Quickie 20 – Godzilla (2014)

or “Baby, Don’t Fear the Kaiju”

The last time the lord of irradiated city stompers was in the hands of Hollywood movie-makers, Godzilla wound up as an atomic iguana that laid more eggs than a barn full of chickens on Four Loko and Spanish Fly. It was a multi-year clusterfuck that went from something potentially amazing to something… awful… that I saw twice in theaters because, well, I wanted it to succeed. I was… in a bad place in the ’90s. Anyway, nearly two decades later, Legendary convinced Toho that they wouldn’t abuse the property the way Sony did previously, and put Gareth Edwards in the director’s seat. Not bad when your sophomore feature is a $160 million tent pole for a whole cinematic universe-to-be.

“Nature has an order. A power to restore bounds. I believe HE is that power.” – Dr. Ishiro Serizawa

Our story begins during Prince’s eponymous year of party style, 1999. A Japanese nuclear power facility is devastated by unnatural shockwaves (and not the Y2K bug, as doomsday theorists would have had us believe), leading to its total destruction and a quarantine of the surrounding area for the next 15 years. One of the scientists lost in the disaster was American scientist Sandra Brody, wife to fellow scientist and plant employee Joe Brody, and mother to their wiener son, Ford, whose name I’m surprised they didn’t change to “Isuzu” to help him fit in in rice burner country. To say that Sandy’s death may have traumatized the pair a little would be like saying that the Conjuring movies are a little overrated.

15 revolutions around the sun later, Ford is a US military meathead married to Scarlet Witch and the two have a son of their own. No sooner does he return home from active duty, the booty call the couple’s last 14 months has been building to gets blueballed all to Hel when he’s forced to return to the home of the (sushi) whopper. In the time since Sandra’s radioactive demise, Joe’s mental state could be politely described as “criminally obsessive”, which gets him arrested by the authorities for violating the quarantine zone for the umpteenth time. When Ford comes to bail him out, dad is ranting that recent seismic activity in the area is mimicking whatever it was that caused the meltdown of ’99.

Despite his apartment being wallpapered with news clippings and pages out of a high school biology book, it turns out Poppa’s obsession is NOT evidence of insanity, as intrusion into the zone shows not a single Geiger to be counted! While there, dad and spawn are picked up by a security patrol and taken to the remains of the nuke factory, which now serves as a research base for a group called Monarch. Much like movie crazies before him, it turns out that Joe was on point about the environmental abnormalities and the wonky readings are actually being caused by Electro Magnetic Pulses launched by a big weird cocoon thing that looks like something out of H.R. Giger’s sketchbook. Of course, because movie physics, this is the exact time that the egg hatches and unleashes… Godzilla! Oh, never mind, it’s… the Cloverfield monster? Remind me who’s name is on the marquee of this thing again?!

The resultant destruction brought on by the Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism’s (or M.U.T.O.) birth claims the life of Joe, now leaving Ford as our de facto main character. Well, Monarch big wig Dr. Serizawa is pretty important to the plot too, but Ford is our everyman emissary for the ride, which includes being educated on Gojira, the origin of the M.U.T.O. (which becomes an M.2.T.O. When the original’s mate is introduced) and why Monarch didn’t just abort the big parasite in the first place. Though military forces proves ineffective against the creature, Dr. S believes that Mother Nature will correct this radioactive abomination herself, with none other than Godzilla serving as Her scale balancer! To quote the good doctor, “Let them fight”.

The biggest criticism levied against G2K14 is its lack of giant monster action. Despite the movie being named after Him, Godzilla proper doesn’t pop his head into the proceedings until well into the second act, and it’s only after the M.U.T.O. have started to rampage. He also doesn’t get a big, glorious reveal at that, just randomly popping up in Honolulu to throw claws. Meanwhile, Mutie gets the glory of being the monster behind the human protagonists’ collective storylines! Ever hear someone complain that Tim Burton’s Batman put too much emphasis on The Joker? Same goes here. As far as there being too much human story and not enough monster-a-monster? Godzilla movies are always about the human characters. It tends to make the movie flow better when you have talking characters pushing the story. Then again, there was that time in Godzilla Vs. Gigan (or Godzilla On Monster Island if you’re nasty) where G and his sidekick/buddy/bitch Anguirus actually spoke to each other (with word bubbles in the Japanese version and actual English dialogue in the US dub), and that’s something that never needs to happen again.

I’m going to be “one-hundred”, as the kids say, and approve of the end result movie we get. Sure, I was a tad peeved that the modern Brody family must eat Lucky Charms for every meal and have their pockets stuffed with four-leaf clovers given how impossibly fortunate the trio are throughout the devastation (Ford’s plot armor keeps him from being corpsed no less than FOUR TIMES), but I found myself greatly appreciating the awe-inspiring pedestrians’ eye view of the kaiju carnage. It wasn’t the nauseating shaky-cam shit parade we were shafted with in Cloverfield, and we were treated to wider shots of the colossal confrontation when the moments called for it, both big positives in my book (which is actually a collected omnibus of the entire ’70s Godzilla Marvel Comics series). Besides, after Monster, we’re lucky that Edwards gave these beasties as much screen time as he did!

Go watch it and you’ll get the joke.

Moral of the Story: Mother Nature can take care of Herself! Except, you know, when it comes to pollution and poaching and strip mining and clear cutting and global warming and… you get my point.

Final Judgment:

Four Godzookies out-of-Five



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