Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla Isn’t The Same Monster Many Of Us Grew Up Watching, Which Sometimes Isn’t A Good Thing
In The Beginning…
I remember when I was growing that I spent many Saturday afternoons in front of a television, watching monsters like Gamera, Mothra and Godzilla. They tended to have come into being due to the hubris of Man, as well as our tendency to use nuclear weapons, which inevitably got out of hand.
Though Mothra was most interesting because, besides being a giant moth, it was summoned by these two tiny women. And by ‘tiny’ I mean literally small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, which made no sense at all. Then again, Gamera could not only breath fire, but when he retracted his legs, arms and head into his shell he was capable of flight. So really, can I complain about two micro-women all that much?
The first movies that dealt with both Gamera and Godzilla were fairly serious things, seeing that they were analogies about the dangers of nuclear weapons (which makes sense when you take into account Japan was the only nation that was attacked using them).
So if anyone was able to comment upon such things with authority, it’s the Japanese.
But a funny thing happened…as the adventures of Godzilla continued, they got goofier. And when I write ‘goofy’ I mean that when Godzilla wasn’t throwing karate kicks, seemingly held aloft by his massive tail or talking smack at MechaGodzilla (via hand signals and attitude), he was hanging out with a baby Godzilla who instead of breathing fire, breathed smoke rings (unless you stepped on his tail, then look out).
So maybe it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla is deadly serious. There’re virtually no smiles to be seen anywhere, though speaking of missing things, where’s Godzilla?
According to Edwards he delayed revealing his interpretation of Ishir¡õ Honda‘s monster because he was trying to heighten suspense, though I am not sure that I believe him because who’s on the screen when Godzilla isn’t?
At first it’s Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody, who discovers hints that there is a monster beneath the nuclear power plant where he works. He eventually loses his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) as a result of the creature, and is never quite the same. He has a son, Ford (as a youth played by CJ Adams, and an adult by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who grews up to dislike his dad because he held him responsible for his mother’s death.
Joe Brody died relatively early in the movie, so we’re left with Ford, his wife Ellie (Elizabeth Olsen) and various interchangeable military figures, and still no Godzilla. And while Taylor-Johnson has screen presence, and is relatively easy on the eyes, the name of the movie isn’t Joe Brody, it’s Godzilla.
Another reason that Gareth Edwards took such an approach was because of movies like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. But the thing is, Godzilla isn’t a shark. It can come out of the water as easily as it can swim through it. When sharks to that, it’s called ‘beaching,’ which is more often than not, fatal.
What Godzilla most reminded my most of was Guillermo Del Toro‘s 2013’s film, Pacific Rim, if you took away the interesting characters (as much as some may say that while Charlie Hunnam’s Charlie Becket may have had a few problems with maintaining an accent, he was a lot more interesting than Taylor-Johnson’s Joe Brody) and the apparent love for the world being created. And while Pacific Rim was also a lot more fun, Godzilla was a bit of a slog at times.
Though that’s not to imply that there weren’t any clever ideas. A particularly good one was that Godzilla was essentially an antibody, summoned by the Earth when it felt itself threatened.
Another odd thing is that Godzilla, visually speaking, looked really bloated. I read a few months ago that some Japanese viewers thought that he looked find of fat. I assumed that the they were just being silly, but having seen he movie, they were right.
Another thing was that Godzilla moved sluggishly, which was really odd because it’s not like this version was a guy in a rubber suit.
Pixels can be made to do anything, which makes me wonder why he wasn’t more agile.
Another things is that, while the 2014 version of Godzilla breathed radioactive fire (as the Universe intended) it appeared less like flame than a thick whitish-blue lazer, which was a bit disappointing.
Roland Emmerich‘s 1998 Godzilla was pretty mediocre (it didn’t help that it was apparently a mutated iguana and didn’t breathe fire) but in it’s own way that movie was much more engaging than the most recent version.
That’s partially because everyone is so deadly serious. I am not implying that, tonally speaking, that it should be silly. Then again, the Japanese version (with the exception of the original movie, where Godzilla actually died) at least came to understood how silly the entire premise was, and went with it. And the way that Emmerich’s monster moved! It was quick, agile, not lumbering and stiff.
Verdict: The Gareth Edwards’ version of Godzilla is interesting for Godzilla completists, but I am not entirely sure that the average Joe would appreciate it.