Sunday, May 18, 2014

Godzilla 3D review

In the giant monster destroying cities genre, there was the tongue in cheek Godzilla (1998), the ridiculous Cloverfield (2008) and the fun Pacific Rim (2013). Now comes the serious Godzilla, a roboot of the original 1954 movie of the same name. How serious is this movie? Well, let's look at one aspect, Alexandre Desplat's marvelous score. One of the themes of the original Godzilla (1954) and this one is the evils of atomic energy. Desplat's score is full of dissonance reflecting the tragedy of the use of nuclear power. It's reminiscent of Penderecki's Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, depicting the horrors of the atomic bomb, though Desplat is nowhere near as harsh in his treatment. Yes, this Godzilla is that serious.

This Godzilla starts out in a flashback to the year 1999. At the Tokyo Janjira nuclear power plant, supervisor Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) has a problem. He's got a fat lazy employee named Homer who likes to eat doughnuts all day. Um... okay, that's the Simpsons. Sorry. Back to the movie. The problem is that the plant is experiencing a seismic event. He sends his wife, Sandra (Juliette Binoche) to investigate. A terrible accident occurs causing the destruction of the plant. We then move to the present. Brody's son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) , is an explosives ordinance disposal officer in the U.S. Navy. He's living with his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and their son in San Francisco. He gets a call that his father has been arrested in Japan, trespassing in the area of the plant. Ford travels to Japan and finds out that his father has been investigating the disaster for years. He convinces his son to go to the plant grounds where they discover that it was no accident. It was a great white shark. Sorry, that's Jaws. What caused the disaster? Monsters. No typo there, that's plural.

Godzilla has an interesting cast. Bryan Cranston and Julliette Bioche add gravitas to the movie. And what a surprise to find Binoche in a big budget monster movie. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is fine as the dedicated soldier and family man. Elizabeth Olsen is given very little to do than be a nurse, mother and look terrified at opportune times. And before you in the PC police jump on me, being a mother and nurse are important jobs in real life. But in this movie, the critical roles are the ones that deal with how to stop the monsters. Rounding out the cast are Sally Hawkins as Vivienne Graham and Ken Watanabe as Ishiro Serizawa. They're two sincere scientists who have an idea on the origin of the monsters. And let's face it, there's got to be a connection to Japan during the last two acts of the movie, so you've got Watanabe.

Director Gareth Edwards with a screenplay by Max Borenstein and a story by David Callaham create a tense, scary film. There's no levity in this picture. The monsters are destroying cities, and it could signal the end of humanity. The closest thing to any humor is when one of the monsters levels Las Vegas. Love the scene where it tears down the cheesy casino version of the Eiffel Tower. But maybe that's the problem with this movie. It's too serious. I mean I remember old Godzilla fighing a giant moth. Mothra vs. Godzilla. (1964) Back to the seriousness of this movie, check out the music when Ford parachutes into danger with Ligeti in the background. What is this 2001: A Space Odyssey? Yet with all the monster mayhem, the movie maintains a very human story about the Brody family.

If you see this movie, skip the 3D version and watch it in 2D. First, it's a conversion from 2D. That means no pop. Many times I forget I was watching it in 3D. There didn't seem to be any thought given to the 3D effect. Second, the picture is literally too dark. That comes from the conversion process where the lighting for the movie may not have been adapted for 3D. Add to that projecting on the screen the two images, along with you and the projector wearing dark glasses. The result? You get a dark picture.

Godzilla is a very serious, taut science fiction movie. There's not much fun and that's the point. It shows deep respect to the first Godzilla. So much so, that this Godzilla even looks like it has fat, pear shape lower half of the original. Guess giant monsters don't have access to Pilates. The grade is B.

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