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Movies Reviews

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) Review

Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Directed by Michael Dougherty. Starring some blocks of wood.

Spring of Sci-Fi #10

Godzilla: King of the Monsters, released in 2019 and directed by Micahel Dougherty, is unfortunately not good. You would think that a movie featuring Godzilla, King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan would be a fun sci-fi romp, but instead, most of the film deals with Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga’s divorce. I am fine with human drama being the center focus of a Godzilla movie, but it needs to be good human drama. The original 1954 Godzilla deals heavily with human drama and the effect that Godzilla (as a representation of nuclear destruction) has on humanity but this movie’s plot dealing with divorce has no thematic significance to the monster plot of the movie.

Five years after the events of Godzilla 2014, Dr. Emma Russel (Vera Farmiga) is studying the Titan Mothra. She lives with her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) who witnesses the birth of Mothra alongside her mother. After they calm the rampaging Mothra down with the Orca, a device that replicates the sonar frequencies of the Titans, they are kidnapped by Alan Jonah (Charles Dance), a former British Army Officer turned Eco-Terrorist. Madison’s father Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) is brought on by Monarch to help stop the terrorists who are hoping to destroy humanity to reverse the negative effects of the climate. After waking up Ghidorah, it is revealed that Emma is working with the eco-terrorists and is secretly the mastermind behind their plot; she wants to use the Orca to awaken the kaiju.

I have many problems with this movie, and most revolve around the uninteresting and one-dimensional human characters. This movie wants to be a human drama about dysfunctional families, and I honestly don’t understand why. Godzilla from 2014 has uninteresting human characters, but at least Gareth Edwards uses them to emphasize humanity’s insignificance to these beasts (who one could look at as representing natural disasters). The family drama in this movie in no way connects to the monster drama and battles. The character that should be our protagonist is Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe). Ken Watanabe, the actor who plays Dr. Serizawa, even made the connection between natural disasters and the monsters, but the movie doesn’t emphasize that theme. My only issue with this character is his send-off in this movie–SPOILERS AHEAD. Godzilla is defeated by Ghidorah and sinks to the ocean floor to revive himself, this revival could take months or years, time the world does not have, so they plan to nuke Godzilla, reviving him with what originally awoke him in 1954. Dr. Serizawa goes into the cavern and detonates the nuclear bomb, dying to save Godzilla. I’m sorry, but I find it completely strange that this movie uses nuclear bombs to help save the day. This completely disregards the original concept for Godzilla as a comment on nuclear war and destruction. Essentially, nukes save the day, and a Japanese man sacrifices himself with a nuclear bomb to wake the beast that represents the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I wish I could like this movie just for the fights, but that only encompasses maybe 30 to 40 minutes of screen time with nearly 1 hour and 30 minutes devoted to boring human drama. The fights aren’t even the best looking either, marred by shaky cam and weather. I feel like this movie doesn’t even begin to understand what it needs or wants to be. Godzilla 2014 aims to be a drama representing natural disaster; Kong: Skull Island embraces the campiness and is fun to watch; this movie does neither and is a chore to watch. I don’t expect this movie to be the classic that the original Godzilla is, but it could have at least had some fun with its concept.

Rating 1.5/5 (I’m being generous with this rating too)

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Movies Reviews

Godzilla (2014) Review

Godzilla. Directed Gareth Edwards. Starring Aaron Taylor Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, and Sally Hawkins

The Spring of Sci-Fi Review #7

We continue our look at The King of the Monsters with the 2014 American-made Godzilla, directed by Gareth Edwards. This was an enjoyable movie, but it doesn’t live up to the same quality that we see in the 1954 original. The original balanced the characters and Kaiju entertainment well, using Godzilla to tell an allegorical story about the destruction of nuclear war. This movie seems to try and follow the lead, balancing themes of human destruction with stunning spectacle, but unfortunately doesn’t live up to that promise.

