"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

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Godzilla: King of the Monsters - A Review

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****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!****

My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Popcorn Rating: 2.75 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT. It isn’t awful, but unless you are an avid Godzilla and monster movie fan like me, there is really no need to make the effort to see this one in the theatre.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters, directed by Michael Dougherty and written by Dougherty and Zach Shields, is the story of the Russell family, Mark, Emma and Madison, as they come to grips with their grief and with famed monster Godzilla. The film stars Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga and Millie Bobby Brown as Mark, Emma and Madison respectively, with supporting turns from a cavalcade of actors such as Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe, Charles Dance, Sally Hawkins, Bradley Whitford and O’Shea Jackson, to name just a few. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the 35th film in the Godzilla franchise and is the third film in Legendary Entertainment’s Monsterverse (Godzilla 2014, Kong: Skull Island 2017).

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As I have stated before, I am a confirmed Godzilla fan. As a kid growing up, as all the other kids were going crazy for Star Wars…I was obsessed with Godzilla and Planet of the Apes. During my childhood, if on a Saturday one of the local UHF channels just happened to be showing a Godzilla movie, it felt like Christmas. As a kid I also maintained a treasure trove of Godzilla toys and that compulsion has stayed with me well into adulthood. As a young and eligible bachelor living the high life in Brooklyn in the 90’s and 00’s, I had a circular table in my living room that was covered with Godzilla action figures which I proudly dubbed “Monster Island”. As you can imagine it was a huge attraction that brought many ladies into my lair and acted as a powerful aphrodisiac upon them. Nothing gets panties to drop quicker than a prominent display of Godzilla figurines.

It was during this time that Hollywood ventured into the Godzilla waters with Roland Emmerich’s accurately titled Godzilla (1998). Being the idiot fan that I am I rushed out to see this Godzilla reboot as fast as I could. The film, which I’ve since re-named Ferris Bueller’s Godzilla because it starred Matthew Broderick of all godforsaken people, was atrociously bad.

It took another 16 years, but Hollywood got back in the Godzilla business with 2014’s also aptly titled, Godzilla, directed by Gareth Edwards. Once again I rushed out to theatres to see my favorite monster and once again I left the theatre deflated after suffering through a truly terrible monster movie.

For further proof of my Godzilla nerd-dom bona fides, one need look no further than the fact that I actually wrote a very controversial and polarizing piece of Godzilla fan fiction and posted it to this website to coincide with the release of Godzilla (2014). This piece was so culturally radioactive it was met with an avalanche derision and scorn, up to and including death threats.

In 2016, much to my relief the Japanese studio and originator of the Godzilla franchise, Toho, released Shin Godzilla. I am such a fan of Godzilla (and Toho), that I actually waited in line early on a Sunday morning outside the Royal Laemmle Theatre to get tickets to see it. Thankfully, this was an enjoyable Godzilla movie experience.

In terms of the recent Hollywood Godzilla franchise, the 2014 Godzilla was the first film in Legendary Entertainment’s Monsterverse, and it definitely got that franchise off on the wrong foot. It was followed by Kong: Skull Island, starring the dead-eyed and empty-headed Brie Larson, which was so awful it made my teeth hurt. Kong: Skull Island was so bad it did the impossible, it made Godzilla (2014) look like Citizen Kane in comparison. Which brings us to the most recent film in the Legendary Monsterverse…Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

After my checkered Godzilla movie-going past, you might have thought I'd be hesitant to rush out and see Godzilla: King of the Monsters, well…you greatly over-estimate my intelligence. While I certainly did not have high expectations, in fact, my expectations were incredibly low, that didn’t stop me from going to see the very first showing of the film on opening day…which ended up being a 4 pm show on Thursday afternoon.

