Monthly Archives: September 2014

Godzilla 2014: My Review

If you have not seen the movie spoilers are ahead!

I have been waiting for this movie for a long long time. I first heard of this production in 2004 when it was going to be a short IMAX film. That eventually morphed into a feature film that was going to be made by Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures. The film was announced in 2010 for a 2012 release. It spent a little while in development Hell and for a while I thought it wouldn’t be made. Then in 2012 it was announced Gareth Edwards was to direct the film and it would shoot in 2013 and be released in 2014. I followed every bit of information on the filming of the movie and the design of the new Godzilla. Since I didn’t see it in the theater (I don’t care for movie theaters) I didn’t remain spoiler free. No, I knew a lot about this movie when I sat down to watch it Saturday night. Therefore I could understand both the praise and the criticism I have read about this movie. That is why I needed to sort through my feelings to see what I felt about the movie and let go of the words of others.

Before I give my review I will give a short synopsis of the plot, courtesy of Wikipedia.

In Japan the Janjira Nuclear Power Plant experiences unusual seismic activity. Supervisor Joe Brody sends his wife Sandra and a team of technicians into the reactor. While the team is inside, the reactor is breached, releasing radioactive steam. Sandra and her team are unable to escape and the plant collapses into ruin. Fifteen years later, Joe’s son Ford, a US Navy explosive ordnance disposal officer, returns from a tour of duty to his family in San Francisco but has to immediately depart for Japan after Joe is detained for trespassing in the Janjira quarantine zone. Joe, determined to reveal the disaster’s true cause, persuades Ford to accompany him to their old home within the zone to retrieve vital data. They successfully retrieve the data but are captured and taken to a secret facility within the plant’s ruins. Inside, a giant winged creature emerges from containment and escapes, destroying the facility. Joe is severely wounded and later dies. The incident is reported as an earthquake.

Serizawa, Graham and Ford join a US Navy task force led by Admiral William Stenz on the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga to search for the creature, dubbed “Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism,” (“MUTO”). To Ford, the scientists reveal how a 1954 deep sea expedition triggered the appearance of Godzilla, a prehistoric alpha predator; how early nuclear tests were really attempts to kill it; that Project Monarch was formed secretly to study Godzilla; and that the MUTO caused the Janjira destruction. Ford reveals that Joe had monitored echolocation signals that indicated the MUTO was communicating with something. The task force follows Godzilla, projecting that the monsters will meet near San Francisco. Over the scientists’ objections, Stenz approves a plan to use nuclear warheads to lure the monsters to a safe distance from the city and then detonated to destroy the monsters. Ford returns with the military to California and joins a team delivering the warheads by train. The female MUTO destroys the train and devours one of the warheads. The remaining warhead is airlifted to the city and is activated, but the MUTOs capture it and take it to a nest in the downtown area, where the female deposits her eggs.

After the military fails to stop Godzilla when it arrives at the Golden Gate Bridge, Stenz accepts Serizawa’s advice and orders the military to withdraw to allow the three monsters to fight. While they battle, soldiers, including Ford, enter the city by HALO jump to find and disarm the warhead. Unable to disarm the warhead at the nest, they put it on a boat for disposal at sea. Ford destroys the nest, causing the female to leave the battle. Godzilla then kills the male, using its tail to crush the MUTO against a building. The female finds and kills the team on the boat but Ford is saved when Godzilla kills the female by firing atomic breath down her throat and decapitating her. Godzilla then collapses from injury and exhaustion. Ford pilots the boat out to sea, and is rescued before the warhead detonates. The next day, Ford finds his family at an emergency shelter. In the city ruins, Godzilla, thought to be dead, suddenly awakens and returns to the ocean after a final roar.

My Review

Overall, I really, really liked this movie, despite some quibbles with it. I am going to get one of the first quibbles out of the way. While I liked the story and the MUTOs looked great and were excellent monsters, I think my slight disappointment with the movie was over what could have been. The 2012 Comic-Con teaser showed us a Godzilla with a quote by Robert Oppenheimer that was reminiscent of the 1954 original and Gareth Edwards had said he was going to bring Godzilla back to his roots….but in the end he really didn’t. Now I knew that going into the film that he didn’t make a movie similar to the 1954 original, its just after seeing this movie I really would have loved to have seen a movie with a malevolent Godzilla that arises our of the ocean to wreak havoc on humanity. Instead, what we get is a Godzilla that was prevalent during the Heisei era and some of the Millennium movies: a Godzilla that is a force of nature but also the anti-hero. I like those types of movies too, its just that with all the modern CGI and special effects it would have been nice to have gotten a story in the spirit and tone of the original. I would have liked a solo Godzilla movie where he alone is the focus and the main goal of the movie would have been to try to stop this unstoppable force. In my opinion this movie should have been a sequel to that type of Godzilla film.  The tone of this film is serious but it still has the air of a summer popcorn movie. It isn’t too dark and serious but it is a good old fashioned giant monster movie.

