Film Review: Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Also known as: Godzilla 2, Fathom (working titles)
Release Date: May 29th, 2019 (Europe, South Korea, Indonesia)
Directed by: Michael Dougherty
Written by: Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields, Max Borenstein
Based on: Gojira, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Mothra and Rodan by Toho Co. Ltd.
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathaim, Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi, Joe Morton

Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Toho, 132 Minutes

Review:

“We opened Pandora’s box. And there’s no closing it now.” – Jonah Alan

*There be spoilers here! No, seriously, I spoil the shit out of stuff in this one.

It’s been five years since the last American Godzilla film and I hate waiting. Sure, we got Kong: Skull Island two years ago, which is a part of this series, but Godzilla is the true king of kaiju and his return has been long overdue. Plus, we were promised a movie featuring King Ghidorah, Mothra and Rodan, so five years was too damn long to wait.

Now I enjoyed the first movie, even if I had some issues with it but I discussed those in that film’s review. As far as this one goes, I still have some issues but overall, this is a superior chapter in the pretty good American Godzilla series.

The film was certainly well cast with its human being characters but that was a part of my problem with the movie. There was just so much broken family drama and bullshit that it dragged the film down. Sure, you need a human story to ground the picture and make it relatable but I want to see giant monsters punching the shit out of each other, as opposed to an episode of This Is Us.

As far as the monsters go, I was afraid that the movie would have monster overkill, as the trailer mentioned 17 “titans”, which is white people for “kaiju”. Luckily, the only ones we really see fight are the main four we were promised: Godzilla, Ghidorah, Mothra and Rodan. There are several other monsters that appear, including a new M.U.T.O. and a creature similar to Kumonga, but we only really see glimpses of them and then one scene where they appear at the end, after the big action has already gone down. Kong and Skull Island are also mentioned but Kong does not appear, which does create a bit of a plot hole but whatever, everything has plot holes these days.

The origin of the monsters is different in this film too. Mothra is Chinese, Rodan is Mexican, Godzilla is from Atlantis and King Ghidorah is Antarcticese but is later discovered to be from space, so I guess his origin is the most accurate. Well, except for the fact that he has Wolverine healing powers and can grow back heads like a hydra.

Also, Rodan is a dick in this movie and he’s not an ally to Godzilla and Mothra, as he should be. He comes around in the end, after the final fight, but I wanted to see the classic match up of King Ghidorah vs. Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan in a 3-on-1 handicap match.

There’s one point in the film where a general says, “We’ve got a secret weapon…” And my mind immediately screamed, “MECHAGODZILLA!!!” But then the general continued with, “…an oxygen destroyer.” So that was a nice homage to the original Gojira and it was a tremendous use of CGI special effects to make it look much more powerful than the 1954 equivalent but the weapon was used so freely and carelessly that the film missed the whole moral debate over that powerful weapon. However, I guess that was sort of replaced by the humans arguing about this film’s other weapon/device/MacGuffin: the Orca.

But the big monster battles are the most important thing about any kaiju movie and this picture gives us pretty solid kaiju action. At least, it’s much better than the total lack of kaiju action we got with this film’s predecessor, the 2014 Godzilla.

New York Yankees fans will love the big final battle in this film as it takes place in Fenway Park. You see the iconic stadium and all of Boston get leveled. And I’m assuming the Red Sox allowed the film to shoot there, due to some of the specific shots that saw Millie Bobby Brown’s character arrive there for the climax. But I guess the famous saying should now read: “Boston Strong, Godzilla Stronger.”

Anyway, I was mostly happy with the film. The human drama bullshit was grating and Vera Farmiga’s character is an evil, selfish psychopath, no matter how hard this film wants to justify her apocalyptic actions. They kind of try to redeem her in the end with her final act but that bitch wanted to die a hero because of her own ego not because she’s got a heart or anything. Thirty minutes earlier she was releasing giant monsters despite millions of people needing to evacuate from giant monsters. She was an insufferable shithead and her husband, Kyle Chandler a.k.a. Mr. Friday Night Lights was pretty terrible too. But maybe I’m just pissed that he never got killed or arrested on Bloodline.

My favorite moment in the movie was when the deaf chick from that Oscar winning fish fuck movie got eaten by King Ghidorah like a piece of popcorn chicken. I bet she lost a shoe this time too.

This review is probably all over the place but I got shit hammered at the theater, hit the bar pretty hard after and am currently too wired to sleep, so I wrote this now, as it’s approaching 3 in the f’n morning. Thank fuck for spell and grammar check.

