Kaiju in battle for Gojira-san so mighty ooaah!
Giant creatures threaten San Francisco and Kick-Ass is there to stop them!
GODZILLA 2014 reinvents reimagines regurgitates the King of the Monsters on American shores (and tries to take insidious credit for the property, with its “American Godzilla” tag – assholes!) Exemplary production values separate it from every single other GODZILLA movie ever produced (except maybe 1998’s lantern-jawed incarnation). The very first GODZILLA movie in 1954 (GOJIRA, Toho Company) was a cogent message against nuclear weapon abuse. Every other Toho Co. Godzilla production that followed was a camp excuse for daikaiju battle – ooaah! [Japanese cartoon voice, with big eyes and speed lines in background.]
2014’s “American Godzilla” is that second type.
The human element of every Godzilla movie consists of a Scientist, a Soldier, and an Annoying Kid. The Scientist is Bryan Cranston (BREAKING BAD), replaced in the second act with Ken Watanabe (INCEPTION); the soldier is Aaron Taylor-Johnson (KICK-ASS), and the annoying kid is represented by a tolerable little Japanese boy that Taylor-Johnson must protect on a train ride. Cranston must sacrifice his wife, Juliette Binoche, to a nuclear reactor; Taylor-Johnson is his son, Lieutenant Ford Brody (was the name Chunk Manswallow taken?), growing up with the pain of seeing nuclear funnels crumbling from far away, knowing his parents were working under them… The first scenes of GODZILLA 2014 are all about personal loss. Buffed Ford finds himself trying to save his dad, his country, and his own family (wife Elizabeth Olsen and son), battling creatures from the radioactive depths of Earth. And this time – they’re not wearing rubber suits…
It’s commendable that the filmmakers put this much production value and poignancy into the human-interest stories. Problem is: wives dying, estranged sons and reputations lost have absolutely nothing to do with giant creatures stalking the Earth. Every single thing humans did in this movie was utterly inconsequential to the actions of the giant creatures and their fates. Humans didn’t even have to BE in this movie! No matter that Cranston “discovered” creatures “talking” via EMP, no matter that Watanabe tracked an alpha predator from the depths of the ocean; it’s like discovering gravity – it’s going to function whether you like it or not and whether you can identify its inverse square laws or not. Likewise, when two eight-legged MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms) emerge to spawn, they will do so whether humans approve or not, and will walk through buildings and nuclear attacks to get it done. These creatures are the true meaning of Too Big To Fail. Literally nothing man-made can stop them, not even nukes, Mankind’s ace in the hole and Republicans’ answer to everything from oil wars to swatting a mosquito.
In this new zilla canon, scientist Vivienne (Sally Hawkins) explains these creatures were not created by nuclear activity – nukes were used to try to kill them in the 1950s. But the creatures feed on nuclear radiation – so how much egg do the atomic nations have on their faces now?
The awakened MUTOs seek radiation sources without any maliciousness toward the human species, not even acknowledging the humans around them at all; going about their business trying to subsist and mate – like you or I – and not doing anything “wrong.” And another giant animal is following them… [drum roll] Dr. Serizawa (Watanabe, named after the scientist in the original GODZILLA) identifies the daikaiju from eons past, “We call him… Gojira!” Did everyone hear that clearly? How about you guys in the back? What about you army grunts? You heard me say “Gojira,” right? Apparently not, as everyone immediately starts calling the alpha predator “Godzilla” –what the–?
When Vivienne explains Gojira is “from a primordial ecosystem,” Ford pipes up, “A monster!” NO, YOU IDJIT, she just said it was part of an ecosystem, which means it is anything but a monster. (A “monster” is a deviant, a departure from the genetic balance and natural order.)
Gareth Edwards directs, from a story and screenplay by Dave Callaham and Max Borenstein. Of course, the poor guys who invented Gojira/Godzilla (Tomoyuki Tanaka, Ishiro Honda, Eiji Tsubaraya) are not credited because there was never any contract back in those days to say that they had to be. Assholic Hollywood strikes again like a kaiju. (Makes you realize what a canny prick Stan Lee is – and what power lawyers he hired back in the day! – by attaching his name contractually to every single superhero invented by other guys.)
