Monday, May 19, 2014
"Godzilla" (2014) - Expectations vs. Reality
If you've followed me long enough, then you probably know that I had a lot of expectations for "Godzilla" before its release. At one point, I said it was my most anticipated film of 2014 and I still believe that.
"While I was initially hesitant to say anything good about the new Godzilla film, due to the director who has only ever worked on one independent film, the newest trailer has convinced me otherwise," I wrote. "Portraying Godzilla with more power and size than he has most other incarnations is a good way to go. Starring Bryan Cranston, Aaron Tyler-Johnson, Ken Watanabe and Elizabeth Olson has me convinced that I’ll at least be excited to see the film. Will it turn to be an excellent rebirth to the classic king of the monsters? Or will it turn out just like the terrible 1998 film? We’ll just have to wait and see."
Looking back on everything I wrote about this film before it was released, I have now realized that it is important to see if my previous expectations were met. After all, the reason I do not go into a film with many expectations is because I know the movie will never live up to them and thus ruin the experience for me. This happened recently with "The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty," as the trailer made me want to see the film so badly, only for it to be mediocre and predictable.
But because it had been so long since we have had a new Godzilla film, and considering all the talent behind the movie, I felt it was safe enough to have at least some expectations that would get me excited for this attempt at reviving Godzilla.
One of the many expectations I had going into the film was its need to stay loyal to the source material, yet still do something different with Godzilla.
"Don’t just pay homage to the films that came before you," I wrote. "Try something that has never been done before with Godzilla. Give your film its own unique flavor. Above all else, treat the King of the Monsters with respect and grace. If you do that, I will love this film."
I said this because two of the previous Godzilla films, the 1998 American film and "Godzilla: Final Wars," felt like insults to the franchise and the character of Godzilla. While the 1998 film treated the beloved monster more like something out of "Jurassic Park" instead of a force of nature, "Godzilla: Final Wars" was supposed to be a celebration of fifty years of Godzilla, and proceeded to have the character in less than 15 minutes of the two-hour film.
I can gladly say that the 2014 film did not go down this route at all. Gareth Edwards understood where Godzilla came from, what he has meant to the world and how powerful he can be. When Doctor Serizawa speaks of Godzilla, he does so in a tone of dread and uncertainty, like he knows exactly what the monster is capable of and what he could do to humanity.
Godzilla is still the unstoppable force he has always been. Even though I'm dubious about making him the alpha predator, this is just another form of making Godzilla the ultimate symbol of strength that I've come to love. He is at the top of the food chain and only finds sport in hunting down other giant monsters, like the parasites.
To me, this is the ultimate form of respect and grace for the character.
As for giving the film its own unique flavor, we got that too. Once again, by making Godzilla the alpha predator, this is entirely new territory for him. While a monster film from the human perspective isn't new to the franchise, making Godzilla good and evil in the same movie is entirely new.
Godzilla has always been one or the other, but never both. He is either protecting mankind, or destroying it. My guess is that Gareth Edwards knew fans of the series enjoyed both sides to Godzilla, and didn't want to exclude part of the fanbase. So we get a monster who will block a falling building from landing on a group of innocent civilians, and someone who will fight the military and destroy the Golden Gate Bridge in the process.
This makes Godzilla more of a protector with an attitude. He will help us in our time of need, but don't mess with him or he'll fight back. Let him do it his way or else you might get hit by an atomic ray.
While I'm not sure if this is a good thing for the King of the Monsters, I can certainly say it is unique and something never done in a Godzilla movie before. Which is exactly what I asked for.
My other major expectation about this film was its need to recognize that Godzilla is a massive pop culture icon and that his legacy and staying power should make him the head attraction of this movie.
"My hope is that the movie does not forget this," I wrote. "That they don't rely solely on the star power of actors like Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe, and remember all the joy that Godzilla has given people over the years."
While there are many human scenes throughout the film, they are hardly the focus of the movie. Everything the characters do is to stop the monster or learn more about what his causing this tragedy to mankind.
They do not rely on the star power of Bryan Cranston, as his character surprisingly dies halfway through the movie. At this point in the film, we have not even seen Godzilla yet. The parasites have broken free and are now heading towards America, where Godzilla will eventually cut one off in Hawaii.
So neither Cranston nor Watanabe is the reason to go see this film. It may be for some, but storywise they are just pawns in the story of Godzilla and the militaries attempt to destroy the monsters.
Thankfully, Godzilla is the main star in his own movie. For that, I am grateful.
So, in the end, my expectations were met. I got exactly what I wanted about of "Godzilla" and I am happy about that. While I wish there were more monster action sequences and a more impactful story between Ford and his wife, this movie still managed to get me excited to watch more monster movies and prove that they can still a viable form of cinema.
So thank you, Gareth Edwards. Thank you for making a respectful movie that is both exillerating and fun to watch, while still doing something new with the character of Godzilla. You understood where he came from and why we watch him and made that the focal point. You have made Godzilla fans all around the world happy to be loyal of the King of the Monsters.