With that out of the way, one of my other concerns was over the fact that I had heard Godzilla doesn’t have a lot of screen time. That was my biggest worry. Although I love the movie Cloverfield I was disappointed in the amount of screen time that monster got and I feared the same fate was in store for Godzilla. My worst fears were not realized. While Godzilla doesn’t have the screen time he has in some of his movies it isn’t as bad as some people report. Sure, I would like to have seen him more but what we do see of him in the movie is well worth it. I also loved the design of the MUTOs. They are very reminiscent of the Colverfield monster, a design I really love. To see Godzilla and the MUTOs in life-like CGI is the best part of the movie for me. Yes, the MUTOs do have more screen time than Godzilla but that doesn’t bother me at all. The time focusing on the MUTOs was well spent.

When Godzilla and the MUTOs are on the screen both together and separately not an inch of film is wasted. They are all money shots. Meaning, they all look spectacular. Some more spectacular than others. When the male MUTO arrives in San Francisco and greets the much larger female MUTO through the clouds and smoke that is an impressive sight. Equally impressive is when Godzilla rises about the two buildings and lets out a snort. The monster battles are epic in scope and detail. This does not look like men in rubber suits! It looks like three giant animals fighting as animals do in the wild.

Before I close out this review I want to say a few words about the acting of three main characters. Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody, Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ford Brody and Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa. Many who did not like this movie loved Bryan Cranston in this role. Cranston has gained considerable popularity as the star of the award winning show Breaking Bad. Since his character is killed off early in the film many fans complained that he was the only good part of the film. I disagree. Although I think he played his part well, I didn’t exactly enjoy the character. Bryan Cranston/Joe Brody was Mr. Intensity throughout the time he was on screen with a few exceptions. Honestly, I don’t think I could have taken an entire movie filled with that much intensity.

On the opposite side of intensity it has been reported that Aaron Taylor-Johnson portrayal of Ford Brody was rather stiff and wooden. Again, this view is dependent on your overall view of the film. I liked the movie so I saw the character as a typical stoic military type. I can however empathize with those who say his performance was wooden and I wouldn’t have complained if they had had a more charismatic actor in that role. However, it really didn’t bother me as much as Cranston’s character.

The one that did bother me a bit was Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa. His critics have said that he also was a one note actor in the film and only had one expression throughout the entire film. He had a look of intense befuddlement and also it seemed like he was spaced out through the film and not really connecting with anyone. I have to agree with this assessment. His character does serve to give a lot of exposition on the film and he has a purpose in the movie, but I was waiting for him to snap out of his daze and speak like a normal individual, but that never happened. My favorite performance of the film was by David Strathairn as Rear Admiral William Stenz, USN. An Admiral in the Seventh Fleet of the United States Navy. He is the commander of the United States Navy task force in charge of tracking down the escaped MUTO. He gave the role the gravitas that it needed while also projecting a warm father-like figure.

All-in-all an enjoyable movie. I would have liked a little more focus on Godzilla but the story is engaging and this movie has the best monster battles I have ever seen in a Godzilla movie.

I give this movie a solid A.

Next week I will compare the two American Godzilla movies!

No Godzilla review today.

I finally got the new Godzilla movie on Saturday. Watched it twice so far. I don’t have a review written just yet. I didn’t want to rush and write one just to meet some arbitrary deadline. It’s mu blog and I can change the deadline! The truth is I really want to put thought into this review. Given that Godzilla is one of my most favorite characters I have many feelings swirling through me about this movie and I want some time to to sort through them before I write the review. I will watch the movie a couple of more times and I will have the review written for next Monday.

Who played Batman the Best: Part IV.

With my interaction with fans on the internet I have come to see that Christian Bale’s performance as Batman is by far the favorite. There are many who also prefer Michael Keaton as Batman but Bale does seem the big favorite. I have written in the past about my love-hate relationship with the Dark Knight trilogy but that is another topic. I want to stick to his performance only.

I recently read a negative review of Batman Begins and one of the things the author said was that Batman was not depicted as a detective which is a big part of his persona. I disagree. I think that aspect is in the Nolan trilogy, yet I don’t think it is a big part of what he does in any movie. I think Adam West and the campy TV series has been the best in portraying Batman as a detective! Bale’s Batman is the most intimidating I would have to say. He has come out of the darkness to grab and harass criminals and informants. Some have complained about the voice Bale does as Batman. It is very gravely and gruff. I personally have no problem with the voice he did and there are a few times when that is what made him intimidating. I like the part when he has an informant hanging over the street high up in the air and the informant yes ”I swear to God” and Batman growls “swear to me!” Great scene and this is the Batman many wanted to see. Overall an excellent performance as Batman despite my problems with the movies themselves.

