Most of us went through that phase in our life where we liked to break things. We would build big cities or towers out of Legos or blocks, and then we would walk through them like giants. With this in mind, the old Ishirō Honda and Toho films engaged with the audience on a primal level. They tapped into our childhood desire to see big things break buildings.
Indeed, that’s pretty much all they were. Godzilla (1954) was a parable for nuclear threats. But after that, the King of the Monsters became an excuse to feature massive kaiju fights and rampant urban destruction. They were pure escapism.
Edwards made a compelling little microbudget film in 2010 called Monsters. It was a sweet, albeit flawed film that set the kaiju as a distant backdrop to an ultimately human story about love. And like early Honda, Edwards used those creatures in a clever metaphor for a major social issue. In Edwards’ case, they represented immigration.
Godzilla (2014) unfortunately never finds its footing between these extremes. The campiness of the Toho films is crammed awkwardly into the seriousness of Honda and Edwards’ earlier work. The result is a sloppy, nonsensical homage to Honda’s legacy that lacks any genuine personality or thought. The human elements barely work, the script is lousy, the action is meager, and Godzilla doesn’t appear until an hour into the film. In sum, Godzilla is an absolute disappointment given the talent involved both in front of and behind the camera.
Verdict: Movie Meh
There are two major complaints floating around from Godzilla detractors. The first is that the characters are one-dimensional and uninteresting. The second is that there isn’t nearly enough Godzilla action. While both of these things are true, they aren’t weaknesses. They are the film’s greatest strength.
The human characters in Godzilla are thinly drawn, and there’s a good reason for it. When a giant monster comes crashing through your city, it doesn’t care who you are. It doesn’t care about your personality, or your backstory, or your complex internal conflicts. None of this matters for the same reason that the personal lives of ants don’t matter to you when you step on them. If these characters are bland, it’s because they need to be bland. The only character arc in this film belongs to all of humanity. We are forced to confront our insignificance, even on a planet we pretend to have dominion over.
Yes, the titular beast is held back for quite awhile. But it didn’t bother me in the slightest. For one thing, only seeing bits and pieces of Godzilla keeps the movie grounded in a human perspective for as long as possible. The size of him, both metaphorically and physically, is difficult to comprehend when he’s towering over you. And it makes it all the sweeter when we finally get a good look at him, and he roars our faces off.
Verdict: Movie Win
The following podcast includes an in-depth discussion of Godzilla, including spoilers. Enjoy!
You can either listen to our discussion online or by downloading it here.
Final Verdict: Movie Win
What did you think of the film? Did you agree with J that the movie’s pitfalls fall into a greater thematic framework? Or do you think Søren is right in saying it’s a largely nonsensical and bloated affair? Let us know in the comments!