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Godzilla Goodness: GODZILLA (2014)

In the 32nd and final installment in Nerdist’s Godzilla Goodness, we look at the most recent film in the series, the American-made 2014 film, and the first (perhaps) in a fourth Godzilla continuity.

It has been ten full years since the last Godzilla film, making it the longest gap between Godzilla films in the series’ 60-year history. It’s the second Godzilla film to be made by mostly Americans and using American money. It’s the third longest in the series, and definitely the most expensive. It’s one of the only films to be rated PG-13. It’s tempting to compare Godzilla 2014 to Godzilla 1998 in these regards, and while there are similarities (worldwide cast, an attempt to make the film more about the human characters, etc.), Godzilla 2014 bears a closer resemblance to something like The Return of Godzilla, or Godzilla 2000 in its bold new statement of a new Godzilla mythos.

This new Godzilla pays homage to original, but creates a new origin story for our favorite monster from scratch. This new Godzilla was an ancient deep-sea dinosaur that feeds on “radiation from the Earth’s core.” The nuclear bombs did not create it; this Godzilla simply evolved that way (as evidenced by over-credits shots of pages of The Origin of Species), and the nuclear bombs he encountered were actually part of a secret military strike against him. Once again, we’ve wiped the slate clean and removed all other monsters from the Godzilla canon. Although there is a cute reference to Mothra.

Godzilla 2014 coming

The new Godzilla design is pretty cool. The tendency throughout Godzilla history is to make him more and more animal as time passed. In 1998, we was essentially a giant iguana, and even the Millennium Godzilla was more hunched and wicked-looking. This new Godzilla is thick-bodied, snub-nosed, and walks bolt upright again. It’s a good design, although it would have been nice to see a man in a suit play Godzilla, however impressive the CGI effects are in 2014.

There is a new monster enemy in the Toho canon: a giant, flat-headed insectoid nicknamed MUTO by the U.S. military. Humans accidentally hatch a MUTO cocoon, and it immediately begins rampaging. MUTO can strike its massive spindly leg against the ground and cause an EMP pulse, making all nearby machines inert. That’s a neat power. When a second MUTO, a much larger female, also hatches out of captivity, Earth’s favorite monster bouncer has to rear up out of the sea to destroy them both. There are many shots of Godzilla swimming and lurching up out of water.

Here’s a frustrating thing: Not enough monster mayhem. The filmmakers clearly wanted to make this a human story, and have eschewed a lot of the more exciting monster stuff to depict various human characters running around on various quests to set off bombs, hide in hospitals, and deal with the military. The cast includes Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins, Ken Watanabe, and our bland leading man, Aaron Taylor-Johnson. There is was too much human backstory, and Godzilla doesn’t show up properly until what seems like over an hour into the film. By the time this Godzilla really gets chugging along, most Godzilla films would have been over for ten minutes.

Indeed, a lot of the monster mayhem is simply not shown. There is a scene where MUTO approaches the Las Vegas strip, eager to wreck stuff. But rather than a fun and awesome scene of the monster knocking over famous landmarks, the film cuts quickly to the immediate aftermath of the monster. When Godzilla first appears, he does so to fight MUTO. There is a dramatic shot of Godzilla finally standing up and roaring. And what happens then? We immediately cut to news footage of the fight’s aftermath. Also, we’ve been waiting this whole film to see Godzilla fight another monster in a giant battle royale to the death. And what happens when the two monsters are finally shown clashing on camera? A character closes a door in front of the camera, obscuring our vision of them. I didn’t come here, sirs, just to have someone close a door in my face right when Godzilla was biting another monster.

Godzilla roar

Otherwise, the monster stuff was pretty fun, and we have radioactive monster eggs, a flaming train chase, and a lot of other cool kaiju film visuals along the way. What’s more, Godzilla himself seems to have his old personality back; he’s again the badass bouncer and protector of humanity. He fight evil monsters because he’s gonna restore balance, bitch. This film is certainly more in the spirit of Godzilla than the 1998 American film. Overall, it falls somewhere in the middle of the Godzilla canon in terms of its quality. It’s a well-made film, but I felt like, now that we’ve established this new monster, we can once again head toward more outrageous monsters, better-lit fights, and a well-known relationship with an old friend.

Thanks for reading Godzilla Goodness, friends. Skreeonk. We’ll see what the big guy has in store for the future.

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7 comments

  • I totally agree! I loved this movie, but the constant cutting away from the monsters and fights was really really really lame! They need to show it more in the sequel. 

  • I think this review closely matches my feelings about this new Godzilla movie. I am dismayed when I read so many movie-goers and Godzilla fans thrilled with this movie. I think many of them were so hungry for such film, that even tresses and glimpses of Godzilla thrilled them. It left me feeling so cheated.  
    Show the action, not the aftermath, as if I arrived at the scene too late to see the most interesting parts. If you must cut away from the action, make it something I want to see, rather than making me feel that someone changed the channel. Don’t cut away too often. The time to tease was mainly in the trailer. Now, it’s time to give me the show.

    If they want to make the story involve human elements, then, at least make the characters interesting, and hire a actors that can breathe life into their rolls, just as well as Godzilla can breathe radioactive, crowd-pleasing breath on his enemies.

  • People these days are so rushed. In the older movies (yes, I saw them recently) you don’t see Godzilla a lot either.

    That’s the whole point. Pacing.

    If they’d shown the earlier fights and rampage, the movie would’ve become cluttered. The final fight wouldn’t have been satisfying because it would’ve been the same thing we had seen a couple of times before that.

    This movie, although it did have some flaws, was paced very well. Yes, they didn’t show the monster fights until the very end. That’s done to build anticipation!

    Anticipation to see the final fight! (which lasted at least 10-15 minutes, if not longer)

    They made this movie as a tribute to the old movies. Mostly the first Godzilla ever made. They succeeded, and this is definitely the best movie of 2014 in my opinion.

    It just felt right, not cluttered like Pacific Rim (even though it was an awesome action flick)

    • +1. Pacific Rim was awesome, too, but in a different way. For previous Godzilla movies, I’ve only seen the original (54) and the Millennium movies, and most of those take their time to get to the good stuff. 
      OTOH, there is room for the big guy to get some more screentime and considering a sequel has been greenlit, I think we could expect them to step it up there.