Thursday, May 22, 2014

My 2014 Summer Movie Ventures #2

Written: May 17th-22nd, 2014
Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; very passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit... and occasionally movie watcher from time to time.  So my 2014 summer movie experience started with a sequel of a reboot in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, so what better choice to watch next than a reboot of a movie that's been around for a long time... sixty years in fact.  This is 2014's Godzilla, but first the trailers that played beforehand.
Lucy - This looks like it could be a very good movie with an interesting premise behind it; plus Scarlett Johansonn and Morgan Freeman are always fun actors to watch.  Also, I'd like to see where it all goes with all the sci-fi qualities and aspects.  What would happen if you could tap into 100% of your brain.
The Giver - I read Lois Lowry's novel once back in middle school, I own a copy of it, and I remember having liked it.  The trailer that I saw did not look anything like the novel I read; I don't care if Jeff Bridges is in it, this addition to the YA genre looks like it's going to bomb.
Interstellar - Christopher Nolan's latest feature that he's currently working on has got an emotionally enriching and very good-looking trailer.  The premise seems interesting, and it is just highly intriguing in terms of everything.  Oh, and what's a Nolan movie without Michael Caine in it?  It's nice to see that Anne Hathaway will work with him again after The Dark Knight Rises.  I'm curious to see it this November.
Edge of Tomorrow - Another trailer that's got me sold based on the premise, this one involves Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt as they relive the same moment after they die, only they get smarter and wiser.  I wouldn't mind watching this one.
Deliver Us from Evil - Since Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger did not make its profit in theatres last summer, producer Jerry Bruckheimer parted ways with Disney, and his first non-Disney producing  endeavor in a very long time claims to be based on "actual events" that "were kept under wraps until now".  This looks like crap, I'll say it right now, at least that's how I felt when I saw the trailer.  I thought that it kind of showed the whole movie and relied on cheap scares.  Also it's too damn dark to see.
How to Train your Dragon 2 - I loved the original that came out four years ago and I really cannot wait for this one to come.  It looks so colorful and fun and introduces new characters and I'm highly looking forward to this one.
Into the Storm - This has got to be one of the vaguest trailers I've seen in some time.  So it starts off with "This sound" and then says "You won't forget" or something similar, and then it just cuts to people getting swallowed up and/or trying to get away by twisters, which look nothing like a storm but a supernatural disaster.  The color tone was also turquoise blue-ish, and while I don't think it looks terrible it doesn't convince me, simply put.
Image from Rotten Tomatoes
Godzilla (2014)
Director: Gareth Edwards | Rated: PG-13 | Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 | Length: 2h3m
Saw on May 17th
It's incredible that Godzilla has been around for six decades now and how much impact it's had on everyones' lives.  ...  Let me rephrase that: Godzilla, known as Gojira in native Japan, was one of those iconic movies that's inspired and enthralled millions, even though the effects do not hold up very well; but it has introduced the world to the "king of monsters" himself Godzilla.  The movie and creature helped inspire numerous sequels, spin-offs, rip-offs, countless references, and of course a couple of reboots that were done by American studios, among others.  The first reboot of which was conceived by Roland Emmerich back in 1998, and the second one having come out sixteen years later by Gareth Edwards.
I haven't seen Edwards' previous feature Monsters but I have heard good things about it; when news came that Godzilla would be rebooted again this year I was of course very curious as to how it would be like.  Certainly it would be a lot better than Emmerich's infamous take, right?  Certainly this would do the giant lizard creature justice and set things right for him, right?  Certainly this would be an incredible and enjoyable adaptation, right?  Okay, before I continue I should note that the theatre that I went to see this movie had a slightly darker projector than it should have.  At first I thought this won't affect the movie at all, I can enjoy it for what it is.  God, was I wrong about it not affecting the movie experience for me at all, but I'll get to that soon.
In 1999 a scientist called Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) discovers in the remains of one of the large fossils along with his colleagues at the Phillipines islands that one of the eggs have hatched.  At the same time at the Janjira Nuclear Power Plant, Joe Brady (Bryan Cranston) sends his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) to investigate what may be causing the recent seismic damage.  Unfortunately there is a radiation that's leaked, killing the core crew inside, including Joe's wife, and on his birthday no less; resulting in a quarantine of the area.  Fifteen years have passed since then where Ford (CJ Adams as a child, Aaron Taylor-Johnson as adult) Brady, who's since joined the army and become a lieutenant and father, gets a message that his father has tried to trespass a quarantined area.  Reluctantly Ford agrees to join Joe (who's become obsessed with finding the cause since his wife's death), but they both get caught once found looking in Janjira.  At that point a monster called a MUTO gets on the rampage, recruiting at least one more in the process, threatening to cause harm to the world populace.  With little choice they've only got one option that can take them on.

I'm just going to address the acting first because I do not want to upset the faithful and longtime followers just yet (because trust me, there have been upset commenters jumping on people that spoke lowly or weren't as enthralled with this movie, and I don't wish to put up with that).  The acting is really good, and everyone turns in a solid performance.  The lone standout is Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston, who gives it his all in this movie (just like Hugh Jackman gave his all in last year's Prisoners) in the times that he's onscreen, and you miss that in-depth performance once he's not shown.  Aaron Taylor-Johnson does a solid job as the main human protagonist of the movie, and Elizabeth Olsen who plays his wife is okay.  Ken Watanabe is good, but it felt to me often that sometimes he spoke in riddles which admittedly made me antsy, and it's clear that he's got a backstory that is never explained.

