Saturday, May 17, 2014

I saw Godzilla (2014)...

Gojira, better known on the English-tongued front as Godzilla, is back in a sprawling Legendary Films 2014 reboot; not that I really need to remind you of this. The behemoth's return is evident through every facet of the media, which naturally goes to reason. The Toho Studios brainchild is a sentimental favorite: a monster most of us have joyously grown up with. 

This particular retelling (directed by Gareth "Monsters" Edwards and story lined by Max Borenstein and David Callahem) initially presents the great one as a metaphor for an unstoppable force of nature. I suppose it only goes to reason that Hollywood would use that angle, which alas, is predictably tired. How many times must we be told that humankind is solely to blame for Earth's otherwise natural disasters, including Godzilla's emergence? Thank goodness, the concept isn't beaten into the ground for very long and eventually even gets turned on its head.

In truth, Bryan Cranston makes the latter easier to swallow, even if his character is prominent only in the picture's first half, but considering the plot's circumstances, that's where he's probably most needed. 

He plays Dr. Joe Brody, a physicist desperate to reveal a government cover-up: that radioactive monsters do roam the planet. He is obsessively lonely (especially in the wake of his wife's untimely death) and above all, sad and mad, offering a nice brush of "Breaking Bad", while also welcoming us to see through is eyes. Yes, the poor guy is significantly on edge, and even pulls his gallant son (Aaron "Kick-Ass" Taylor-Johnson), a Naval lieutenant and explosives expert, into his tormented zeal, but still for all intents and purposes, he could be you or me, giving the tale (while the compassionate moment lasts) a lovely, empathetic flow.

There are also other characters who eventually grab the reins from father and son, portrayed by the likes of Ken Wantanabe as the insightful Dr. Ishiro Scrizawa, David Straithairn as the level-headed Admiral William Stenz and Elizabeth Olsen as Lieutenant Brody's worried wife: all more than competent within the story's context, but let's face it, it's Godzilla we've come to see, even if he's again redesigned; but hey, that's a tradition we've happily embraced for six decades. Why the hell stop now?

At any rate, the military intrepidly swoops in to investigate (and hopefully halt) an ongoing string of monster-sprung disasters; and unlike in similar creature epics, the Armed Forces actually come across as refreshingly and realistically competent here. Also, as the destruction escalates, we experience Godzilla's steadier exposure, watching him become (as we have experienced in so many Toho classics) by no means our curse, but rather our grand defender. The let-down is, his presence is mostly insinuated and never consistently seen: a disenchanting minus, if ever there was one. 

To compensate for Godzilla's lack of visibility, it's his adversaries who enter the forefront. They're called the Mutos (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms): a duo of fiery-eyed, spidery "Cloverfield"-like things, of both genders, that have transformed from once existing monsters into more ghastly ones; one crawls, the other flies. (Pre-production sketches actually inspired some to speculate that the film's primary foe might be Godzilla's old, Cyclopean adversary, Gigan, albeit it heavily revamped, but more recent reports promptly squashed such fervid anticipation.)

Just as Godzilla is radiation's spawn, the Mutos actually feed off such; and though they are ultimately destined to be passionately embraced by die-hard, kaiju fans, they are, in truth, despicable, ruthless things: behemoth terrorists that won't--and shouldn't--gain an iota of sympathy for their destructive deeds, even though it seems they only wish to mate (but oh, what horrid consequences such would bring if left unattended).

Anyway, with the gigantic villains firmly established, most would naturally expect Godzilla to readily crush his foes, but just remember, the great lizard lost to Kong, Mothra's offspring and even when teamed with Rodan (another Toho favorite fans were hoping to grace this epic), kissed defeat via the evil, three-headed "Monster Zero" (aka, Ghidrah/Ghidorah). Simply put, in Godzilla lore, no outcome is ever assured. 

Regardless of the combative result (and I'm just trying to mount some suspense for those who haven't seen the film yet), Godzilla nonetheless spitefully rises as the yarn's stalwart hero: a legend still to be loved and admired. Yep, the enduring sentiment can't be ignored in this outing, even through all the hazy, special-effects jammed glory and unfortunate brevity of his screen time. Despite it all--Hallelujah!--our childhood buddy has returned once more, and by the time the end credits roll, only self-denying grumps will likely walk away dissatisfied. 

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