June 3rd, 2014

Anne - What on Earth?

60 Years Old And Still Smashing Cities

            Years ago I did a review of movies just out on video, which I called “Amateur Armchair Review” because … why not? I stopped because the paper apparently no longer needed the filler, but you really miss me, don’t you? Go on, say it …

            Fine. I’m back anyway, because doing a regular review of new movies gives me an excuse to go see new movies. I’m starting late with “Godzilla”, the reboot of my favorite childhood monster movies. Instead of bad dubbing and a guy in a rubber suit we get spectacular effects and excellent production values, but I liked it anyway.

            Unlike the last American attempt at the franchise, which I didn’t hate but also didn’t like much, this version has the feel of a Japanese monster movie. That’s a compliment, by the way. The biggest criticism I’ve seen is that the main character just kind of floats through, letting things happen to him. That’s true. At least, it’s true for the main human character.

            Aaron Taylor-Johnson is Ford Brody, who reluctantly heads to Japan to bail out his obsessed dad, Joe (Bryan Cranston … why do they never give acting Oscars for monster movies?) Joe is obsessing over a nuclear accident that killed his wife years ago, and it turns out Joe is right that the whole thing is a cover-up … there’s a monster in them-there ruins.

            But the monster is not Godzilla, who at 60 was probably convalescing at the Old Monster’s Home. It’s a MUTO (don’t ask), a giant monster that happens to wake up just when our heroes break into the place. What are the chances?

            Things go south very quickly and soon Godzilla is chasing the MUTO, because he’s apparently employed by Mother Nature to bring balance back to the Force, or maybe I’m mixing up my franchises. Luckily Brody’s wife, played by Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen’s less scary sister Elizabeth, is safe with their son all the way across the Pacific, in San Francisco. The monsters will never end up there. Will they?

            This is not the perfect monster movie, mostly because I’m not getting a cut. It’s true Ford Brody tends to go along with whatever challenge tends to pop up in front of him—and he certainly isn’t as much fun as the 1998 “Godzilla” character played by Matthew Broderick, who along with a great cast was trapped in a movie with no heart. (Could that be related to movie maker Roland Emmerich saying he didn’t like the original Godzilla movies? That’s who you want making one.)

            Although Brody manages to save the day in the end—somebody’s day—sort of—I suspect his bouncing around was on purpose. Yes, he’s just trying to get back to his family, and later protect them, but his and all human activity is a subplot. (And sometimes not an interesting subplot.)

This isn’t about humanity, which to the monsters is no more important than ants on the ground being trampled during a fist fight. This is very much about humanity’s helplessness in the face of forces of nature that care not a bit what people do. It’s a dark film, very much a disaster movie, with absolutely mind-blowing special effects. But it brings back the spirit of the original films, in a way that’s hard to explain.

            And yeah, for all the destruction, it’s fun. Don’t judge me.

            My score, going back to my old review days:

            Oscar potential: 3 ½ out of 4 M&M’s, if only for special effects, or the score.
            Entertainment value: 4 out of 4 M&M’s. The good green ones.

           Next: I slice into the X-Men