Year Released: 2014
Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen
(PG-13, 123 min.)
Genre: Mystery and Suspense, Science Fiction and Fantasy
“The arrogance of men is thinking nature is in their control and not the other way around.” Dr. Ichiro Serizawa
Enough with the nuance. Godzilla is back, rampaging into theaters and chewing up the scenery as well as considerable portions of Japan, Honolulu, and the streets of San Francisco.
Hungry for a summer spectacle, especially after such a hard winter, the box office is eating up this Japanese Kaiju (“strange creature”) feature just like the greedy monster himself downs trains, planes, and automobiles.
Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) finally buys into the theory of his nuclear physicist father Joe (Bryan Cranston), that the government is hiding the true cause of a Japanese nuclear power breach that killed Joe's wife some 15 years earlier. Here is the official summary:
The government tried to destroy him in 1954, dropping nuclear bombs into the Pacific Ocean under the pretense of weapons testing. Instead, mankind, in its ignorance, awakened a new terror. Now, Godzilla rises again to restore balance as humanity stands defenseless.
While this new American version of the Godzilla franchise seems to please most of its avid fan base here and abroad, it is a bit disappointing to those of us who remember its original American premiere in 1956, which incorporated most of the footage of the 1954 Japanese made Godzilla along with new footage shot with actor Raymond Burr, aka Perry Mason from the yet to be released 1957 – 1966 television series.
Here’s a bit of history about that 1956 Godzilla:
Although a handful of independent, low-budget films had previously been filmed in Japan after World War II by American companies and featuring Japanese players in the cast, Godzilla represented the first to present Japanese in principal, heroic roles or as sympathetic victims of the destruction of Tokyo (albeit by a fictional giant monster) to the American public in a commercial release given A-picture status and bookings.
It was this version of the original Godzilla film that introduced most audiences outside of Japan to Godzilla and labeled the character as "King of the Monsters."
That 1956 film that set the standard for my better half, who is often the “voice of reason” behind many of Different Drummer’s reviews. In this 2014 release, he missed the emphasis on science and the methodical strategies used by the Japanese scientists to find the source of “the inexplicable menace” that was destroying Japanese fishing boats in 1956.
*Or to put it in his own unvarnished language:
We watched the original and first 1956 version of Godzilla last night and this new trashy optic trickery Hollywood make-believe cannot compare with the depth of the original.
It may be time to put us old fogies to sleep!
Still another outlier is Greg Gilman (not to be confused with the actual Gill Man from that classic, “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” I assume.) His article for The Wrap, entitled “5 Things Roland Emmerch’s 1998 Version Did Better,” is sure to raise the hackles on the collective fan base who mostly despised that film starring Matthew Broderick and as nerdy Dr. Tatopoulos. Here’s a summary of Gilman’s points:
1. Matthew Broderick had charisma and geeky charm. Aaron Taylor-Johnson only has a six-pack.
2. The 1998 protagonist had a set of clearly defined objectives, while the 2014 protagonist's motivation is all over the map. (Different Drummer, as well as Robert, one of our guest reviewers, also cedes this point.)
3. The nest mattered in 1998, and characters went to great lengths to neutralize it. In 2014, it is discovered and destroyed in the blink of an eye.
4. Matthew Broderick's love interest had a storyline and even contributed to saving New York City from Godzilla. Elizabeth Olsen does what again?
5.The Gojira (the Japanese pronunciation of Godzilla) name drop was Way Cooler in 1998 than that of Ken Wantanabe in 2014, who tosses the creature's name out there somewhere in between a dozen dramatic close-up shots on his worried face.
Different Drummer would also add that Ken Watanabe, who plays the Japanese scientist, Dr. Uchiro Serizawa, is a fine actor wasted in his part. He is reduced to pseudo-science gibberish, such as urging the military to let Godzilla fight the other two mutant monsters, presuming the Godzilla is a primal force of nature sent up from the depths to save mankind.
Also of note is the minor role played by Godzilla himself, as mentioned by one of my guest reviewers as well as critic Christopher Orr:
Godzilla handles everything the military hurls at him: ships, guns, planes, rockets, even a squadron of HALO paratroopers. The only thing that can cut him down to size is being relegated to a supporting role in his very own movie.
