Cinepub


Review: Godzilla (2014) by Jamie

I’ve tried to keep this spoiler free but it’s hard to tell what people consider spoilers these days so be forewarned. You may be unintentionally spoiled in some way.

In 1954 the Japanese Toho production company brought a King to the Silver Screen. His name was Gojira, soon to be Americanised to the admittedly better Godzilla, and he would begin a cinematic legacy that would last for sixty years and counting. He has been many things during his storied career from destructive force of nature to wacky good guy who saved Japan from a host of other monsters and back to destructive force of nature again. And there was that American film produced in 1998. That one was… well. Yeah. It just wasn’t Godzilla.
So when I heard the news that the Yanks were going to take another shot at bringing the King of the Monsters back to the screen, I was a little concerned. This concern only grew when I heard that Gareth Edwards was set to direct, my concern originating from the fact that he had only directed one feature length film before, Monsters, which left me slightly underwhelmed. And the trailers started appearing and I was ready to get excited.

It’s hard to describe how it feels to be a fan of a film series that, to be fair, has not always been stellar and then finally looking forward to something new from that series. I grew up watching Godzilla films, Son of Godzilla in particular which is easily one of the worst of the bunch but it played a big part in my childhood so I’ll always have a soft spot for it. Hell, my pet gecko is called Godzilla because a) I love the king of the monsters and b) reptile owners are not the most original people when it comes to names. To be fair, there aren’t that many famous reptiles to go to for names. It’s pretty much Godzilla, Dino from the Flintstones and Rango. Godzilla is clearly the best out of those three… I’m sorry, I seem to have become distracted. Where was I? Oh yes, feeling excitement for a Godzilla movie. It was truly a wonderful thing, especially after that ’98 piece of shit that for all intents and purposes killed Matthew Broderick’s career just like he killed two people that one time in Ireland. Look it up.

And so the weeks went by and the release date grew closer and closer and I took the time to revisit every Godzilla movie ever made, twenty nine films in total. It was a bit of a long haul but overall an enjoyable experience and so I felt properly prepared and primed for the King’s return to the silver screen. Finally, the day of release came and I was working so I went the following day. Would the film see Godzilla reclaim his crown or would it be another American turd in the Tokyo punch bowl? Christ, that was a lot of preamble.

Simple fact straight up: I loved this film. Loved it. Is it a perfect film? No, not by a long shot. There are definitely a few things that could have been done differently, a few casting decisions that could have been corrected and a few special effects decisions that maybe didn’t sit right with me but overall, I loved this film.

Perhaps we should start with the things that weren’t so great. First up, a lot has been made about Aaron Taylor-Johnson and how he’s just not that great in the film and it’s true that he is probably the weakest link in the film. I’m not going to go all the way and say he’s bad, though he does exhibit a few moments of ropey acting here and there. Fact is that he doesn’t have much of a character to work with. He’s something of blank plate which I believe is deliberate attempt by the film maker to allow the audience to put themselves in his position, projecting their thoughts and feelings on to him. It’s an age old storytelling trick, one that was recently most successfully employed in the Twilight series. The fact that a girl can easily imagine herself in the place of Bella is what makes those things so popular despite being poorly written pieces of trash. Yeah, I just bashed Twilight. Deal with it. Unfortunately for Johnson, a lot of people didn’t want to be taking his place, experiencing what he was experiencing. They wanted to see monster fighting and during the middle of the film, it dragged a touch simply because Taylor-Johnson is not a giant monster.

There is also the problem of Taylor-Johnson’s character very conveniently finding himself able to easily move from location to location where all the monster action is taking place. I suppose it could be easily explained by saying that he’s a member of the military so he’d be able to move with the armed forces to where he and they need to be and also what are they gonna do instead? Leave their main character behind whilst the monsters fight elsewhere? Still, it does occasionally stretch the limit of believability in this giant nuclear lizard movie.

Finally, the biggest problem I had was the M.U.T.Os. I was not a major fan of their design, seeming as they did a little bit too Cloverfieldy and then there’s that name. Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism is what M.U.T.O stands for and it seems like such an unnatural string of words to put together just to get an acronym which sounds a little bit like mutant which is obviously the reason that that name was chosen. Which is a shame because M.U.T.O. just sounds fucking stupid coming out of an adult human beings mouth. Seriously, any time someone said it, particularly David Strathairn, I cringed. Just stupid. Frankly it was the kind of role that could have easily been filled by a second-tier Toho monster like the Praying Mantis-esque Kamacuras.

Now on to the good and frankly this all comes down to this being a Godzilla movie and whether or not it is a worthy continuation of the big guy’s saga. This was a Godzilla movie and frankly, I’m surprised by just how much it followed some of the conventions of the series and not just the original ’54 Godzilla as I was expecting. Villainous monsters showing up first to wreak havoc? Check. Humans trying but failing to solve the problem? Check. Godzilla awakening from his slumber to sort shit out? Check. Even the music was perfect. It was loud, it was bombastic. It was everything I wanted from the score for a Godzilla film though I’m perhaps a little disappointed that Akira Ifukube’s Godzilla March wasn’t used or referenced but I suppose you can’t have everything.

