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Published May 18, 2014
I saw Godzilla last night and left with mixed feelings. On the one hand, there were kaiju, and they engaged in epic battle, on the other hand, not nearly enough epic battle. What the movie mostly consisted of was a lot of frustrating lovey-dovey pseudoplot involving Elle Brody (Elizabeth Olsen) crying that her husband Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is not at home and looking after their weird-looking kid, while Ford manages to jump from one military convoy to another (rather too conveniently) in a bid to return home, all the while the military is playing move the bomb in a bizarre attempt to force the kaiju away from the cities. Not to mention that Ford’s father Joe (Bryan Cranston), the only one whose acting chops might have carried the film through all this interminable faffing-about between monster fights, is killed off before the halfway mark of the film! Of course I should give credit to the character Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), the kaiju specialist of the film, as he is the only one actively encouraging the navy to stop playing hot potato with a nuke and just let the monsters fight already.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for human subplot, it’s just that in a movie that should be all about the monsters and destruction, they don’t get a subplot so much as dominate the plot! The film does a good job of teasing its way up to the big fight between Godzilla and the MUTO in the film, and the payoff was rewarding enough: Monsters knocked each other into buildings, radioactive fire was spewed, Godzilla flailed his tiny arms about, it’s everything we want in a kaiju film. The only problem was it was packed into the last thirty minutes. I like a good tease, who doesn’t? But in this case the lack of monster fighting action for the bulk of the film resulted in diminishing returns. The majority of the human interactions were flat, while Godzilla, King of the Monsters, plays second fiddle for most of the movie. There were too few moments where you really got to appreciate the awe of these monsters from the perspective of terrified pedestrians. There was one memorable scene where a MUTO destroys a tram, and Godzilla crosses the Golden Gate Bridge, but those were brief and fleeting. Cities were destroyed, but too often we only saw the aftermath rather than the process. Are we past the point where screaming and pointing Japanese people are entertaining?

Godzilla is a relatable character in this film; he sees a threat and he wants to beat it up. I get that. In a film where Godzilla is trying to help us out, he’s fun to root for! Why then does Hollywood feel the need to throw in shlocky love scenes and convoluted backstory? Pacific Rim also suffered the same problems, focusing too much on the daddy-daughter issues, stunted romance, and extra-dimensional broohah-hah to really sink its teeth into kaiju battling (and damn was I annoyed about how quickly the Chinese and Russian jaegers eat it!). If I go to see a movie like, say, The Expendables, I go there expecting to see a group of Hollywood action A-listers shoot up a bunch of people with guns. Is it too much then to expect in a movie like Godzilla to have the focus be on kaiju combat?

Maybe the screenwriters feel that American audiences aren’t intelligent enough to empathize with a giant lizard. Or maybe it’s simply just too expensive to pay for the special effects. If that’s the case, I vote we return to the era of men in rubber suits grappling with each other inside of model cities. At least then I know I’m going to get my money’s worth in destruction and raw power!

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