But enough from me. I now turn it over to my two guest reviewers, both attorneys and ardent Godzilla fans. They give it a thumbs up.
Peter, a not so secret Godzilla fan from Urbana, Illinois
The movie is well-crafted and suspenseful. The special effects are simply amazing, with gorgeous perspective shots from the director (shots bouncing off goggles, reflections of the monsters fighting in the distance, etc.)
While the human drama suffers when Bryan Cranston's character passes, that really only prevents the movie from being a more of a success.
Throw-away characters are part and parcel of Godzilla/Kaiju movies anyway, as it is the degree and quality of the monsters and destruction that really matters.
Ignore the painful hospital phone call scene, some of stilted military dialogue and the reunion scene at the end of the movie, and just call it a wonderful return to the screen of the King of the Monsters.
Robert from Los Angeles, CA, also a life-long Godzilla aficionado.
1. I really liked how the movie tended to follow the traditional formula for Japanese Godzilla sequel movies. These movies introduce new "kaiju" or monsters - and I thought the Kaiju in this movie were pretty darn good, especially when they were destroying Vegas.
2. It also did a pretty good job of building up a drama that weaves in the appearance of the Kaiju and that leads up to a climatic battle scene at the end, which is part of the Japanese Godzilla movie formula.
3. It was nice to see this Godzilla formula with advanced special effects, and to see multiple U.S. cities destroyed, Honolulu, Las Vegas and San Francisco - as the big lizard has already destroyed most Japanese cities in previous movies and those cities, other than a few landmarks, tend to look the same, so the new landscape was interesting and very familiar.
4. I thought that making Godzilla the hero, like he is in many Japanese versions, was a very wise choice and sets up a nice possibility for more movies.
5. There was not enough Godzilla. The battle scene was a tad short - so it diminished the build-up. Maybe there should have been a round 1 battle scene, and then re-match, which happens a lot in the Japanese versions. At least Godzilla finally breathed fire because I was holding my breath for a while, thinking that this will be a lame Godzilla without the fire breathing.
6. Although it was very positive to see action take place in Japan, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Lone Pine, and San Francisco, it was somewhat annoying that the Main character (the Marine) had a knack of being in the exact place where the monsters where attacking and then he possessed James Bond-like survival skills. I was kind of hoping he would be squashed by the end. It's one thing if the Marine happened to be in the area where the monsters were, or better yet specifically traveled there - but to be in the victim zone by chance was a bit stupid. In the other G-zilla movies, the characters would specifically travel to those areas (and it helped that Japan is small) with a specific purpose, such as being scientist or actually on duty with the military to deal with the monsters.
Or in other words, a great spectacle to usher in summer fantasies. And plenty of fodder for Godzilla Geeks to quibble over, myself included.
Whichever of the 28!!! films this Japanese monster has spawned, his name is synonymous with super sized monstrosity. Different Drummer recently called Marley a “Dogzilla,” while all new brides try hard not to morph into “Bridezillas.”
Soon the kids will be off for the summer and you know they will be hungry little buggers in need of something to keep their hands and mouths busy.
What would be better than these Godzilla Cookies. No, they are not stuffed with cabbage or Chuno sauce, but with kid pleasing ingredients like butter, brown sugar and chocolate chips.
These scrumptious cookies are Godzilla like in size only.
Godzilla Cookie Recipe
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter, brown sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed about 3 to 5 minutes until mixture is creamy and has turned almost white. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread dough evenly onto a parchment paper-lined 14" round pizza pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until edges turn golden. Let cool for 10 minutes in pan before removing. Cool completely.
*An update from my Godzilla experts: The original Godzilla movie is equivalent to Citizen Kane and the others that follow it are trivial in comparison. The guest reviewers are not comparing the 2014 Godzilla to the original, which is apprently sacred ground, or to quote Robert, "...the sequel Godzilla movies should not be mentioned in the same breath as the 1954 Japanese Godzilla movie." Different Drummer was also referred to the original 1954 Japanese Godzilla film, not the American one that "added cheezy American actors (Take that, Raymond Burr!), replaced the score, and chopped up the movie to satisfy American drive-in audiences."