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!