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Kaiju / English / 2014

Friendship ended with sniper and submarine movies.
Kaiju movies are now my best friend.

Seriously though, it occurred to me that Godzilla vs. Kong is a literal movie that exists and that I haven't seen it, so I'm like "damn, I should see that", but then I found out the director is the guy who did the Death Note Netflix adaptation and I'm like "oh, well maybe I should kill myself instead".

I decided to revisit the Godzilla franchise, which is apparently the longest running movie series of all time? Thing is, I've been pretty underwhelmed by everything I've seen so far. My first exposure to Godzilla was the American version of Godzilla 2000 which was released in a VHS combo with the 1998 American Godzilla.

Watching these two movies side by side without having any attachment to the original monster movie left me with the extremely unpopular opinion that the 1998 Godzilla was the better movie. Granted, Godzilla 2000 features what is probably the most iconic version of Godzilla to date, but watching him move in what is obviously an extremely movement-restrictive costume rips me out of the movie at every possible opportunity. It's very hard to appreciate the character of Godzilla, King of the Monsters, when he's being puppeted in an obvious suit knocking down obvious props.

One of the most amusing things I've seen was one scene in which Godzilla gets blasted in the face by a giant space rock and flies backwards off his feet. It looks so ridiculous, and I'm all too aware that even sillier things take place in the less mainstream movies. For instance, I tried revisiting the series before by watching Godzilla: Final Wars, a movie which promised an all-out slugfest between Godzilla and many of his classic foes including the popularly hated "Zilla" from the 1998 American movie.

It is one of the dumbest ****ing movies I've ever seen in my entire life.

Not just because Godzilla chews through each monster like they're a punchline, but the human characters are batshit insane and hilarious for the worst possible reasons.

You know that trope of the "fair fight", where the bad guy agrees to duel the protagonist handicapped out of pride? This movie has the best example of this that I've ever seen where some dudebro American dude in a trenchcoat and katana get confronted by some sci-fi yakuza with an uzi, he puts the sword down, and the yakuza guy instantly throws the uzi backwards over his shoulder.

IT'S SO UNBELIEVABLY DUMB and none of it should be in my ******* monster battle movie. And those are basically my two biggest issues with Godzilla movies: The suits look fake as shit, and the human characters won't stay off the ****ing screen.

However, it must be noted that we are living in a post-Pacific Rim world. The untapped potential of kaiju movies is real, and while I could try to stomach the terrible effects of the older films, there are now many new English and Japanese reboots of the franchise that promise Godzilla with all the magic CG can offer.

So how does this movie handle it?

I completely forgot that this movie came out and was heavily advertised to star Bryan Cranston at the height of his popularity, but I only needed to wait long enough for this movie to put The Wall all over again and kill off their biggest talent only a short ways into the movie.

And that's honestly disappointing, because while I was on guard for mediocre human drama getting in the way of the monster throwdown, Bryan Cranston's just genuinely a solid actor and I got invested in him having his wife die through the door he closed on her to save everyone from succumbing to radiation. It's ****in' sad and it's so hard to imagine how I would feel if I were forced into that situation.

But then the movie timeskips 15 years and a completely different family has taken over the drama and I'm supposed to care just because you force in some obligatory "I love you, by the way I going to buy cigarettes, I'll be right back, I swear" bullshit? No.

The only other recognizable actor in this movie is Ken Watanabe, but his entire role is the embarrassing job of maintaining a tortured look on his face the entire movie as he baselessly pathologizes the monsters, just another Asian dude victimized by his own brilliant insight nobody else understands. It's dull as hell and adds nothing to the movie, nor does his female sidekick who seems to exist just to shovel his dialog when he's too busy opening his third eye to speak.

In this movie there's an XCOM style organization that secretly knows about and conceals the existence of Godzilla, while monitoring another monster, which is later revealed to be two monsters referred to only as "the MUTO". I appreciate them establishing a bit of biological significance, such as the male MUTO being small and winged and the female MUTO being much larger, but landed.

The MUTO feed on residual radioactivity long enough before waking up and finding the next source to hibernate around, whereas Godzilla is presented as a sort of apex predator who futzes about on the ocean bed absorbing radiation from the planet's core, but arises for epic monster combat should an actual threat arise.

I think this is a good way to justify keeping Godzilla as an ambivalent force in the world. He's a tangible threat to humanity while he remains in proximity, but he's also the hero because he takes out the monsters that more immediately endanger them.

Naturally this movie falls to the same trope as all previous movies I've seen (excepting the 1998 movie with Broderick, I think) by fixating heavily on human drama. I didn't show up to see humans squabbling over family members or reacting to damaged infrastructure, I showed up to watch a giant atomic lizard beat the **** up out of another abomination of nature, leave me alone.

But unfortunately, they really couldn't do the monster fights justice. Repeatedly they clip the fights so that it's happening offscreen or obscured by a cloud of debris. There's value to be had in not always showing the monster, especially if it's a brand new Godzilla redesign you're hyping up. But it takes an hour before we get a full view of Godzilla and it's another hour after that before I get to see him rompin' around and putting those terrible old costumes to shame.

AND EVEN THEN, they butcher the fights by constantly muting sound effects and audio, so that inexplicably monsters can silently appear and disappear around skyscrapers in a manner not all that different from the hide-and-seek nonsense of the 1998 movie. Except that movie actually had sound effects for Zilla moving around and didn't distractingly silence entire audio layers for dramatic effect.

I can see what they were going for, but it's the sort of thing that only works in moments of poignance, not your whole ****ing fight scene.

And what may make it even worse is Godzilla ultimately kills the female MUTO by prying it's jaws open and just puking atomic breath how it's throat.

It's ****ing awesome, and I'm disappointed that this is the finale to a series of encounters that I was repeatedly unable to SEE and unable to HEAR. I also had it spoiled for me in promotional material when this movie was new.

And thus, is my rating:

Final Verdict: