Godzilla (2014): The Movie that Could Have Been Great

Godzilla 2014

Godzilla 2014

I came into “Godzilla 2014” with pretty high expectations. The trailer made it look as if it was a truly American adaptation of the original “Godzilla 1954” which dealt with the dilemma of advanced technology that could be used as weapons (Nuclear Weapons as the real life metaphor), how to deal with new life (Godzilla’s very existence) and what war does to people as witnessed in the survivors of Godzilla’s destruction and the scientist who builds the weapon that eventually kills Godzilla. It is a powerful film that is much more than a Kaiju/Monster film.

The film was good, but it could have been great. First I should go over what I liked, found okay and disliked about the film.

First the pros – Godzilla the monster was fantastic. The creature looks like a creature from another time and the sound editing surrounding it and the other monsters make it like they are actually on the screen. The special effects and soundtrack are truly fantastic (though Godzilla 1954 still has the better music). The scientist played by Ken Watanabe was also an amazing character who with his assistant kept me interested over the dullness that most of the other cast brought to the screen. His assistant was also very cool, I found myself wondering what brought them together? When did they start looking for Godzilla? What power do they have in relation to the military and governments? There are some great scenes that Ken Watanabe has with the military commander who played Dr. Lee Rosen on the great Sci. Fi. show “Alphas,” Where he argues against the use of Nuclear weapons. I wish this could have been the movie. Watanabe, his assistant, the military and government and of course Godzilla and the consequences of such a creature existing.

Okay – Bryan Cranston, Ford’s wife and the other Monsters besides Godzilla. Each of these characters and creatures full potential was not realized. They were minor characters and ideas…and not fully explored ideas either. Cranston’s character was clearly suffering from PTSD after what went down at the beginning of the movie, but that is never explored. He’s a plot device, just like the main character’s (Cranston’s son) wife was. They were better actors than the main guy, but the script did not give them much to work with at all.

Cons – The White Military Family^TM. This family that Ford the main character was a part of was one of the weakest bits of storytelling I’ve seen in a movie that had this much poured into it that wasn’t a Michael Bay, Oliver Stone or Roland Emmerich film. The trope they existed as is that to elicit emotion but to have no conflict besides survival. This is sad because any family is more complicated than that, especially a service member’s family. But I could see why it was done. It was the same reason the other directors do it. Trite jingoism that can trump up base nationalistic feelings because all the family (and main character) are is a plot piece. They aren’t supposed to be people, they’re supposed to be ideas…like the communist Martyr’s of the Revolution. Ford the main character was flat and was just there to be heroic and to be in places where action was taking place. He was a cipher and a weak cipher at that, as was his kid (which was a shame since young Ford at the beginning of the film had more depth). The movie didn’t need him or his family at all and they just detracted from the narrative and propped up base nationalism. Ford in doing this ended up serving the White Savior trope as well since he is the only military guy who (SPOILER) thinks to destroy the Monsters’ young since the Monsters’ parents are fighting and beating Godzilla until he does the act. Anyone could have done it and it took more of the wind out of Godzilla’s sails. Speaking of which, Godzilla wasn’t even the main point of the movie, he was a minor character which also made it a good and not a great film. The other monsters and the White Military Family^TM did nothing else but detract from what good narrative (Ken Watanabe’s character and his relationships over the course of the film) and action (The Monster Fight!) that made the movie good.

The film still gets a recommended from me.

But don’t go in expecting “Godzilla 1954.” Enjoy the minor characters who drive the film and the Monster Fight in the the Third Act. Godzilla’s arrival alone is reason enough to see this film. I would rate it 7 / 10.

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