Sunday, October 26, 2014

New(ish) Release: Godzilla (2014)

Director: Gareth Edwards

Pretty fun giant monster movie, though probably not one that would win over any newcomers to the genre.

This newest take on the classic kaiju, or "big monster," prototype is a solid one. It incorporates many of the elements of the original tale, while giving it a narrative and aesthetic update. Working under the idea that such massive creatures as the gargantuan saurian had lived and thrived tens of millions of years ago, the movie depicts their resurrection through human misuse of nuclear weaponry. The film doesn't get too terribly technical about the science part of this science fiction, nor should it. That's not what we're paying for.

What we are paying for is what the film gives you, though you have to be patient, and I was completely alright with this. It has often amazed me how few writers and directors realize the efficacy of the "slow reveal" approach in monster movies. Even after such great "monster" films as Jaws, Predator, Alien, and a handful of others, too few filmmakers give their audience credit enough to make a few demands of them, even if the film doesn't show its entire hand within the first 15, 30, or even 60 minutes of a movie. Godzilla has the confidence in itself that it doesn't need to show the beast in full force for most of the movie, which makes the last third of the film much more powerful.

If you are at all curious about the story of the movie, there's no real need to worry much. It's nothing that will insult your intelligence, even if it's not exactly the most creative of science fiction. Again, though, one doesn't turn to a kaiju film for thought-provoking, speculative science fiction. One turns to these movies to see awesomely huge creatures stomping through large cities and slugging it out with each other. This 2014 version of Godzilla completely delivers on this, though the aforementioned patience needs to be exercised. Once it all begins, though, it's a blast. It helps tremendously that the cinematography and effects are so well done that the viewer gets all the sense of scope and scale that is required. I can recall at least three excellent sequences, but I'd rather not detail them and spoil the surprise for anyone wishing to see the movie for the first time.

There are a few of these very well-constructed, H.R. Geiger-esque
sets. Unfortunately for me, they are hard to appreciate on a
smaller TV screen, despite the sharpness of blu-ray.
My great regret about watching this movie was that I didn't see it on the big screen. I did watch it on blu-ray, on my 45" TV, which has a nice picture, but it just didn't do the movie complete justice. Many key scenes take place at night or in dark caves, and it was difficult to make out the details of some scenes. And of course, the sheer size of the monsters is lost on a smaller screen.

If you've never had any interest in giant monster movies, this one won't make you a believer. I'm not a tremendous fan of the genre, but my casual interest is such that I enjoyed this one, just as I enjoyed Pacific Rim well enough. These two recent kaiju flicks make for a strong, modern double feature.