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MeekinOnMovies On….Godzilla (2014)

Godzilla
Directed By: Gareth Edwards, 
Starring: Godzilla, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, and Aaron Tyler Johnson

Between the Roland Emmerich comedy…thing, and the Japanese movies
that haven’t aged well, for a time Godzilla was most valuable as an idea.
We saw movies that aped Godzilla’s genre for low-fi horror movies like
Cloverfield, or big budget, tonally bizarre flicks like Pacific Rim.
Even watching “Godzilla 2000” requires accepting it as a cheesefest and
not so much as an actual movie made with dramatic intent.

However, 
thanks in part to director Gareth Edwards and some deft directional
choices, it’s clear the King of Monsters is back, and anyone who wants
to take his crown better bring their “A” game.  

Since
Godzilla movies are a lot like pro wrestling in that they’re ‘fake’,
we’re
pretty sure we know who’s going to win, and in the meantime we’re hoping
to get a healthy dose of chaos and destruction,  we should take a look
at the under card. After a prologue sequence reminding us of all the
terrible things folks have done with nuclear weapons, and a short scene
with Ken Watanabe that may purposefully be similar to one in the last
Godzilla remake, the movie opens with Bryan Cranston at the center of a
nuclear meltdown in Japan that ultimately claims his wife.

Flash
forward a dozen or so years and we watch catch up with Cranston’s son,
Ford, returning home from the military, only to be forced to go to Japan
to bail his dad out of jail, who then reveals a massive conspiracy,
then they go to uncover the truth, and blah blah blah blah eventually
the secret is let out of the bag, and there are monsters in our world,
and they’ve woken up from hibernation.

Obviously
the plot isn’t important in the sense that we really care about the
characters or what they have to say, or how their world-view should be
respected, but the movie gives it an earnest shot and the results are
pretty good. Cranston has a wonderful bitchfest about his wife to a
one-way mirror, and Ken Watanabe looks every bit at stoic and troubled
as you would hope him to be – just a hair south of the point where he
would feel like a South Park parody.

More
important that realistic plot details is how these disaster movies
approach their world-wide atmosphere. The Dawn of The Dead remake
handled the world changing implications of its story by combining fake
news footage, a haunting Johnny Cash song, and footage of real riots and
violence to convey the world as we know it is over. Similarly,
something like Godzilla appearing would be a massive news story
world-wide, and it’s treated pretty well here, with constant news
updates in the background on TVs, including a very “Cable News” info
graphic of the monsters that landed a chuckle.  If these scenes didn’t
work, none of the stuff occurring in the movie would be all that
enjoyable or dramatic, because it’d feel like a fantasy movie with no
longer-lasting consequence.

There
are quite a few action sequences involving the monsters, including a
chilling sequence in Hawaii and a fun gag in Las Vegas. The highlight of
the movie involving non-monster-on-monster combat involves a sequence
on a bridge that is truly pulse pounding.  

Eventually
Godzilla, the two other monsters, the Army and their plan involving
nuclear weapons, Ford, and the wife he’s been trying to find the whole
movie collide in a Californian Battle Royal for the ages as Godzilla
engages in an inter-gender handicap match against his two foes. 

I’d
rate it about ***1/2 stars. It was fun and got the job done, but
considering the under card had so much world building and explaining to
do, it would have been impossible for the brawl between the three beasts
to deliver, and considering this is Godzilla’s first PPV in quite a
while, we all knew he had to go over and go over strong. 

What’s
nice is that even the heels get some sympathy and you understand their
point-of-view as well, which makes the whole brawl feel like an
inevitable confrontation than a staged fight, and the resolution a
solemn victory instead of a celebrated one. The way they turn Godzilla
face is clever, too.

Ultimately
if you like Godzilla movies or anything featuring giant stuff
destroying smaller stuff, this is a great movie to catch with a group of
friends for a matinee where you can chortle at the screen a bit and
giggle at the occasional portion that makes you roll your eyes. But
the joy in Godzilla is that those eye rolls come from a place of respect
as opposed to disgust or reaction to cheesy effects. It’ll be because
there’s a scene that made you scoff, or a monologue given to a naval
captain that felt a just a touuuchhhh too heavy for a summer action
movie, but you appreciate the effort and can’t wait to see more anyway.

 
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