Friday, May 16, 2014


Release date:
May 16, 2014
Gareth Edwards

Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn

I’ll make this short: Godzilla is a damp squib. Sixteen years after Roland Emmerich generated shock and awe among my generation of Hollywood film viewers with his take on this Japanese movie monster, Gareth Edwards’ re-telling of the tale comes with just a whiff of a story and adds nothing so dramatically improved by way of special effects to justify a remake.

Like most great monster stories, this one too is meant as an allegory for the potential impact of human interference in nature. Godzilla – or Gojira as the Japanese say – has spawned numerous films, television shows and other art works in multiple languages. This Hollywood remake falls short on too many fronts.

First, it takes incredibly long to give us our first sighting of the gigantic lizard. Second, instead of rushing us through the scientific mumbo-jumbo that is inescapable in such a film, it has a bunch of people just going on and on and on with their jargon before the actual excitement begins. Third, those scientists in Japan – which is where the early part of the film is set – look laughably clueless in comparison with the American scientist who breaks into their work complex… But of course Americans would know better than the Japanese in a Hollywood film. What was I thinking?

Fourth, there are three creatures here, which makes it all slightly confusing, and more to the point: (a) the first two, who are called MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms), look somewhat plastic-metallic and reminded me a bit of those transformers in the Transformers series (b) Godzilla himself is definitely impressive but considering that almost two decades have elapsed since Emmerich made his film, considering the dramatic leaps technology has taken since then, he’s not a particularly earth-shatteringly evolved version of the reptile from that earlier film.

This is not to say that the new Godzilla has no redeeming factors. I did say the central monster himself is an impressive fellow. And the 3D delivers some special moments, particularly when it rains in San Francisco on screen and it feels like it’s raining in the movie hall. There’s also an excellently edited, heartbreaking scene of separation early on in the film involving Bryan Cranston (from TV’s Breaking Bad) and Oscar- and Cesar-winning actress Juliette Binoche.

That, however, is about it. The film’s talented cast is wasted for the most part, though no one gets as raw a deal as Ken Watanabe who plays one of those clueless scientists I was referring to. For the most part of the film, Watanabe’s Dr Serizawa is required to do nothing much but hang about open-mouthed, surrounded by decisive, smart American military fellows in the US as they go about saving the world ... which is America, of course. Unforgivable.

The story – to the extent that I could understand it – involves two MUTOs who feed off radiation. The male MUTO in Japan flies off to the US to mate with a female MUTO, and nature’s way of restoring its balance apparently is to send Godzilla to destroy them ... in America of course! Godzilla apparently resides beneath the ocean and has survived numerous human efforts to destroy it. In the midst of the mayhem caused by the trio – in America of course – the hero’s family is split up. Yes there’s a human hero, but he’s got such a sliver of a written character that I couldn’t have cared less if he’d not been reunited with his son and wife in the end, and had disappeared into the sea with Godzilla instead.

When Dr Serizawa says in one scene, “The arrogance of man is in thinking nature is in our control and not the other way round”, I wanted to punch the screen in irritation because that same point has been made with so much more depth and beauty in far superior films. Remember that crackling early conversation in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Jurassic Park between Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), the park’s owner Jon Hammond (Richard Attenborough) and Hammond’s flunkies, when Malcolm chides them for the collective arrogance in the room and their absolute lack of respect for nature? Remember in that same film, on discovering that the dinosaur eggs in the park have voluntarily mutated to produce different sexes so that they can reproduce (the park’s creators had generated eggs of only one sex to control multiplication), a scientist says in absolute awe: life will find a way? These are among the most memorable scenes in sci-fi/monster film history. Serizawa’s scene is wannabe in comparison.

Sorry, Mr Edwards, it’s not enough that you create a Godzilla of spectacular proportions. I’m afraid you need to build a semblance of a film around him.

Rating (out of five): **

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
MPAA Rating (US):
122 minutes
PG-13 (for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence)
Release date in the US:
May 16, 2014

1 comment:

  1. Didn't see the latest version. But I thought the 1993 version was a weak remake of the the movie you mentioned, Jurassic Park. The characters were changed so that the whole premise look more stupid. And the lead roles were miscast. And I was thinking the remake could not do as bad as that.