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My basic takeaway from King of the Monsters is this…it isn’t good…but with that said I also must admit… it could have been a hell of a lot worse. The biggest problem with the Hollywood Godzilla movies is that they use Godzilla as a prop for human drama as opposed to using humans as a prop for Godzilla drama. These movies spend so much time trying to get us to care about stupid people doing stupid things instead of just giving us what we came to see…Godzilla. I mean, Godzilla’s name isn’t above the title…IT IS THE TITLE.

To King of the Monsters credit, it does give us much more Godzilla than its predecessor did…but that isn’t exactly a high bar as Godzilla (2014) had so little Godzilla it should have been titled Waiting for Godzilla. Why studios need to stick to the usual formula of spending time trying to get audiences attached to second rate actors like Kyle Chandler or Vera Formiga is beyond me. You can show them, and spend a wee bit of time developing them, but then just leave them to try and survive the ultimate god encounter…namely…Godzilla.

King of the Monsters goes through the motions of trying to be a real drama, and uses certain cliched narrative devices…over and over and over and over again…in an effort to give deeper meaning to the monster festivities, but this all rings monotonous and hollow. It is like the film gets stuck in a plot loop and can’t get out of it so it simply repeats the same dramatic pattern every half hour except with different characters.

The cast are all fine I guess. I mean, I totally get how difficult it is to act in such an absurd movie with such terrible dialogue, so I cut the cast excessive amounts of slack. That said…the ever-awful Bradley Whitford does his very best to ruin the movie all by himself. Whitford is so repellent a screen presence he needs to be thrown into a volcano and sacrificed to Rodan for the good of all humanity.

On the bright side, 15 year old Millie Bobbie Brown is a really good actress. Brown has hit it big after her captivating work on Netflix’s break out hit Stranger Things. Brown’s greatest asset is that she is alive on screen and pulsates with a palpable humanity. She is also very beautiful, and I have to admit I find myself very concerned for her well-being, as Hollywood is a tough town for anyone, nevermind young people, and it is riddled with predators who use their power to prey upon the young and the weak. It is disconcerting to see Brown being “sexxed-up” by the industry and her handlers, and I only hope she can keep her wits about her as success can be very disorienting at such a young age.

Another plus is seeing Ziyi Zhang in a prominent supporting role. Zhang, who you may remember from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, is a beguiling beauty and formidable actress and it is a shame she has been missing from American cinema for so long.

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As for the monsters…well…the results are mixed. Godzilla looks great, really great, and we do get to see more of him and his rampages than we did in Godzilla (2014), but not enough of him. The other monsters, King Ghidorah, Rodan and Mothra are all just ok. I actually thought Ghidorah was pretty underwhelming visually especially compared to the dragons on Game of Thrones, which surprised me as you’d expect a feature film to have better effects than a tv show. Rodan also felt a bit off visually and that was a disappointment as he has historically been a good foil for Godzilla.

Mothra makes an appearance and is also not the most captivating visual presence. To be fair though, I have never liked Mothra at all. I always thought it was moronic to have a moth be this powerful being…I mean…it is a fucking moth for goodness sake.

The visuals of King of the Monsters are, much like its predecessor, decidedly dark, although this time around there is a higher level of clarity and coherence with the cinematography. We do get to see some clear shots of Godzilla and have a better idea of what is happening during his big fights, but I could use a hell of a lot more of it.

There are a few notable shots in the movie as well…including the usual iconic posing from Godzilla himself. There is one gorgeous shot of Ghidorah that is bursting with symbolic and thematic power, where Ghidorah spreads his wings atop a mountain with a cross in the foreground, that is really well executed. But then the impact of that shot was diluted when the filmmakers made the curious decision to literally show it about four more times.

The plot of King of the Monsters is riddled with illogic and inconsistencies and makes little to no sense. The movie also has little sense of time and space which can make it somewhat dizzying affair. The reality is that the film needlessly tries to explain everything and by doing so just confuses things even more.

In conclusion, if you love Godzilla movies you will find this one to be passable but not particularly great. If you are lukewarm on Godzilla movies and are looking for some mindless fun…stay away from this one as it is a little too mindless and a little short on fun. At the end of the day, Godzilla: King of the Monsters isn’t good enough to do anything more than preach to the most adamant of the Kaiju faithful.

