Just returned from seeing “Godzilla” and, Boy, am I confused! Here’s an actual line from the movie that sums it up: “You have no idea what is happening!”
I cannot refrain from writing something snarky about this movie. It cries out for snark. I would warn any of you who do not want your viewing of the film ruined that my snarky comments may contain “spoilers.” This assumes, of course, that you CAN spoil “Godzilla” after 9 previous attempts at bringing the Japanese “top of the primordial ecosystem” monster to the big screen. (And, sometimes, as in 1998, to the small TV screen).
Snarky remark #1) WHY was Bryan Cranston wearing the world’s WORST toupee? Doesn’t Bryan have normal hair of his own, now that he’s no longer playing Walter White on television? What was wrong with Cranston’s real hair? I can’t decide which was the more horrible hair treatment: this thick brown dog-like rug or the Obama chia pet plant. It’s too close to call.
Snarky remark #2) So many good actors. So little for them to do. By all means, stick us with that uncharismatic leading man nobody has ever seen before for 90% of the movie (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) when there are really good actors standing around doing nothing (or disappearing from the plot after 15 minutes).
Seriously, folks, Bryan Cranston, [fresh off of “Breaking Bad,” possibly the Best Dramatic Series Ever on Television] takes THIS role? What’s wrong with this picture? [Of course, Jessie Pinkman (Aaron Paul) didn’t do any better with his first film foray, a fast car movie that sank like a rock].
French actress Juliette Binoche, from the 2006 film “The English Patient” and 2013’s “A Thousand Times Good Night” (a wonderful film which I saw at the Chicago Film Festival last year) played Cranston’s wife for about 15 minutes. What a waste.
Or, what about Sally Hawkins? Say it isn’t so, Sal! She finishes co-starring opposite this year’s Oscar winner, Cate Blanchett, playing Cate’s blue collar sister in “Blue Jasmine,” a Woody Allen film (in which Hawkins also was wonderful). So, next film: “Godzilla”? Sounds logical— (not). [Please tell me it’s not ALL about the money!]
The wonderful Japanese actor Ken Watanabe (playing Ishiro Serizawa) who was in such great films as “Inception” (2010); “Letters from Iwo Jima” (2006); “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005); “Batman Begins” (2005) or, my personal favorite, 2003’s “The Last Samurai” (where he played Katsumoto), now takes THIS part? Watanabe mainly looks puzzled throughout. “Blue Jasmine’s” Sally Hawkins looks like she could use a stiff drink.
And then there’s David Strathairn, who was in both “Lincoln” and “The Bourne Legacy” in 2012, the excellent made-for-TV film “Temple Grandin” in 2010 and, for me, most memorably, played Tom Cruise’s ne’er-do-well brother in “The Firm” in 1993. He is reduced to playing Admiral William Stenz, and coming up with a lame-brained plan to defend against Godzilla that sounds like a military action designed by George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. Good actors are reduced to shouting lines like, “ARE WE AT FULL FUNCTION? TAKE US OFFLINE! DO IT NOW!” The poorly planned and even more poorly described or executed military defense against the mutant monster (“I guess we’re monster hunters now.”) makes “W’s” bombing of Iraq over non-existent yellow cake uranium look like genius.
Snarky remark #3: I did like this line, “It’s (Godzilla’s) gonna’ send us back to the Stone Age,” because, after “Godzilla” outings on film in ’54, ’67, ’77, ’78, ’84, ’94, ’98, ‘and ’99, I thought we WERE back in the Stone Age, if we’re still watching this giant lizard terrorize the populace. (And, let’s be honest: wasn’t half the original fun watching the dubbing that never matched the actors’ mouth movements? Good cheesy fun.)
There is only ONE survivor of the train disaster (Most Creative Use of a Train since the kids’ film “Super 8″)—who is, of course, Bryan Cranston’s son, Ford Brody (played rather wanly by a British actor no one has ever heard of, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, whose previous credits consist of “Kick-Ass” in 2010 and “Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging” (2008). [It’s difficult to know what this young actor’s name is, since it is listed as Aaron Taylor-Johnson, but when you look him up on IMDB, it says Aaron Perry Johnson.] After 14 months away at war as a Navy demolitions expert, Ford Brody, returns to Elizabeth Olsen, (playing wife Elle Brody and doing a good job), and his young son (C.J. Adams) but almost immediately has to jet off to bail Dad out of a Japanese jail.