The creature design and effects are the best that supercomputers can spit out. The bat-like MUTOs and Godzilla’s soccer mom body are phantasmagorical! And the chilling sound design of Godzilla’s once-beaky roar now conjures images of a Kraken wrestling Dwayne Johnson. Computer graphic imagery has reached the stage where you can visualize anything in your mind’s eye and reproduce it onscreen. And – the best part – director Edwards leaves us wanting more. Not only do the creatures take their time to waddle into the film, their fighting is shown only in snippets from differing points of view; especially creative is the view through the smoky goggles of Ford as he parachutes down near the building-sized creatures. This is no boring dustup where the same things happen interminably, punching, biting, buildings falling down, etc. Every snippet of battle is consciously staged to look different from every other segment. (Calls to mind KILL BILL where the katana fights might have become repetitive were it not for the creative staging.) So when Godzilla eventually pulls out his dragon breath, it is a stunning surprise: from within a debris mist, we see his last tail-spike start to glow, then the spikes up his back start lighting up in succession all the way to his head, until he puffs out his chest, and in a chest-bursting roar a blue-white flame explodes from his mouth. (It’s more like Iron Man’s repulsor ray actually, as it doesn’t burn the MUTO but push her backward). This one-time sequence of light-up-the-tail-and-back is never repeated. Another time, he uses his tail to smash a creature into a building. Again, but once. On it goes like this, so that we are never prone to saying, “Seen it – do something else fer crying’ out loud!”
But you know what they do repeat ad nauseam? The Military (led by David Strathairn, looking like he’s about to break character and die laughing every time he says the word “Godzilla”).
America, you need to stop this love affair with the military. With their pop guns and inane strategies and idiotic jargon and toughguy poses, laden with military gear and their big dangling American cocks. All they do is shoot shoot shoot bam bam bam – and the kaiju remain unaffected. Not even trying to swat the military away like bothersome gnats, just completely unaware of the ammunition expended on their impervious hides. Definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So the insane military keep up the dumb work: “Another creature’s coming!” – shoot shoot shoot bam bam bam. Nothing. “Get the creature away from the bridge!” – shoot shoot shoot bam bam bam. Nothing. Fighter jets fall from the sky, tanks shoved aside like popcorn, battleships slide off his back, howitzer shells like whispers on the wind, nuclear weapons eaten like breakfast… just keep firing, idiots! Waste my taxpayer dollars. It would do us well to remember that old adage from skirmishes past: The military doesn’t solve the problem, the military IS the problem.
Dr Serizawa has the only sane solution: “The arrogance of man is in thinking nature is in our control and not the other way around. Let them fight.” Meaning the creatures should work out their differences themselves, solving the problem of wasted ammo and actually vocalizing what the Japanese figured since the first GODZILLA movie – the only thing that humans can do: watch these creatures fight in rubber suits from far away.
But why are they fighting? I’m betting no one (from audience to filmmakers) sensibly considered the motivations behind these creatures: firstly, Godzilla is NOT fighting to save Mankind, or for any altruistic reason, nor is he trying to destroy Mankind or eat cars. He’s fighting because – as Serizawa tells us, “Nature balances herself.” And we’re all on Nature’s side, right? Including Godzilla, so he must be a good guy, whether he knows it or not. We all support Life, as Nature does. We all want to protect endangered species “for the planet” (not that the planet cannot exist without Life, but we seem to arbitrate that Earth likes Life)… Are you still with me? So why then, are we so against the MUTOs having kids? Why are we supporting the animal who’s trying to KILL them? Maybe we’re going in for Tennyson’s ‘Nature Red in Tooth and Claw’? But since when has Nature’s credo been Kill Pregnant Mothers, over Life Will Find A Way? Never once is it considered that we should leave the MUTOs alone to breed and live free and happy. Because that would mean the eradication of homo sapiens. And we cling to Life as selfishly as every other species, so it’s a case of Kill Or Be Killed. Just say that once in your wretched movie and I’ll let you off the hook – but no! It’s as if the MUTOs are breeding to spite Mankind in some way; because they’re intrinsically “evil,” like the Joker or the Boston Strangler or Dick Cheney. Nature “creates a balance” when Life, Birth and Death circulate judiciously; Nature is thrown OUT of balance when murder conquers procreation.