©2019

Shin Godzilla : A Review

****THIS REVIEW CONTAINS VERY MINOR SPOILERS!!! THIS IS NOT A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!!****

My Rating : 4 out of 5 Stars

My Recommendation : See it in the Theatre.

OF GODS AND MONSTERS

Shin Godzilla (Godzilla Resurgence), written and directed by Hideaki Anno (co-directed by Shinji Higuchi), is Tokyo based Toho studios 29th Godzilla film and its third reboot of the franchise. The film tells the origin story of Godzilla as he emerges from Tokyo bay and ravages modern day Japan. The film stars Hiroki Hasegawa, Yutaka Takenouchi and Satomi Ishihara. 

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Being the good Irish Catholic boy that I am, I usually spend Sunday mornings at Mass, but this past Sunday morning I attended a different kind of sacred ritual. Instead of Mass I went to the Royal Laemmle Theatre in Santa Monica, a sort of Church of the Sacred Nerd, and waited in line for the chance to get to worship God...zilla. God-zilla be praised as my waiting was not in vain and I was able to see the film which is in very limited release here in the states. I know that many will find my worship of Godzilla blasphemous, but when you dig deeper you discover I am not blaspheming at all.

As we are told in Shin Godzilla, the name "Godzilla" or "Gojira" as the Japanese call him, is literally translated to mean, "God Incarnate". The beauty of Shin Godzilla is that it recognizes the God encounter as a truly horrifying experience, not the new age, Mega-church, rainbow and puppy dog experience we Americans think it to be. The God encounter is undeniably terrifying, as God is capable of cataclysmic destruction without the least bit of effort. The Japanese have learned this lesson all to well over the years, from the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by nuclear bombs, or the fire bombing of Tokyo in World War II, to the recent devastation wrought by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and the resulting nuclear disaster at Fukushima, the Japanese have seen first hand the power and peril of the God encounter.

I realize that most people think of Godzilla movies as a joke, and this thinking is strongly based in fact, as evidenced by the two atrocious American Godzilla movies (1998 & 2014), and a string of less than decent Toho Godzilla movies over the years. But Shin Godzilla is different, it is an actual, honest to goodness movie. Shin Godzilla, unlike its American counterparts, is entirely structurally and mythologically sound in every way. Yes, the special effects are not quite up to snuff at times, and there is a little bit of campiness to be found if you're looking for it, but with that said, Shin Godzilla takes itself and its subject matter deadly serious. 

Similar to the original Japanese Godzilla (1954), not to be confused with the abomination that is the American version of that film starring Raymond Burr from 1956, Shin Godzilla skillfully uses the myth of Godzilla to tell a wider and more important story. Shin Godzilla uses the Godzilla monster to tell the story of the suffocating and debilitating bureaucracy that has paralyzed Japanese government and society. And while these scenes of government ineptitude and impotence are funny, they aren't a joke. Shin Godzilla is meant to hold up a mirror to Japan and hold it accountable for its less than stellar performance in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami of 2011, and also praise it for the resilience and ingenuity of its people when unshackled by that bureaucracy.

Shin Godzilla is also about American imperialism and colonialism. Even seventy years after the end of World War II, the Japanese are well aware that they are still under the thumb and beholden to the Americans, who bully and cajole the world into bending to its will. In the film, Japan must acquiesce to America's demands or rebuilding the country after Godzilla will not be nearly as easy (and it wasn't easy) as rebuilding after the destruction of World War II. This is one of the main themes of the film, the Japanese search for its soul and spirit in the aftermath of devastation.

MAKE JAPAN GREAT AGAIN!!