Now on to the main event. The Big G himself, Godzilla. There has been much discussion about the fact that Godzilla has so little screen time in the film. This is true. Personally, I loved this choice. It made all the time that we actually got to spend with Godzilla all the more impressive and impactful. Besides, I never felt as though he was missing from the film. From the first time he shows up in Hawaii, I felt his presence was there. Just scenes where you see his dorsal spikes sticking out of the water, flanked by aircraft carriers, as he hunts his prey help to convey his size and really build up the anticipation for that awesome final fight. Seriously, if there is one thing that this film does great in my opinion, it is building up anticipation.

I love the redesign though I did originally agree with some Japanese fans that he was a touch on the chunky side though once I saw it in action, it fit in with this Godzilla’s more bear-like movement and way of holding himself. And of course there’s the roar. The roar is beautiful and really should be heard in a cinema to truly appreciate it. Yes, just like this IS a Godzilla film, this IS Godzilla. I felt his personality come through in the limited time that he was on-screen and it genuinely felt like a certain Godzilla from a certain period of his film history. There’s even one moment which really caught me off-guard in which is probably the best moment in the film, a moment I shan’t spoil here but when that moment occurs, I was literally grinning from ear to ear. The King had returned.

So yeah, like I said, I love this film. I can understand the frustration that some people have with the film but personally it’s a frustration I do not share. Would I hate this film if it weren’t a Godzilla movie? Hate may be a strong word but I definitely would not have enjoyed it as much. It’s the things that make this a Godzilla movie that largely make it enjoyable to me. So yeah. Four pints out of five… And in my long winded ramblings, I realise that I have largely overlooked the actors so lets just say good cast overall though some are criminally underused. *cough* Bryan Cranston *cough* Laterz.

Snowtown_(film)



2012 Best Picture Round Up: Lincoln by Jamie

Spielberg’s latest historical work hits the UK shores today and it did fairly well at the nomination announcement picking up 12 in total. The question, of course, is does it deserve them?

Steven Spielberg has, to some degree, contributed a great deal to defining my childhood. I grew up watching the films he directed and the films he produced and they are responsible, at least in some way, for the person I am today. Hell, Jaws is still my favourite film and as close to a perfect film as I believe you can get. Lately, however, I have found myself becoming more and more disappointed in Spielberg’s work. I believe we all remember the terrible CGI-fest that was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And the less said about that atrocious, manipulative piece of schlock called War Horse the better. Still, I was looking forward to Lincoln as I have recently started reading Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, upon which this film is somewhat based, and I am always a sucker for a good historical drama.

First off, I should say that this isn’t exactly a biopic and perhaps a better title for this film would have been The 13th Amendment (Or Abraham Lincoln and the 13th Amendment in a misguided attempt to appeal to Indiana Jones fans) because that’s the era of Lincoln’s presidency that this film focuses on. The Civil War is already well underway and Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) is beginning his second term as President. It is quite clear that the civil war is coming to a close and Lincoln wishes to get the 13th Amendment passed before it does because he fears that his Emancipation Proclamation, a war time measure, would be overturned by the courts when peace time resumes.

The film then focuses on all the political machinations that go on as the President attempts to get the prerequisite number of votes needed in order to ensure that the amendment passes. It also covers a few other aspects of his life such as the relationship with his wife (Sally Field) and his son Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as well as the relationships between members of the House of Representatives who will be voting on the amendment, in particular the largely Republican abolitionists such as Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) and the largely Democratic opposition such as Fernando Wood (Lee Pace). So yes, this is not exactly a film about the civil war. The war is certainly going on and its presence is felt constantly throughout the film but make no mistake, this is a movie about the political transpirings of the time.

Political films can, of course, be great and can make for some very tense thrillers. But Lincoln isn’t a thriller and in terms of enjoyment, this film can be a little dry. Part of the problem is that Spielberg seems to be trying to make things tense anyway, particularly in the scene where the House finally votes on the amendment. Unfortunately it can be incredibly, incredibly difficult to make things tense when you already know what’s going to happen. Showing shots of people agonising over whether to vote yay or nay on a proposition falls a little flat when you know the outcome. Yes, I know these are also trying to show how difficult it can be to do what’s right in the face of opposition but cutting away from the Speaker of the House when he’s about to read the result is clearly an effort to increase tension in a situation where no tension can exist. The only people for who this scene can illicit such a reaction are those who are completely ignorant of history and believe slavery still exists in the United States. And to those people, I’d just like to say wow. This movie must have really come as a shock to you, non-existent person.

Another problem is some of the acting. Sally Field is decent enough though her weaknesses really shine through when acting against a power house such as Day-Lewis. He, of course, is brilliant bringing everything to the role that you’d expect including Lincoln’s vocal and ambulatory peculiarities mentioned in contemporary accounts. In fact, the only problem with the performance of Lincoln is that it’s Day-Lewis playing him. Honest Abe is such a reserved, quite personality who rarely raises his voice that you can’t help hope that at some point he might just fly off the handle like Bill The Butcher or Daniel Plainview but alas he never does. I suppose that’s fair given that it’s not really in the President’s character but still…

In conclusion, Lincoln is a perfectly serviceable film particularly if you have some interest in the topics and era that it discusses but I really don’t know how well it’s going to play in the UK. I’m sure part of the reason that it’s done so well in the US is not because it’s a particularly exceptional film but because it’s a competent film about a subject which is very close to the hearts of so many American, a man who is perhaps their most revered President. Outside those shores, it may just come of as a bit of an overwordy, bloated drama directed by a man who’s relying more and more on manipulative directing techniques but with a great actor in the leading role. Three pints out of five. Laterz.




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