The movie begins with clips showing Godzilla being sent back into the sea and the nuclear bombs that woke them. When then see two scientists, Ishiro Serizawa (played by Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (played by Sally Hawkins), who work for Monarch, which consists of scientists investigating Kaiju. The movie then moves to Japan following the character Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) an engineer who works with his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) at a nuclear power plant in Janjira. Unfortunately, Sandra is killed after a tremor causes the plant to collapse. The area is quarantined and everyone is forced to leave. We cut to 15 years later and Joe’s son Ford (Aaron Taylor Johnson) is a Navy officer returning home to his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen). Ford receives a call that his father has been arrested due to entering the quarantine zone and has to fly to Japan to get him out. After an incident at the former nuclear plant–SPOILERS AHEAD–Joe Brody is killed, and a Kaiju known as MUTO is released. From here we follow Ford as he tries to make his way back home to his wife in San Francisco.

An immediate problem with this movie is the number of characters that it tries to juggle. Like Gareth Edward’s other blockbuster, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, this balancing is unfortunately not handled very well and it leaves the characters one-dimensional and incredibly uninteresting. We spend most of our time with Ford as he bounces around the globe, but other than a few heroic acts–such as saving a child on a train so he can make it back to his parents–we don’t get to know Ford. If the movie spent less time on the characters and more time on the Kaiju action this would be less of a problem, but the movie wants the audience to see through the eyes of these bland and dull characters which make the movie’s two-hour runtime a slog sometimes. However, Gareth Edwards does pull it off in the third act creating an awesome fight between the MUTO’s and Godzilla that culminates in an amazing display of power from Godzilla. The creatures and their design are great, with CGI that is jaw-droppingly amazing.

Gareth Edward’s Godzilla is a flawed but epic monster movie. Edwards consistently creates interesting action sequences but is unable to create compelling characters that add drama to those scenes. If you are looking for some giant Kaiju fun check this movie out, but if you are looking for a more human drama mixed in with the Kaiju elements maybe just stick to watching the original. I know I had fun with this movie, but it was a chore in some parts.

Rating 3/5

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Japan Movies Reviews

Retro Sci-Fi Review: Godzilla (1954)

Godzilla. Directed by Ishiro Honda. Starring Takashi Shimura, Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi, Akihiko Hirata.

The Spring of Sci-Fi Review #6

Godzilla, released in 1954 and directed by Ishiro Honda, is a classic science fiction film. Godzilla is truly a landmark of cinema, a piece of history that has inspired numerous films that came after. The franchise that this film has spawned includes 36 films in total; 32 produced in Japan, and 4 produced in America. The most recent of these films is 2021s Godzilla vs. Kong (that will be reviewed on another day, today we focus on the original masterpiece).

Godzilla tells the story of a prehistoric beast awoken after an h-bomb test in the ocean. Godzilla serves as an allegory, dealing with Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s destruction after they were terrorized by nuclear bombs during the Second World War. The film dramatizes the toll that Godzilla’s destruction has had on the lives of the Japanese people. The movie begins with ships destroyed near Odo Island. A paleontologist named Kyohei Yamane (played by the magnificent Takashi Shimura) discovers not only a prehistoric trilobite but also a giant radioactive footprint belonging to Godzilla. It is at this moment that we get our first glimpse of Godzilla. The special effects created by Eiji Tsuburaya are legendary, iconically created a magnificent and terrifying monster that still presides over our screens to this very day.

Godzilla premiered at a landmark time for the sci-fi film. The sci-fi films of the 50s were inspired by the advancement made in science, as well as the destruction that it caused in the war close to a decade earlier. One of the things that makes Godzilla such a powerful film is the connection Japan and the filmmakers had to this destruction. The film serves as a cautionary tale and a reminder of the lives lost in this kind of destruction. Shimura’s Dr. Yamane gives a warning at the end, warning that as long as we continue testing nuclear weapons, Godzilla could rise again. We also get a representation of the nuclear conflict in the character of Serizawa (an excellent performance by Akihiko Hirata). He has designed a dangerous, and possibly a world-ending device that could destroy Godzilla and end his rampage, however; he is torn between helping rid the world of Godzilla but potentially awarding it a destructive weapon on the same level as the atomic bomb. His character’s arc throughout the movie is one of the most dramatically satisfying and helps give the story a soul.

The franchise Godzilla spawned ranges from serious to campy, but this first film is more than a monster movie, it serves as a reminder of the destruction caused at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the lives lost in its wake. Godzilla is powerful, awe-inspiring, terrorizing, and melancholic. It is truly a masterpiece that birthed The King of the Monsters, and he reigns supreme to this day.

Rating 5/5