When comparing the effects to the original, it just jarring.  The original wasn't known for having groundbreaking special effects, but thanks to the evolution of technology throughout the decades Gareth Edwards and team found a way to bring Godzilla to life like never before.  And whenever he's shown he looks astounding, and the MUTOs look nice too with the CGI.  I found it interesting that the movie started with multiple stock footage from the past, and production-wise it looks like a lot of effort was put into it and I respect that.  The movie is accompanied by a riveting soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat, who's proven that he can create distinctive soundtracks that leave an impact on viewers (for more reasons than one); examples being The King's SpeechArgo, Rise of the Guardians, Zero Dark Thirty, and the very recent The Monuments Men.  The soundtrack is also one of the high points of the movie (effectively creating a sense of atmosphere and tension) for it does a very good job at keeping viewers engaged despite Godzilla's very meandering pace.

One of the things about this movie version in particular is how its pace is very slow right from the get-go.  I know that it has to follow the golden rule of the monster feature set by Jaws: don't show the titular monster until you're an hour in; but the first hour goes by very slowly.  Even after Godzilla makes his first full appearance the movie's pacing feels deliberate when it's not on him, even though the MUTOs (one of them has wings, so technically that would make it a MUFO) make an appearance before he does.  It also doesn't help that the majority of the movie focuses on characters who are largely uninteresting, with the exception of Bryan Cranston's Joe Brady who's only in the movie for about the first half hour (yet he was in the whole trailer).  I was also taken aback at how little screen time the main Kaiju has; I don't expect him to appear throughout the entire running length, but I would've loved to have seen just a little bit more of him in the movie.  He's pretty cool when he's around, but there are a couple times when he will appear and then cut to a different scene.  Why?

I mentioned before that the projector at the theatre I saw this in was a little darker than it was supposed to be, and there's a reason for that: the majority of the scenes are either dark or take place at night.  Now, maybe these would be effective if they were shot with a little bit of clarity and could work for the eyes.  But that's the problem that the projector created: it was hard to see what was going on half the time because the screen was so damn dark, and even if you could manage to make out what has occurred it unfortunately takes the enjoyment out of it (and the deliberately slow pace did not help matters).  Dark scenes are fine once in awhile, but for the bulk of the film?  It's one thing if you're trying to emulate the atmosphere and tone set by the original movie, but it's another when it gets affected by a faulty projector.  At least there were scenes that didn't take place in the dark or were set during the night.

But even if that were not the case, I still left the theatre with mixed feelings on the movie.  Also, I don't know if anyone has addressed this, but this is a very humorless, heavy-handed film.  Unless you count the times that Godzilla was onscreen or a couple unintentionally funny moments, I don't think I smiled or laughed once while watching it.  I'm not saying Edwards should have made this movie a comedy, and its relentlessly serious tone does give it an edge over Roland Emmerich's silly 1998 adaptation, but I don't think it would've hurt to incorporate a scene or two that lifted your spirits and made you smile (intentionally).  There were a couple moments that brought to mind Jurassic Park (helicopter surveying an island forest and a shot of a character wiping a foggy glass to see what's going on) and Godzilla 2014 even has its own "Boomer will live!" moment (speaking of Emmerich... I can't be the only one that had that pop up in their mind once that happened).  Oh, yeah, the movie went there, which makes it one of the few lighter moments in it.
Watching this made me think back to how I felt after watching Elysium; I didn't think it was great but I didn't think it was bad either, but I just didn't feel all that highly about it (actually I had mixed feelings on it but could appreciate all the effort that was put in to it).  Although I kinda liked Elysium more in this regard, if only because of Sharlto Copley.  Despite Godzilla 2014 being two hours it felt like a much longer movie; and I wouldn't have minded the slow pace so much if there were more interesting characters outside of Bryan Cranston's Joe Brady and Ken Watanabe's Serizawa.  But as it is I felt this movie to be a bit polarizing.  The dark and night scenes wouldn't have been bad if not for the fact that it's the bulk of the movie and the fact that I saw it with a faulty projector, making it hard to see what the hell was going on.  I would've liked it if there was just a fraction more of Godzilla in it (as I didn't think there was enough of him here), but as it stands its okay.  I didn't see it in 3D, but there were a couple moments I spotted that were obvious 3D-ploitation (like his roar in front of the wire and red balls).
I guess I had high expectations for this movie, even though I'm not a fan of the Kaiju I was looking forward to watch this film.  And I admit I was a little disappointed, though I did like it a little (it's a rental for me personally).  It's better than the Emmerich version by a tad much, but if there were intentional humor and had a vast majority of interesting characters than I think I would've liked it a bit more.  I blame the projector for all the dark scenes being made darker, and while I don't mind the serious approach, I wished that it was easier to see what was happening during those moments.  Desplat's music was one of the major things that were great about the movie (there is even one cue from 2001: A Space Odyssey), and when Godzilla appears (in the twenty-thirty minutes that he's onscreen) onscreen he's awesome, especially when he roars.  I didn't go in expecting something like Pacific Rim (they're both different movies), but I was expecting something a little better in the end.
If you like Godzilla and are a fan then I think you'll like this movie.  If you're expecting the best, stick with the original.  If you want to watch an adaptation that is better than the Roland Emmerich version then here you go.  If you're looking for interesting human characters to root for then you may want to lower your expectations and maybe watch something else.  If you want to see Godzilla kick ass once more on the big screen, then this isn't a bad diversion.  There have been differing opinions on this movie; some thought that it was really good, some thought that it was just good, others thought it was either okay or not so special.  I wished I liked Godzilla 2014 more, but I guess I shouldn't complain; at least it wasn't bad (or offensively bad) like Verbinski's The Lone Ranger or say Batman and Robin.  I know a lot of effort was made to bring this movie to the screen, and I really respect that; I know I said that many times before, but because there are commenters going gung-ho regarding the movie I realize that I'm treading on deep ice.
Final Rating:

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