Next thing you know, we’ve got MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms), or, as I like to call it/ them: Mostly Uninteresting Tyrannosaurus-like Oddities. There are at least 3 of them…and there’ll be lots more if the female gets to lay her eggs. What do they eat? Why, radiation, of course. What do they look like? Hard to tell. As the old song goes (hum along): “A big tail here, a big tail there. A big foot here; a big foot there; Here a tail, there a fin, show ’em o’er ag’in and ag’in.”
So, it isn’t until the odd monsters start fighting amongst themselves that we really get a good look at the entire clan. All I can tell you is that there is a creature very reminiscent of “Alien.” There are two flying horrors. There is a bear-like dinosaur-ish fire-breathing monster perhaps once seen swimming in Loch Ness. All of them are awkward and have trouble moving gracefully and, apparently, they don’t get along well—although why is not clear. (Watanabe murmurs: “Let them fight,” which is all the poor guy really gets to say; he mostly just looks worried.)
Here’s a line I enjoyed, from the botched military plan, proposed by Nit-wits #1 and #2: “This bomb we’re going to use makes the bomb we tried to kill it with in ’54 seem like a firecracker!” Of course, no thought given to the fact that detonating a nuclear bomb just off the coast of a major U.S. city (San Francisco) would probably not be a very good idea. Just what we need: another half-baked military fiasco, planned with no back-up Plan B, and depending on (drum roll, please), Bryan Cranston’s son, Ford, who has just returned from military duty, [so he isn’t even on duty active any more, but seems intent upon trying to get himself killed in either Hawaii, San Francisco or Tokyo]. The plot’s constant carping about how Ford Brody wants to return to his wife and child made me instantly think of Brad Pitt in “World War Z.” It was Brad’s insistence on a similar plot point that made THAT movie go waaay over budget when everything had to be re-shot, and now we have the same plot again. Only, this time, no zombies. Just MUTOs.
At one point, Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) announces that he can defuse a bomb in 60 seconds, which would have been helpful, since detonating an atom bomb that close to San Francisco would be a not-too-bright move, but then the young man falls asleep onboard a boat with the bomb, so good luck with THAT plan! My husband said poor Ford probably had a concussion. It looked, to me, like he just decided this would be a good time to take a nap, with the civilized world as we know it hanging in the balance, but I’ll give the guy the benefit of the doubt for now. (I do want to see the X-rays of Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s noggin before telling my spouse that he’s right.)
Are there no bright spots?
Well, I noted that John Dykstra’s name flashed on the screen, listed as helping design the awkward creatures. If you don’t know his name, look him up on Wikipedia, because he is The Man. I learned that the original score was composed by Alexandre Desplat, with Music Supervision by Dave Jordan and that it was recorded on Sony Pictures’ Barbra Streisand Sound Stage. (Who knew Babs had her own sound stage?) I learned that the film is dedicated to Richard Fowkes and Jake Foerster, who are almost as well-known as the film’s leading man, Aaron Taylor-Johnson. I learned that we bury our nuclear waste in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, which seemed yucky. I learned that the list of stunt people and digital special effects people working on this movie probably earned more than the combined GNP of several African nations. I learned that Godzilla maybe is “the good guy,” not the “bad guy, by film’s end?” [Although, if that is the case, why all the bombing and hostility?] I learned that they nearly blew up Oakland, California, but, if memory serves (from my college days at nearby Berkeley(, that would mainly take out tattoo parlors. (Please: no hate mail from Oakland; it’s a joke, Son.) And, ultimately, I learned that saying, “That’s gotta’ smart!” every few moments to my husband during a movie will eventually earn me a punch in the arm.
And, as my parting snarky comment, may I utter these immortal words, “Godzilla has left the building.”