So this is not a review, but a discussion about all the cool stuff in the latest Godzilla movie, so it has a billion spoilers. If you want to just watch the trailer then run away, here it is:
In the 70s, my brother and I would lie flat out on the living room floor and watch 1950s daikaiju movies on the TV together. I remember being particularly affected by Mothra, though now I see pictures of him I wonder why. Godzilla is, of course, the most famous of the daikaiju, a monster who lays waste to Japanese cities the way that the atom bomb laid waste to Hiroshima and Nagasaki just a decade earlier.
Now you probably all know by now that I love the b-grade stuff big time. I don’t go to see art movies because it seems a waste of a trip to the cinema if there are no ‘splosions (and a waste of money because I love Gold Class where you can eat ice-cream and drink wine), and then I tend not to watch much on the small screen at home because I get bored and uncomfortable and would rather be reading in bed.
But I’m pretty particular about my b-grade viewing. It has to have something special for me to LOVE it, and 2014’s Godzilla was a movie I loved. Given the shitty reviews it’s getting everywhere, I figured I should explain why. Because, honestly, there’s a lot of crappy stuff in it too. At one point during the movie, my viewing partner and I turned to each other and rolled our eyes, and I whispered to him, “Let’s drink quicker.” A little wine makes the suspension of disbelief much easier.
Having said that, though, this movie nails it in so many ways that I forgave every flaw.
The film starts off with the kind of stuff that orients the viewer to expect what they’ve seen before in disaster flicks. I settled in with my Sauv Blanc and pork sliders and got to know the key characters, then BLAMMO a couple of them were dead. Slowly a theme emerged: the tissue-like ephemerality and savage randomness of human existence. People come together or they don’t. They save each other or they don’t. They survive or they don’t. No pattern of story-telling or genre seemed to govern the fates of characters. More and more, I began to notice that humans looked tiny and futile: swarming up the sides of a mine, or out in their cars jammed on the freeway, or running from a tsunami. A mass of undifferentiated and almost completely ineffectual creatures, dwarfed by the extreme zoom-out or by the size of the daikaiju stomping on their stuff. The scene near the end, where the hero (by lucky happenstance a bomb disposal expert) is stranded on a boat with a ticking bomb ends nothing like you expect it will. It’s written all over his face: there’s nothing he can do. No message of America-fuck-yeah glory-of-human-action can be taken from this film. We are all fucking ants.
In a stupefying contrast of scope is Godzilla: big, beautiful, and b’dass. How I loved him. Especially the bit where (extreme spoiler alert) he grabs that other monster, spews blue lightning down its throat, then rips its freaking head off. I may have fist-pumped in the cinema (but then, I had drunk my wine quite quickly).
Godzilla was a glorious movie to watch. The last forty-five minutes, in particular, featured a series of beautiful set-pieces. The HALO jump that opens the trailer embedded above looked like a Gustave Dore woodprint, shaded in gold and fire. This last act of the movie blew my tiny mind, and I forgave any awkwardness that came before. Sheer, beautiful pandemonium. Godzilla is awesome in every sense of the word.