It takes a wildfire for a forest to grow stronger, and so it is with Japan in a post-Godzilla, and post-American, world. Once the ruling class with all of their bureaucrats, technocrats and yes-man are burned to the ground, the true heart of the Japanese people can be revealed, the heart of a people with the Samurai myth entrenched deep within their psyches. Shin Godzilla shows us that the Faustian bargain the Japanese made post-WW II with the U.S. has left the nation a flaccid shadow of its former self, and Japan must grow a pair of balls if it wants to survive in the new world of the 21st century.

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In the film we see that once Japan can get past its debilitatingly hierarchical political system and get back to the strength and greatness of its people, it will be be able to re-build from the ashes and rubble left in Godzilla's wake. Japan can become strong and independent once again and shake off the imperialism and colonialism of the west if they can only remove their self-serving and cowardly governing class. To put it in American terms, the Japanese need to "Make Japan Great Again!!", and Godzilla is their Donald Trump, who will burn down the establishment to make way for the Japanese to take back their country from its overlords and their self-induced malaise. The difference between Godzilla and Trump though is that Godzilla, being God Incarnate, is the unadulterated and terrifying Truth, whereas Donald Trump is the self-delusional lie, both the lie that he tells himself and the lie his followers tell themselves.

In Shin Godzilla, the options are clearly presented for the Japanese, they can fall under the rule of the U.S. and the U.N., or turn to other imperialist powers like Russia or China. Instead of following those paths the Japanese realize they must turn inward and conquer their fear and shame, and take their country back, not only from Godzilla, but from the west. This sort of self-determination and neo-nationalism unleashes a pride and self-sufficiency that can go one of two ways. It can either be turned into a confident and self-reliant patriotism, or it can become an arrogant and toxic imperialism hungry for conquest and control. The Japanese have known both forms of this pride, as has America. Shin Godzilla leaves me wondering where this national thought process will lead the current generation of Japanese who seem to be dying on the vine, a lost generation of sorts without even the will to reproduce or the imperative of the sexual drive.

"MAN IS WORSE THAN GODZILLA"

A female scientist in Shin Godzilla tells her compatriots that "Man is worse than Godzilla". This statement resonates with her co-workers who, even seventy years later, all hear the echo of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ringing in their collective ears. Godzilla was born of those atomic bombs, both literally and figuratively, and as he stomps across Tokyo he leaves a trail of fire and devastation that looks remarkably like the destruction left in the wake of the firebombing of Tokyo in World War II.

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As former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara once stated, "LeMay (U.S. Air Force General Curtis LeMay) said, 'If we'd lost the war, we'd all have been prosecuted as war criminals.’ And I think he's right. He, I'd say I, were behaving as war criminals. LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?" (The Fog of War). But to the victors of WWII went the spoils, and to the Japanese went the nightmare that still haunts them to this day.

The Japanese nightmare of World War II is embodied in Shin Godzilla by the "alternative" scientist who had discovered and studied Godzilla but whose work was covered up by the U.S., This scientist, Goro Maki, had lost his wife to radiation sickness from fallout of the Hiroshima attack. A tormented Maki commits suicide in Tokyo Bay by presumably jumping into the water. From the exact spot where Maki jumped into the water, Godzilla rises. In other words, Godzilla is born of the national and personal wound of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic attacks.

LEVIATHANS, ROUGH BEASTS AND THE SHADOW

As the film and Godzilla progress, his destruction looks disturbingly similar to that of the tsunami in 2011. Director Anno masterfully relates Godzilla to the most recent catastrophes in Japan, the tsunami and the Fukushima meltdown. It is easy for us in the west to forget, but over 18,000 people were killed by those events. That is six times the amount killed on 9-11. The Japanese psyche must be deeply scarred by that "God encounter" and the wrath and destruction it wrought. This is why Shin Godzilla is so effective, it uses those deeply ingrained scars and fears to reveal to the Japanese truths about themselves. Shin Godzilla teaches us that just as the God encounter at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 still reverberates in the collective consciousness of the Japanese today, so will the equally horrific God encounter of the tsunami and Fukushima in 2011 effect future generations.

