Thursday, 15 May 2014

Movie Review: Godzilla

Previous Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

After the failed 1998 version of Godzilla, a Jurassic Park ripoff (there are many scenes lifted shot-for-shot from Jurassic Park) which nearly destroyed the franchise by making the titular monster looked nothing more than a giant iguana with spikes that makes more giant iguana babies (The Japanese hated the 1998 version so much that they named it as 'Zilla', without 'god' and they even have a film (Godzilla: Final Wars) where 'Zilla' get blown to bits by the real Godzilla), Hollywood decided to make another American reboot once again for the well-known Japanese pop-culture icon. So, this time, does it truly deliver? YES, in spades.

From the menacing look...the thunderous roar...the humongous 108m (355ft) size...the trademark back plates...the gargantuan tail whip...the signature atomic breath...The newly-designed Godzilla is more faithful to its Japanese origins, done with Hollywood’s state-of-art CGI effects (instead of a man-in-suit costume). It should be noted that Godzilla is a word taken from 'Gojira', a combination of two Japanese words: gorira ("gorilla") and kujira ("whale"), which explains his enormous size, strength and aquatic origin. The film respects the monster’s dark nuclear roots by showing the nuclear tests done in the past as attempts to kill it (although it enhanced the creature in the process, making it bigger and stronger than before).

However, there's a slight complaint (I believe from other fans as well) that Godzilla is rather fat, but it's understandable considering the fact that he's been spending most of his time in the deep seas, in hibernation or deep slumber, for many years. The film done a fine job in portraying the monsters, showing them as animals (despite their enormous size and abilities) trying to survive, willing to do what it takes to defend their territory or reproduce. The CGI was really good and realistic, the shots of godzilla or the MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms) appearing on screen were nothing short of incredible.

This film is slightly different than the similar-themed Pacific Rim in terms of plot structure. It chooses to gradually reveal Godzilla's body parts (the spiky back plates in the Pacific, the gigantic tail, the stomping foot, the massive chest, etc) from various human viewpoint camera angles before making his full appearance and even hold back the Kaiju battles until the end.

While many would find this a turn-off or feel frustrated for the unexpected off-screen initial battles (although the battles are shown on news TV in the film), it is not the case for me. The film gave us several unexpected yet breathtaking close shots of the MUTOs along the way to keep us entertained before the big guy comes in. At the same time, these monster shots give us a sense of scale, an understanding of monsters' massive sizes before the climatic battle begins. It builds up the anticipation for the finale. Otherwise, an overexposure of these monsters earlier in the film might leave the audience feel exhausted and develop repetitive feeling of scenes as the film progresses (The monsters in this film are rather limited compared to Pacific Rim). The gradual build-up does pay off in the end. I was genuinely awestruck the moment Godzilla appears on-screen, stomping on buildings and makes his first roar.

The Kaijus remain as the central story that ties many of the human characters together in the film. The darker tone and level of seriousness in the film gives the sense of urgency and danger for the events that are about to happen. Gone are the silly, cheesy acting, lame humour, and lighter tone of the 1998 version. We get to see the Ford family and how the existence of these monsters affect their lives, the research team that tries to understand the behaviour of these creatures, the Navy troops, under the command of an Admiral, tries to stop these creatures from wiping out the entire human race. These stories works together as a functional narrative that connects all the pieces (although it feels contrived and too convenient at certain parts).

The acting was good. Ken Watanabe, David Strathairn, Juliette Binoche and Elizabeth Olsen all provide decent performances in their respective roles. Bryan Cranston delivered a brilliant on-screen performance despite his limited screen time in the film. However, Aaron Taylor-Johnson's character does fall a bit flat and it's a shame considering that he has a lot screen time compared to the rest of the casts.

Overall, Godzilla is an awe-inspiring spectacle that delivers. It left me wanting for more. This is the King of Monsters we've been wanting to see. The climatic battle in San Francisco is truly rewarding and definitely worth the wait.

Rating: 8/10

Which monster design is better in your opinion?
 Left: 1998 'Zilla'                                                               Right: 2014 Godzilla. 

It took 762 MPC artists to create the 355-foot monster in the Godzilla film; and 1,100 Intel Xeon processors to render the computerized creature. 500,000 Polygons used by MPC artists to create the Godzilla 3D model. It would take 445 Years to render Godzilla on a single computer.  

The following monster comparison pics obtained from the internet show the scale of Godzilla:
(click to enlarge)

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