31 Films of Halloween – 10/7/15: Godzilla

Each day during October, Madison Film Guy will post a new mini-review/recommendation/musing on a contemporary or classic horror film to help celebrate my 31 favorite days of the year: the countdown to Halloween! Today’s film: Godzilla.

godzilla-poster-1

Godzilla, 2014

When I first saw the 2014 remake of Godzilla, I told anyone who would listen that the film’s opening credit sequence was the most interesting and creative two minutes of film I’d seen all year. The rest of the film? Eh.

But we’ll get back to that in a minute.

Godzilla should have been a much better film. Visually, it’s terrific. Director Gareth Edwards—whose low-budget creature flick Monsters was a special effects revelation—delivers an absolutely wonderfully-designed and constructed title monster, as well as a couple of worthy radiation-fed adversaries for the big man to battle: the MUTO’s (“Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms” for the uninitiated). Whenever Godzilla or the MUTO’s dominate the narrative or the screen, the movie comes to life.

Unfortunately, though, the human protagonists—especially our hero, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and his long-suffering wife, Elizabeth Olsen—spend their scenes completely sucking the oxygen out of the movie. Dull, uninteresting, and entirely two-dimensional, the human leads seem to understand that nobody is watching this movie to see them, and they offer up performances that live up to that standard. More monsters and less mankind would have made for a significantly better result.

The exception to that rule, however, is Bryan Cranston, who plays a crusading scientist obsessed with unearthing the government conspiracy that he believes led to his wife’s death. Cranston is exceptional in the role—imbuing it with passion and tragedy and real pathos—but the movie casts him aside early on and leaves it in the hands of the next generation. And they fail miserably.

But back to those opening credits.

The first two minutes of Godzilla are a masterclass in creative filmmaking. As the opening credits roll, we are treated to muddy, choppy images that appear to be archival government footage—ostensibly from the 1950’s—presenting Godzilla’s classified backstory. It begins with quick cuts through scientific documents and tantalizing newspaper headlines that hint at some sort of government conspiracy. From there we see snippets of military documents and black and white footage of aquatic military maneuvers. All the while, the credits roll, flashing on screen only to be immediately redacted right before our eyes. And the whole thing builds to a big reveal—a momentary glimpse of Godzilla rising from the ocean—only to be cast back to the depths by a nuclear blast.

It’s brilliant, and you can watch it here:

Godzilla 2014 isn’t awful and it certainly isn’t great. If you’re a fan of creature features, you’ll probably enjoy much of what the movie has to offer…and you’ll definitely geek out at the final confrontation between Godzilla and the MUTO’s. But if you’re not much of a creature feature fan, just watch the two minute clip above, enjoy, and then find a classic horror film on TV (or elsewhere!) to fill the rest of your evening. It will be a much better use of your time.

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