But hey, this was a step up from the last one. It had better kaiju action, a better than decent story and good acting apart from the two leads that should have been merked much earlier than Bryan Cranston was in the first flick. Hell, Kyle Chandler survives again and he’s still getting away with killing his own brother and sending his other one to Cuba with his dumb wife that forgot to ditch her phone.

And I’ve also got to ask, what’s with all this need for a plot and shit? Monsters smash monsters, the end! It’s not rocket science! We don’t need story getting in the way of a kaiju Royal Rumble. Other than the original, original Godzilla picture, these don’t need to be thinking movies. When “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was giving Stunners to the Undertaker, we didn’t need him to stop before the attack and recite Shakespeare, we just wanted to see him drop the Deadman with a kick to the gut and a yank of the head.

The moral of the story review is:
Monsters punching monsters: Good!
Human family drama and storytelling: Bad!

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the American Godzilla film before this, as well as the original Japanese films Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster, Invasion of Astro-Monster, Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla: Final Wars.

Film Review: The Shape of Water (2017)

Release Date: August 31st, 2017 (Venice International Film Festival)
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Written by: Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Music by: Alexandre Desplat
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer

Double Dare You Productions, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 123 Minutes

Review:

*Warning: there will be spoilers!

“You may think, “That thing looks human.” Stands on two legs, right? But – we’re created in the Lord’s image. You don’t think that’s what the Lord looks like, do you?” – Strickland

I was fairly excited for The Shape of Water, as it isn’t very often that we get movies with Gillmen or some variant of one. The Creature From the Black Lagoon is one of my favorite movies of all-time, so I have always had a soft spot for aquatic humanoid monsters. Plus, Guillermo del Toro is pretty much the godfather of the modern dark fairy-tale.

It should probably go without saying that this film was a visual delight and that it boasted incredible cinematography and great lighting. All of this was enhanced by the great care and attention to detail in the set design and the overall early 1960s setting. It was like the flip side of a Mad Men world, where instead of light and cheeriness, there is a looming darkness and a cloud of depression over these characters and their world.

This isn’t a straight up reinterpretation of The Creature From the Black Lagoon though. It is actually closer to that film’s sequels, which saw the Gillman in captivity and being experimented on by human scientists. But even then, this is more of a Beauty and the Beast story than anything else. It just so happens that the beast is an aquatic creature from the Amazon and that he is a prisoner of evil men.

Beauty in this case is Sally Hawkins’ Elisa. She is a cleaning lady that works at a big government institution where they are doing experiments on the monster. She has an immediate attraction to the creature, as both are outsiders who have been treated badly by others. You see, Elisa is a mute and she is constantly treated differently because of her handicap.

As the story rolls on, Elisa falls in love with the creature, as he doesn’t see her as someone with a handicap. While the story generally works well it is a bit forced and overly sappy. Del Toro lays it on real thick.

Eventually, Elisa frees the creature from the institution and keeps him at her home where the two do get it on. Maybe I’m old fashioned but the sex element to the story was a bit bizarre and brings up questions of bestiality whether or not the creature is intelligent or not. In the film, this just seemed to be an afterthought because love is the focus. Well, I’ve loved all my dogs over the years but I never fucked them and one of them was intelligent enough to open doors.

The sex with the creature angle would be okay in some twisted grindhouse picture that’s made to shock people but here it happens in a film that carries a message of love and is well made, well produced and will probably be up for a lot of big awards in a few months. And the issue just felt like an afterthought. It’s not just some plot point to accept within the context, it’s a pretty big moral curveball. But I guess most of the other critics are okay with Beauty banging the Beast before he returns to human form. But this film isn’t cheap fantasy erotica… or is it? Is this just Fifty Shades of Beast Cock?

The film also keeps beating its audience with how much these people are outsiders. It doesn’t take much to figure out and it could have been done much more subtlety. I feel like del Toro is falling into the same trap as a lot of contemporary filmmakers, where he feels the need to spell everything out and then keep reinforcing those points throughout the movie.

The film is also two hours but it felt like it was three. The first half moves fairly quickly but once the monster escapes the clutches of the evil humans, everything just drags to a crawl. We get a big showdown in the end but ultimately, the film was pretty predictable. Well, except for the bestiality curveball. Glad I didn’t take my mum or one of my aunts to this. I never would’ve heard the end of it, “Oh, Robbie… the fish man is nice but why would you have sex with him? He’s a fish man!”