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In Shin Godzilla, Godzilla is the long ignored psychological shadow of Japan. The beast is born out of Japan's anger, shame and guilt for its past hubris and both the sins it committed, the rape of Nanking for instance, and that were committed upon it, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The psychological shadow contains a great deal of energy and power, and when the shadow contents are consciously integrated, which they yearn to be, then that energy and power can be released and used positively. When these shadow components are not consciously integrated, but rather unconsciously vent, the effects are devastating. The shadow contents desperately want to be made conscious, and when they are ignored or repressed, they lash out. Godzilla is the ignored shadow lashing out in order to be recognized, acknowledged and finally integrated. 

Godzilla's destructive power is heightened by his radioactive core. This radioactive core, just like the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when unleashed leaves a trail of deadly fallout behind them. Godzilla and the atomic bombs not only kill in the moment, but for years and decades to come. This means that even when Godzilla is gone, he will not soon be forgotten. Like all powerful elements of the shadow, Godzilla forces the Japanese to acknowledge him consciously and to never be able to push him back into the bay, a symbol of the unconscious. 

Like the Behemoth or Leviathan of the Old Testament, Godzilla is a symbol of the terrifying power unleashed when we have a God Encounter. Shin Godzilla is like the Book of Job, with Japan being Job and Godzilla being God's psychological shadow. Godzilla is a reminder to the Japanese, and all of us, that while we may think we are in control, we aren't. Not even close. Godzilla is a symbol of the powers out of our control, and of the darkness that is rising in our world that will engulf us all sooner or later. Our collective shadow, and Godzilla, will not be ignored much longer. Like the reptilian beast that lurched out of a black pool in Orlando to snatch a little Nebraska boy a few months back, Godzilla is coming out of the depths to remind us of our fragile place in the world and the universe. And we aren't going to be happy when we are forced to reckon with the fact that our rightful place is not at the top of that totem pole. 

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, Shin Godzilla is not only a terrific Godzilla film, it is a very good film. While it doesn't boast the high end special effects of the U.S. Godzilla films, it certainly outdoes its American counter parts with in-depth storytelling, acting and directing. While some non-Godzilla fans may not be able to get past the perceived silliness and campiness of a monster movie, those with the ability to suspend their disbelief and enjoy well done cinema will be left very satisfied by Shin Godzilla. The film is in very limited release in the U.S. so I recommend you see it in the theatre while you can!! 

©2016

 

Godzilla: Structural Integrity, Chaos Theory and the God Encounter

* Warning: This review contains….SPOILERS!! Consider this your official Spoiler Alert.

I grew up loving Godzilla movies. Godzilla and The Planet of the Apes were the things I loved the most as a kid. Other kids were into Star Wars...what a bunch of nerds!!! Godzilla and Planet of the Apes on the other hand, made me super-duper cool and a total chick magnet. Or at least that's what I keep telling myself. That is a brief history of my relationship with Godzilla. To put things into a more present day context, I haven't seen a Godzilla film since the 1998 "Godzilla", directed by Roland Emmerich and starring Matthew Broderick, or as I prefer to call it, "Ferris Bueller Saves Manhattan". That film was an abomination, not only to Godzilla fans, but to humans beings, or any sentient living entities for that matter. I feel the same way about the Tim Burton "Planet of the Apes" atrocity from 2001, which makes me so angry I have vowed to punch Tim Burton in the groin the next time I see him, to assure the world that he never, ever is able to procreate, but that is a diatribe for another day.  

Having not still not fully recovered from the brutalizing I took at the hands of '98 "Godzilla", I saw the trailer to the latest "Godzilla" and was impressed. It looked cool. It had Bryan Cranston in it, a really great actor I admire, and it had some cool shots. I thought…maybe…just maybe…we will get an actual good Godzilla film. So, I went to the movies, not with high hopes, but certainly with hopes.

