstacles on the ground for the military and civilians to have to handle while Godzilla was busy taking care of business, trying to defeat his enemies the MUTO’s (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms) – At one point in the film our lead character, Ford Brody,  whom was convieniently an explosive ordnance disposal technician, found an entire hive of baby MUTO’s nesting on top of a nuclear bomb. He detonated it to kill them all on purpose but I felt as if it was a missed opportunity to allow at least some of the mutants to get away and become a threat to society. The film was lacking the much needed attack on the ground obstacle that could have given some extra horrific action to the film.. because frankly the film was missing a lot of action all together. 

For the first hour of the film I honestly almost fell asleep due to the lack of anything real happening. Wait, did I just say there was a lack of action in a monster film? Yes, I did. I started to believe that the production company may have had half of the budget they originally stated they had because one of my largest issues with this film was that for the first three or four monster confrontations, they cut away from the fight and left it to our imaginations as to how brutal Godzilla and the MUTO’s brawls were. They would cut to a TV and deliver half lines of dialogue to escape the actual fight, one time they even had a largely anticipated monster brawl coming to a climax when they took the turn of closing a door to hide the action and instead you see the people scattering about in a building. Now, I know they had a large budget and some of the scenes of massive destruction in the towns had to of cost a lot to create, however, Pacific Rim only had $30 million more on their budget and pulled off every fight scene with ease, as well as giving a great plot and backstory to their characters.

Oh and speaking of characters, if you are going to watch this movie as a hardcore Breaking Bad fan, who is really interested in watching Bryan Cranston live up to his potential as a great actor, forget about it. They drop him out of the film just as you think the film is finally starting to pick up the pace. I don’t mean to ruin it for you, but I thought that was a very poor decision on the writer’s behalf.

Now to give credit where credit is due, there were indeed at least three, maybe four scenes in which Godzilla finally blended some action into the story. Those few scenes in which Godzilla was finally allowed to feed the desires of the onlookers, they created well. I do believe that it was worth watching in the theater, I just wish that for the money they spent on the film that the plot and actions of the film would have paid off. I honestly hope they continue to make Godzilla films in the future, but I do want to know what a Godzilla film would be like if Guillermo del Toro (director of Pacific Rim) were allowed to have control of the sequel. Maybe he’d even be allowed to have Godzilla make a special appearance in Pacific Rim 2, which I’d pay for 3D IMAX seats to watch. 

For those of you that really love monster films (as do I )  you can watch three Godzilla films on Hulu Plus right now. They have Godzilla Vs. Gigan, Godzilla Vs. Hedorah (the Smog Monster) and Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (Godzilla Vs. the Sea Monster)  GET TWO FREE WEEKS of HULU PLUS by using my affiliate link. http://www.hulu.com/r/i4KQSA You can watch it on all of your devices including home computers, cell phones, tablets, roku, apple tv, smart TV applications etc etc.  If nothing else, it supports my research in the Criterion Collection and gives me 2 weeks more to check things out by you using my link. (So click the banner and sign up for free even if you aren’t watching it!)

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Have a great weekend and until next time…

 

William C. Raustler