I liked this movie from a technical and visual standpoint but I was letdown by the story and its execution. I thought the acting as exceptional but that can’t save a poor script and clunky narrative.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Godzilla (2014)

Release Date: May 8th, 2014 (Los Angeles Premiere)
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Written by: Max Borenstein, David Callaham
Based on: Gojira by Toho Co. Ltd.
Music by: Alexandre Desplat
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Bryan Cranston

Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Toho, 123 Minutes

godzilla_2014Review:

It has been 60 years! Yes, 60 years since Godzilla first appeared on-screen. In that time we have seen a few different incarnations over dozens of films. There are some things that change from era-to-era and some timeless parts that remain consistent. Well, the new Godzilla follows suit, in that it was a reinvention that took some liberties yet also stayed true to the general nature of the franchise.

Godzilla, as a monster, was pretty damn accurate overall. Some people have complained that he’s too bulky, he is – but he just looks like more of a beast. Others have complained about his face and the fact that it looks human-like, I get that and noticed it but it didn’t bother me. We’re no longer limited by the technology of the rubber suit and truth be told, I haven’t liked most Godzilla faces since the original era came to an end in the mid-70s. At least the monster didn’t have the Jay Leno chin of the 1998 Godzilla monster from that atrocious Roland Emmerich film.

The other monsters in the film, there are two, are variations of one another, as one is the male and has wings, while the other is a much larger female without wings. I wasn’t too keen on these monsters, called M.U.T.O. for “Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism.” Their design was kind of cool, their backstory and biology was even cooler but they didn’t have that classic Godzilla monster feel. They kind of came across as more streamlined versions of a couple of generic kaiju from Pacific Rim. Maybe their design is just how filmmakers envision contemporary monsters to be. I thought it was pretty unimaginative and they had more resemblances to that shitty Cloverfield monster than anything from the vast Godzilla mythos. I just didn’t like them, I never felt that threatened by them and was kind of just waiting for King Ghidorah to fly on-screen and really tear shit up.

That leads me to one of the beefs I have with the film. With such a deep pool of characters and monsters to pull from, if you really needed Godzilla to battle a threat, why not reinvent some of those iconic monsters and really give fans a fight they want to see instead of this film that could have been titled Godzilla vs. The Unimaginative Insect-Dragon and His Big Angry Wife? I don’t think Hollywood understands that the Godzilla brand isn’t just Godzilla, there is an entire sea of monsters waiting to be exploited. In fact, in the trailer when I saw the flying monster for a split second, I thought Rodan was going to be in this. Nope, no Rodan, just some slightly modified Cloverfield creature with wings – opportunity completely missed.

But then there is the issue with licensing. Apparently, Legendary Pictures didn’t have the rights to any other creatures. I feel like this could have been resolved before this film was made, as they have since acquired the right to several more monsters for the upcoming sequel.

Another beef with the film is that it is called Godzilla but it barely has any Godzilla in it. He doesn’t show up for like an hour and when he makes his first appearance to fight the flying M.U.T.O. at the Honolulu Airport, they cut away just after he roars and right when your fanboy boner goes to full attention. Thank you, Gareth Edwards and Legendary Pictures for giving millions of moviegoers cinematic blue balls.

The lack of Godzilla carried over into the big finale. Godzilla would engage the two monsters, they’d do a power move or two and then the film would cut to the human characters running around trying to complete a nuisance of a mission that didn’t matter all that much considering the state of San Francisco by that point. Godzilla punch, M.U.T.O. bite, cut to overly dramatic white Army dude torching eggs. Godzilla kick, M.U.T.O. jump, cut to overly dramatic white Army dude starting a boat. Screw the humans, show the monster fight, that’s what we paid to see. In fact, scrap the whole plot and just put Godzilla in a cage match with a dozen monsters. Preferably classic kaiju and not some half-assed Level 3 bosses from a 1987 Konami game.

Now getting to the human element of the film, it was pretty good. Bryan Cranston  and Ken Watanabe were fantastic but lacked screen time compared to Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who was better than decent, and Elizabeth Olsen, who felt completely wasted and unnecessary in the film.

Now it probably sounds like I am griping about this a lot but I did really enjoy the movie. There was much more good than bad and it is worth your time if giant monsters engaged in combat is your thing. Tonally, the film felt like it belonged in the same world as the original 1954 Gojira – the original Godzilla film that was darker and a lot more serious and frightening than it’s comedic and campy successors. The tone was perfect, in my opinion, and that is what really makes this movie.

I hope that if this becomes the franchise it is destined to be, the filmmakers going forward tap the well and bring back our favorite kaiju from past films. Because comparatively, no one wants to see Superman fight some scrubs that just walked out of the gym.