Bullet Point Review of Godzilla: The King is Dead, Long Live the King

BulletPointReviews

As a lifelong fan it was necessary to share my thoughts on the new Godzilla movie. It’s been ten years since the last REAL Godzilla movie. There’s a lot to cover!

HailtotheKingUpdates to the Franchise:

  • Appearance: Godzilla looks different but he’s still recognizable. He has the same low-center girth, thick body, long arms, spikey back, and upright posture. He looks more crocodilian now and more “naturalistic” since he didn’t have to be designed to contain an actor.
  • Symbolism: Through most of the Toho series Godzilla was Frankenstein’s monster, created by the arrogance of mankind’s science and now out of control. He now represents the power of nature, a force mankind has no hope to control and that can destroy us at will.
  • CGI: Ok…I give… CGI allowed Godzilla to have a different presence than the rubber suit Big G. The odds that we’ll ever see a guy in a costume playing him are low, but for CGI he did look and act like Godzilla and added some movement and dynamism impossible in Suitmation.

Plot/Characters:

  • New primordial monsters awaken and threaten the world in a fresh new way (the EMP field). Big G wakes up; I think just to defend his territory. Good update on Godzilla’s origin too. And how he relates to the “bomb tests” in the 50s.
  • James Rolfe at Cinemassacre declared he watches Godzilla movies to see monsters fighting and people talking. This film follows that mold. The people do plotting, explaining, and interacting. Sometimes they try to fight the monsters, which is typically laughable. The fighting is done by the monsters and is relatively spectacular.
  • How is Godzilla best used? If a Godzilla movie was Titanic Big G works best as either the ship or the iceberg. He is what drives the plot or he is what the plot crashed into. Try to make him a leading man and you get the goofball comedy Godzilla we had in the 70s. He can be fun in that role but it’s not the “King of the Monsters.” Here Godzilla is a little bit the ship and a little bit the iceberg. He’s used sparingly enough to retain his mystique, but often enough to keep the action up.
  • The human characters are good for what they are. Ford is driven from place to place for his family, running into monsters along the way. His wife and child are in the middle of monster central. Ford’s obsessed father is actually effective as exposition. And Dr Serizawa (nice nod to the 1954 film) is a good voice for Godzilla, explaining his motives (as he sees them). For people in a Godzilla movie they do quite well. I’ve definitely seen MUCH worse…

Monsters/Brawling:

  • The new Mutos are good, creepy monsters. They look a lot like other modern monsters, but the fact that Godzilla had two enemies evened the odds since he’s the “alpha predator.” Interesting tie in to both the consequences of nuclear power and humanity’s reliance on technology.
  • The monster fights are terrific, however brief. The older movies could be a lot of slow monster fighting in wide shots, but in this one the monsters tend to fight from the people’s perspective, which gives it a new element. Of course no one would complain for MORE monster fighting, but it was done well.  it also kept the movie fairly short by modern blockbuster standards.
  • Godzilla’s demeanor and ferocity are well-displayed. His roar sounds like “Voice of God Radio” that’s been tuned to high distortion and his Atomic Breath is like a neon supernova of death and both have enough elements of Toho G to retain continuity. Big approvals for both.
  • Best alliteration moment: Multiple Memorable Mothra Mentions!
  • Godzilla now wins the “Best Fatality Move Ever” competition.

Final thoughts:

Is it a perfect movie? No. The people sequences do go on and I would’ve traded about 15 minutes of human drama for 15 minutes of monster combat, but that is a tricky balance. Monsters fighting too much can become silly and cartoony, people talking too much becomes boring. This film did a pretty good job with the balance. This was Monster Movies Level 1010: Introduction to Godzilla. It did everything that made the Toho Godzilla movies great, and added some new film features, while always treating their source material with reverence and respect.  The only real complaint I had was the lack of the Toho Godzilla theme, which isn’t always a constant but it would’ve been nice to have the Big Guy arrive to the recognizable strains of earlier times.  Godzilla has changed, probably forever. Barring an unlikely Toho-produced Suitmation movie, Gareth Edwards’ film represents the future of the Godzilla, and though I’d welcome a return to Suit-zilla, if this has to be the future the future is bright. All other sci-fi/monster movies should really sit up to take notice and notes. To paraphrase Nas, the king is back; time to return the crown.

Rating: 4.5 Haruo Nakajimas out of 5

Naka

For those who don’t know it, this is the classic Godzilla theme.  He burst from the water and trudged toward some doomed city for 50+ years, often accompanied by this music.

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