In other words, Godzilla is the BAD guy.
Which means this holy zilla is following in the footsteps of his original predecessor in 1954, who was a true “monster” spawned from radiation that brought imbalance to the ecosystem. Like so many other villains (Magneto, Darth Vader, the Terminator, Loki), marketers convinced creators that retaining his villain persona would be bad for business, so he was revised as unwitting savior to Japanese humanity, much like “Gamera is friend to children!” In 2014, did these filmmakers in fact write Gojira-san as the bad guy? Obviously not; they are showcasing him as the good guy. Which means the film and its makers are as confused as the Japanese extras running blindly from their superimposed threat in 1954, trying to visualize what a whale-gorilla might look like stomping on their city.
The eeriest moment in the movie is the HALO jump, with soundtrack lifted from the monolith moment in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Snatches of Godzilla’s skin texture up close, unclear shots of creatures battling through the haze as skyscrapers rush up to meet us. The tone of the movie could get no darker and ominous. Then it’s downhill again as we follow the military poseurs and their big dicks.
The female MUTO is carrying eggs (her creature design looks suspiciously like Clover from CLOVERFIELD), so the military dispatches a train to deliver a nuke to the nest. She goes one better – fries the train and takes the nuke herself as food for her baby-num-nums. Great, now those ineffectual military knobs don’t have to break a sweat getting it to her. It’s right there ready to blow– wait, what are they doing? Oh, so now they want to take it OUT of her nursery and defuse it. Because – Hiroshima.
Okay – but there was NO PLAN to destroy the hundreds of eggs waiting to hatch? But weren’t they going to blow up the nest? No, they were using the nuke to bait the MUTO so they could, uh, draw it away from, uh… from what exactly? And even if they drew it away from no place in particular, how were they going to kill it? Nuke it? Even though these creatures simply absorb the explosion and eat the radiation? So what’s the plan again? Who’s on first? I don’t know?! – Third base!
So Lieutenant Ford and Captain Jockstrap and their lubed troop carry this unwieldy bomb away from the nest throbbing with eggs, onto a boat. If Kick-Ass didn’t stay behind against protocol to make a MUTO omelet, were they just going to let the eggs hatch and see what happened? A sequel maybe–?
Then they can’t open the Plexiglas casing on the bomb to halt the detonation countdown. They’re THE MILITARY MIGHT OF AMERICA and they struggle and whine like girls in the free-weight section of the gym, Uh! Euh! Unngh! Just – can’t – open – this – casing. If only there were some big strong men around! BREAK it open with a fucking crowbar, you dunderheads! They never do open the Superman-proof casing and Ford Kick-Ass nobly does his Bruce Willis ARMAGEDDON and decides to chug the boat out to sea so that the bomb can explode in his face. Being a military guy, I’m sure this is not the first time something has exploded in his face, nor the first time someone has made a gay joke at his expense. Now… remember these bombs are megatons, not kilotons, and will do infinitely more damage than Hiroshima’s Little Boy. How far out to sea does it have to be for San Francisco to be safe from radiation fallout? Oh, about 50 miles– So this useless bomb plot device, that came with no plan and no instruction booklet, explodes 5 minutes out to sea on a boat travelling about 20 mph. Do the math (I didn’t know there’d be a quiz!): that’s less than 2 miles out to sea. Meaning San Fran is now a radiation dump shrimp on the barbie. But it’s not, because – happy ending.
Or is it?
There’s actually more human drama – which is never shown – in the aftermath of the creatures’ destruction: Serizawa and the British chick may exchange smiles, Ford may be reunited with his wife and son, but imagine all the other deaths and injuries, hospitals overflowing, insurance companies denying claims, no way to get to work to feed the kids, health insurance denied to fix the broken spine, displaced from work, homes, countries, no transport, crime rate soaring, looting, rapes, government redirecting aid to corporations, Chris Christie hugging a black president – chaos!
Meanwhile, none of this makes any difference to the big guy, who has killed everything handily – without the slightest aid from puny humans – and suns himself on the coast, sleeping on flattened buildings whose owners no doubt wish they took out that Daikaiju Liability Insurance which Japanese corps were trying to sell them since the 1950s.
Then Godzilla wakes up and anti-climaxes into San Francisco Bay.[ooaah!]