Tag Archives: 3D

Godzilla (2014)

Never have kaiju been so loud, so big, and so bad.
(And did I say LOUD? And BIG? And BAD?)

And never have some of the best actors in the industry been so wasted.

I wasn’t expecting a character drama, not at all; I was just looking for some hardcore monster-on-monster cagematching; but as Pacific Rim showed, a small, small investment to make your characters distinguishable from each other goes a long, long way. THAT movie wasn’t high drama either, but at least I had a sense of who people were and what they wanted, and it enabled me to care about what happened, mourn over the losses, laugh at situational humor.

Godzilla only really has one character whose motivations you understand, and that doesn’t last long; and the rest of the characters are just filler. David Strathairn? Elizabeth Olsen? Ken Watanabe? Juliette Binoche? Bryan Cranston? Wasted or close to it. You could have cast this movie with nobodies and it would have trawled in the same box office haul, and the movie would not have been any worse for it.

(But it’s so LOUD! and BIG! and BAD!)

And no, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is not a bad actor in his own right, but his character here is just debris bounced from disaster to disaster, with little motivation of his own (except maybe “Homeward Bound,” kaiju eiga style). Which leads to probably the biggest reason why none of the human element worked:

The movie is not about the people, it’s really about the monsters — yet they spend 75% of the movie on the people without doing much with them.

The people never are able to stand in the way of the monsters, their efforts are obviously pointless from the start. Humanity’s only hope is Godzilla… and he shows up on his own to kill the other kaiju in order to “balance out nature.” He’s like starvation to an overpopulation of deer or a bolt of lightning to balance out electron quotas — the naturalistic deux es machina trashing the behemoths that humanity cannot, and he comes, he conquers, he descends to the ocean depths in glory at will, and one day he shall come again to judge the living and the dead kaiju alike, selah and thanks for all the fish.

(And “Gofira” is also terrible at cleaning up after himself, you’ll need one hell of a pooper-scooper… but I digress.)

((But wow, did I say it was LOUD? and BIG? and BAD?! ))

Godzilla is in essence the anti-Cloverfield. Cloverfield is in essence a love story using a city-razing monster as a backdrop, so keeping the monster hidden makes sense  and increases tension. Godzilla is really a monster movie that tries to use a love story as a backdrop (Dad wants to get home!), yet much of the movie focuses on Dad’s wanderings rather than on the Daddy Monster of them all. MOAH MONSTAH PLEEZ.

I still dream of a 90-minute IMAX 3D extreme-combat bonebreaking downtown-trashing smörgåsbord of destruction.

PS. Was that a handful of Zip disks being portrayed as antiquated technology? Oh horrors!

2.5/5

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Amazing Spider-Man 2

ASM2 seems to be one of the most heavily reviewed movies out there right now, being at the start of “blockbuster” season before the glut, but individual responses almost seem dependent on coin flips: Rotten Tomatoes seems split pretty much down the middle, and for every reviewer that hates this movie, another one enjoys it. I admit how disconcerting it’s been to read reviews that take an axe to the same ideas and scenes I found myself appreciating.

Where did it fall for me? No, it’s not a classic within “genre movies” like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, or Wrath of Khan; and it’s not as solid as Avengers or Iron Man; but I still enjoyed it my viewing of it in the IMAX 3D. The opening sequence (a semi-routine Spidey heist-chase) is one of the best. And in this movie, Garfield continues to expertly convey the wisecracking variation of Spider-man, along with Peter’s skills as a gearhead… something Maguire’s version veered away from.

Some of the more personal scenes were moving enough to tear me up. Sally Field might not look like Aunt May in the way Rosemary Harris did, but she’s far more able to move me with the transparency of her agony over her evolving relationship to Peter and his own complexes. There is some great directing work when Harry and Peter meet for the first time in years and the mood has to shift abruptly from that awkward distance between long-separated friends to reexperienced comraderie.

And of course, it’s amazing how Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield can construct a realistic relationship through the intimate rhythm of their banter with dialogue that, on paper, is rarely ever a completed (even half-completed) thought. I believe they love each other when I see them — I believe so much. They’re like two parts of the same person, they can’t help but be together.

I didn’t mind flashbacks to Gwen’s dad (since a neurotic Peter who doesn’t deal directly with his emotions would necessarily be besieged through his subconscious by broken promises). I didn’t mind that there were in total “three supervillains” in the movie because none of them were on screen at once; only one is the primary villain, another’s predictable development is tracked steadily throughout, just in time to appear for a brief but significant encounter; and the third villain plays the same role that the Underminer did in The Incredibles, so he doesn’t even really count as being in the movie. I didn’t mind Electro’s plot arc, which if you break it down to the basics, is pretty similar in beats to Doc Octopus’s in Spiderman 2 [bad accident, recuperates, first encounter, villain hones his goals, final encounter]. And all these characters had clear and reasonable motivations for their behavior — you see it all unfold onscreen.

I didn’t mind that the movie also toyed with the resolution of Gwen Stacy and her romance with Peter. You pretty much have to live under a rock to remain unaware of the plot spoiler from the comic series, so it’s inevitable that you’ll start the movie feeling some anxiety. The movie plays with this, consciously. But every time it bluntly foreshadows one outcome, it’ll renege a bit later, leaving you wondering whether (a la The Walking Dead) a character’s fate on the big screen can truly be set in stone on the pages of a flimsy comic book.

I had a few regrets, one being that Chris Cooper got barely any screen time. (That guy is just too damn good to be resigned to a cameo.) Another was Kafka, the mad scientist who seems so much a cliche — although, if you’re a comic fan, you’ll recognize that name as being from the actual book. The “crossover clip” in the credits really came out of left field. The board meeting scene was pretty sketchy, writing-wise. And so on.

But like I said, it’s not high art. It could have been better, yes. But it doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable for me, or that I couldn’t see moments of perfection within it. I came to see an action picture that would also move me on occasion with some authentic interactions among the cast, and that’s what I ended up getting. But there were things here that should remain burned into Peter’s psyche in regards to all of his important relationships, and I expect to see them followed up on in ASM3 if there is to be authenticity.

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Turbo (3D)

The idea of a snail “going fast” (enough to compete in the Indianapolis 500) is a nicely amusing one, but a great high concept is only the first part of a successful movie.

The positives? Turbo 3D looks beautiful. The colors are remarkable. The 3D is vivid. The shots of the yard and garden are breathtaking. The crows really look like crows. Turbo also looks rather cool zipping around, with that blue nitrous oxide trail highlighting his wake, even if the science involved there belongs on Amazing Spiderman 2 this May and not really in high-school bio lab.

The negative? There’s nothing unexpected here, you pretty much can predict every beat of this by-the-numbers story… it even steals from Talladega Nights (which was a more dramatically interesting movie, sadly). Nothing is really “wrong” with the movie, but nothing really stands out either. It’s one of those animated movies that kids who like fast things will enjoy watching to pass the time, which is why Netflix also made a series out of it, but it’s not really something that sticks in your heart and soul. There’s a conscious attempt at multiculturalism (Hispanic), but it all seems to focus on the cosmetics.

Still, the final lesson — that in the end, it doesn’t matter what powers you have, it just matters (win or lose) that you gave something everything you had, the victory is found in one’s will to persevere — is a good lesson to come away with.

3/5

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