I cannot end this without mentioning Ben Affleck as Batman in the upcoming film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Of course I cannot really comment on his performance since we have not seen the film yet. We have seen the suit and while I like it for the most part, what I don’t like is the size of the Bat-symbol on his chest. I don’t mind the smaller ears on the cowl either. I have written before that I was surprised he was cast only because he wasn’t even on anyone’s radar. After the momentary shock wore off I was 100% behind this casting and I could really see Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne and Batman. I am really looking forward to his performance and the movie.

Well, I think my two favorite Batman portrayals are Michael Keaton and Christian Bale. They are a virtual tie with Val Kilmer coming close behind those two.

Next week I will finally review the new Godzilla movie!!

Who Played Batman the Best?: Part III

Today I will look at the two actors that played Batman in the two Joel Schumacher movies, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. I do catch a lot of flack for this but these are my two favorite Batman movies. They’re a lot of fun. I think I have already addressed my love of this movies (I will have to check my back articles).

Val Kilmer replaced Michael Keaton as Batman after Keaton dropped out because Tim Burton dropped out! I think Kilmer was a great choice. He portrayed the struggling and tormented Batman very well! As I write this I am coming more and more to the conclusion that all the actors who have portrayed the Dark Knight have done a very good job. It seems the reason why it is difficult to judge the perfomance as Batman is due to the fact that the actor gets to hide in the suit and it is the suit that does the acting. In Kilmer’s movie he begins with a suit almost identical to the one that Keaton wore in his two movies. However, we do see the introduction of the nipples to Kilmer’s Batsuit and I personally never had a problem with them..honestly I never noticed them!!

Now we come to George Clooney…the man who is said to be the worst Batman and the reason why the franchise fell apart. I have to disagree. I thought he did a fine job in the role. He is not my favorite but I do not think he deserves the flack and ridicule he gets. Remember this is coming from someone that did like the movie. However, if you didn’t like the movie I think the script is the problem and not Clooney’s performance. I once read from some fans that Clooney looks down a lot while playing Batman and I never really noticed it before. I watched the movie this morning and while I did notice he would look down while wearing the cowl, I didn’t think it was excessive nor did I find it bothersome.

Of these two I do prefer Kilmer over Clooney only because his projected a darkness that the character needs. Clooney was in a film where we are right back in the realm of the 1966 TV series with Adam West and all of that delicious camp. So, Clooney’s Batman didn’t need to be that dark for that type of film. However, despite the lack of darkness in this version of the Dark Knight there is a good deal of drama in the film. There is tension between Batman and Robin. Some of the tension is due to Batman not trusting Robin to be able to handle the difficulties of fighting crime and this leads him to being over protective which makes Robin resentful. This issues is used by Poison Ivy to further create a wedge between the dynamic duo.

Next week I will look at many people’s favorite…Christian Bale star of the Dark Knight Trilogy.

who Played the Best Batman: Part II

I guess we’re lucky the internet was not around in the late 80s. You think people were up in arms over Ben Affleck being cast as Batman? That was nothing compared to the outrage over Michael Keaton being cast in the role! Many of you younglings who were not born then have no idea how bad it was. It was bad even without the internet! Oh how people complained! Even I questioned the casting! I just could not see Michael Keaton as Batman! He was known for his comedies and physically he seemed like an average guy on the street. Personally I liked the up and coming Steven Seagal as Batman. He was talk and handsome and had a very menacing screen presence and was a martial arts master. Perfect for the role! Alas, it never happened.

Today, many people rank Keaton’s performance as Batman right behind that of Christian Bale as their favorite. Some even count Keaton’s performance as their favorite. And what a performance it is! I remember seeing the movie in 1989 and realizing that Keaton really nailed the part. Honestly, I think the suit had a lot to do with it. His Batman suit is probably my all time favorite. Maybe it proves what “Batman” said in the Dark Knight Trilogy…”anyone can be Batman.” Keaton’s Batman is dark and returns Batman to a neo-forties film noir. The 1989 Batman truly is a graphic novel come to life and Keaton’s performance as the Dark Knight is what made the movie successful.

I remember critics saying that Nicholson’s Joker out shined Batman in the movie and I can agree to that although it did not detract from my enjoyment of the movie. Batman is a man hidden in the shadows and that is what Keaton brought to the role…a dark brooding crime fighter lurking in the shadows to strike fear in the hearts of Gotham’s criminals. I think Keaton did a wonderful job portraying that aspect of the character. In Batman Returns I enjoyed the tension between Batman and Catwoman. I think Keaton was excellent  as Batman in this movie also even though the movie is a bit too dark for my tastes.