Sunday, May 18, 2014

Godzilla (2014) Review

When you ask the Guaps what my favorite movies are you'll notice that the majority of my all time favs comes from the sci-fi/adventure genre.  (I group science-fiction and adventure because they follow similar formulas.  Note: I separate superhero movies and straight up action flicks from this genre.)  I love Back to the Future, Jurassic Park is my favorite movie, The Matrix is the bomb, Alien is a classic, Indiana Jones is the truth, and Lord of the Rings has a coveted spot in my movie collection.  It's not like I don't have a strong pallet.  Au contraire, I'm the guy you want to talk to if you're looking for a groundbreaking movie that will change your life.  I can pick out some nice comedies too if you'd like.  But today we're talking about a movie that follows a pre-historic "monster" that could possibly be real.  We're of course talking about the King of Monsters himself, Godzilla.  Now for those who don't know, Godzilla was originally inspired by the Japanese fear that the nuclear bombs dropped by the US in Japan could do some crazy shit.  I'm oversimplifying it a lot because I want to get to the review, but just know that the original Godzilla was very socially-conscious.  It wasn't until it got to the states that Godzilla became a simple story of beast vs city.  And that's how we got to older Ferris Bueller staring in the Razzie nominated Godzilla in '98.  But enough of history; let's see how this installment stacked up against the last dud and see if it reached my impossibly high expectations.

I don't have a problem with Matthew Broderick, I just don't think he should be a lead in this type of genre.  I did think this movie had some really good casting.  Bryan Cranston is never a wrong option for a movie.  He's versatile which makes his prefect for this type of movie.  And even though he's probably the best actor in the bunch he didn't overdo it and try to steal the show like some might have.  You have Ken Watanabe who brings consistency to this movie.  I've never been to a movie with Ken Watanabe in it and thought, "You know who really lowered the bar?  That Japanese dude."  Aaron Taylor-Johnson surprised me with his solid performance.  Now for those who don't recognize this actor by his name (I didn't), he's the guy from Kick-Ass.  (I know, right!  Minus points for his weird one-patch mustache.)  This genre of film is all about balance.  As far as acting goes, you can't throw that all out the window because you think CGI is gonna carry you guys home.  On the other hand you can't overact because it just doesn't look right.  I thought these guys did it right.  Here's something I learned just now.  (And I mean right now as I'm writing this.)  The girl who plays Taylor-Johnson's wife is Elizabeth Olson.  As in the recently discovered attractive sister of the Olson twins.  But back to my point: the great thing about this movie is that all the big characters (including Godzilla) get the right amount of screen time.

Speaking of Elizabeth Olson as the wife, here's an important note.  Future film makers: make your protagonists married with children.  Or at least just married.  Or divorced/widowed with a child.  It creates actual stakes in a movie.  If a bachelor dies in the film no one really cares.  Yeah his momma might be sad.  His dad might have a stiff drink that night.  His brother might ride his motorcycle into the night.  But no real stakes.  A married man with a kid leaves a lot behind if he goes.  (Formula works best if the kid isn't annoying a la Dakota Fanning.)   Gives us something to root for without having to rely on charisma.  It's not like it can't be done with a single guy, it's just a little tougher and you have to deal with a budding on-screen romance to carry the film and add stakes and tension.  I don't like this for three reasons: 1) it  makes the movie more about the romance than anything 2) in order for this to work the chemistry between the actor and actress has to be phenomenal 3) you know deep down that the catastrophe/adventure is the only thing that brought those two together and after the whole thing is resolved the couple probably wouldn't work out.  That kind of romance makes the hero's extraordinary actions simply motivated by him trying to get his D wet.  But Michael Bay loves to do this type of shit.  And now I'm getting off topic.

Basically this all comes down to writing.  The writing is the most important part of an adventure film because again, it's all about finding that balance.  You have to keep it simple and easy enough to follow but you want to give the viewer something intelligent.  You don't want to insult the audience by spelling everything out and making the movie predictable.  This movie was really well written and that writing is what keeps the movie moving forward.  It allows the audience to get captivated with the rest the movie has to offer.  It answers important questions while letting the audience let their imagination run wild.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes was the most comparable to this movie in terms of writing brilliance.  (Just so I don't look stupid, let me check IMDb real quick to find out who wrote this... Nope, the writer of this movie actually wrote one of the worst written current franchises to date, The Expendables.)  Another thing is sometimes movies take themselves too seriously when they shouldn't be and vice versa.  This creates a sort of identity crisis.  This movie knew to take itself seriously and that's why it worked.

As I was leaving the theater a thought came to mind: this movie, with all of its already great components, could have been ruined by the wrong director.  And the director that came to mind was non-other than Michael Bay.  I don't want to sound like I hate all his movies, but I feel like most of them would have been better without his involvement.  It's like saying I don't think Danny Granger is a bad player, but I noticed how much better the Pacers were when he was nursing those injuries last season.  Michael Bay would have doubled the explosions and made the whole movie about the action and used characters soley as comic relief and romance scene fillers.  He probably would have casted Shia LaBeouf.  I don't know why, but Michael Bay really made me upset today by his existence in Hollywood.  Again, I digress.  Gareth Edwards did a seemingly flawless job with this movie.  Everything just worked as he was able to allow the movie to be centered around characters while still letting his amazing visual effects serve as the backdrop to find, here it comes, the perfect balance.  And if you're looking for great city destruction scenes, I think these were good enough to crack this list.

So how did this movie do?  Compared to the Matthew Broderick version, better.  (A lot better.)  That's actually an understatement but that wouldn't mean much because 43 minutes of Bryan Cranston beat boxing and a six second blurry still of Godzilla would be better than Godzilla (1998).  I was no older than five when I watched it and I still hated it.  (That's saying something.)  The only thing 1998 has over 2014 is that in this new version Godzilla is looking kinda chubby.  Honestly I'm more scared of Ready-for-beach-season Godzilla than Freshman-fifteen Godzilla but other than that this new movie scored significantly better in every department.  (To be fair CGI wasn't what it needed to be in 1998.)  What really impressed me about this movie was the fact that it met and might have even surpassed my expectations.  When the first trailer came out I was excited as fuck.  I was telling everybody I knew that this was gonna be the summer blockbuster.  So the hype I already created for myself was already through the roof.  That's always a sign for upcoming disappointment.  But somehow, someway this movie rose to the occasion and if its sole purpose was to ensure I didn't look like an idiot.  (If Johnny Manziel can follow suit, that would be golden.)  Well thank you, Godzilla, thank you.  For a sci-fi/adventure movie, I give this a Guapisimo.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.  I am your host, El Guapo and it's always good to meet new friends.  Leave comments and what not in the section below.  I take all your opinions into consideration.  (Kind of.) Check out Godzilla, tell me what you think.  Maybe I missed something.  Follow me on Twitter @ELGUAPO3 and Instagram @CAPTAINCRUNCHTIME.  Until next time, stay Guapo out there!

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