BY ERIN TORRANCE
Heading to the theatres last night, I was eager—and quite nervous—to see Godzilla, starring the genius Bryan Cranston. You see, it was cheap night at the movies and I was running late, scared I would have to sit in the front three rows and be miserable and nauseous as I dealt with the 3D aspect of a film I was so excited to see. Luckily, I made it in time for the prime seats in the middle, not too far from the back.
When the film finally began, I sat back and enjoyed the ride. The monster flick exceeded my expectations—but then again, what was I expecting? Loud noises, special effects galore, a slightly funny-looking monster (I’ve always felt Godzilla was a bit of an awkward guy), and an astounding lead performance by Cranston. Notice I didn’t mention anything about plot details or even dialogue… It was a monster movie; I wanted monsters. And that’s exactly what I got.
But not all of my expectations were met–I can’t mention too much about which ones without spoiling the film, though. So speaking more generally, these moments of disappointment tended to happen when the film just couldn’t let a character see what seemed like a natural fate. There was one exception, but it seemed like fate came in the blink of an eye for that character—a missed opportunity to add some depth, emotion and real drama (meaning, not monster drama) to the flick.
Adding to this, some moments in the film may feel like they’re being shoved down your throat. The filmmakers seem to touch on ideas or issues, then immediately resolve them without giving the audience the opportunity to come to certain conclusions on their own. There are times when this may be true, when the depth of the film could’ve benefited from a little lingering or a slower build, but what it comes down to is—well—monsters. Do you really care whether you’re prompted to think a little harder when Godzilla is slamming a MUTO against a skyscraper? Depends on your style, but for the most part, I didn’t mind having the work done for me.
I did feel as though many of the characters delivered weak performances, including the infinite gazer Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and his apparent talking head (assistant) Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins). But to be fair, all the characters were rather cookie-cutter roles, even Cranston’s Joe Brody. But then again, looking at these characters through the monster film lens, they’re filling in aspects that are expected in a film like this, so it’s easy to dismiss the lack of dimension as just another feature of the genre–the characters aren’t meant to be the focus. And that’s something that could be said for the simple dialogue and push-and-pull, barely-move-anywhere story, too. (There is a definite beginning and end to this film; it’s the bits in between that come across as indecisive and/or contrived.)
In a conversation with my brother prior to the movie’s release, he pointed out how the world of special effects and computer generation has finally caught up to the story of Godzilla, how he believed it was prime time for this flick to make a comeback. (I suppose it’s somewhat similar to the reasons why James Cameron waited since the 90s to make Avatar, waiting for technology to catch up to his intentions for the film, rather than producing a less-than-impressive film with what was available at the time.) I think my brother was right; Godzilla’s monsters were legitimate, losing most of their campiness through a little bit of code ($160-million worth of it, though). The film industry wasn’t ready for Godzilla sixty years ago; it is now.
In the end, the Godzilla remake is a monster movie (I’m not an expert in the kaiju genre, so I can’t say a whole lot to that end); those expecting to be entertained (not provoked) will enjoy the ride.