1998 "Ferris Bueller Saves Manhattan"

1998 "Ferris Bueller Saves Manhattan"

I am here to report that "Godzilla" is not a good movie, not even close. I will say this though, 2014 "Godzilla" is head and shoulders above 1998 "Godzilla", which is sort of like being the tallest midget at the circus. The reasons being: one, I got to watch Bryan Cranston instead of Matthew Broderick. Two, the CGI is fantastic, Godzilla and his enemies look great (when we finally get to see them). Three, they took the subject matter and played it seriously, as opposed to the '98 version which played the entire thing as a farce. In fact, the best thing about the new film is that it got the tone right. If you are going to make a Godzilla movie, you cannot do it with your tongue in cheek, or with a smirk on your face. 2014 "Godzilla" gets the tone exactly right, it plays the film seriously. I mean, what is the sense of going to a Godzilla movie if no one involved pretends Godzilla is real and can kill them? You'd be better served going to a Muppet movie. The 1998 Ferris Bueller "Godzilla" is exhibit A in my case against playing Godzilla as a farce. That film was a smirk-fest from start to finish.

2014 "Godzilla"

2014 "Godzilla"

2014 "Godzilla" should be praised for it's tone. Making a monster or action movie without 'the smirk' is no easy task. I've had lots of clients come to me to work with them on auditions for these types of films. It is not the easiest thing in the world for an actor to work on. To be rolling around on the floor pretending to be in a shootout with aliens, or screaming that the T-Rex is "Coming back!!", while you are in an audition room with stone faced, bored people watching you (when they're not watching their phones), is not the funnest thing for an actor to do. Many actors completely freak out over these circumstances because they feel so foolish playing something so absurd. I always point out to them that the only thing more embarrassing than having to roll on the floor while pretend shooting at pretend aliens, is to half-ass it as you roll on the floor pretend shooting at pretend aliens. The people in the room watching...producers, writers, directors, casting people, won't think less of you if you totally humiliate yourself by buying into the scenario of the scene, even if you have no props, no costume, no set. They will think less of you if you feel the need to let them know you are really cool and totally in on the joke, because the joke in question... is the film...the film they have written, are directing, and have put tens of millions of dollars into. So, if you sort of wink and nod your way through the audition in order to let them know you're cool and that you know this is foolish, they are sure to have zero interest in trusting you to convince the masses to give them their hard earned money in order to watch this ludicrous hunk of poop. If you want to laugh and joke afterwards about it, go crazy, but just remember that while you may not take this stuff seriously, these people do, at least on a certain level, so don't ever demean the material in front of them, no matter how fantastically awful it is.

Now, speaking of 'fantastically awful', let's get back to "Godzilla". One problem with the new "Godzilla" is a problem I have noticed in many recent big-budget-blockbuster-type films I have seen lately (I am thinking of "Noah" and "Transcendence"), namely, that they are structurally unsound. What I mean by that is that the fundamentals of the storytelling are so deeply flawed that the film collapses under the weight of it's own conflicting narratives and complexity.  Leaving it unable to succeed on any level, be it myth-making, storytelling, art or entertainment.

"Godzilla" starts off with a storyline about Bryan Cranston's character trying to solve a mystery at the Japanese nuclear power plant where he works with his wife. We watch Cranston arguing for someone to listen to him and coming up against corporate resistance. Then we see him lose his wife right in front of his eyes due to a nuclear accident that is caused by the mystery earthquakes he is trying to solve. Cranston is a really good actor, so we are drawn to him, we relate to him, he makes us connect.

Cranston dies about an hour into the film. Right when the first monster, a giant moth type thing, arrives. We then switch protagonists and now have to follow his son as he leads us through the story. The problem, of course, is that we don't know, or care about the son in the least. The film has already established our connection to Cranston, and given us a powerful glimpse of his humanity. The son? We have only just met him moments before. The work the story did in attaching us to Cranston cannot be passed off to his son, storytelling doesn't work that way, or at least it doesn't work well that way. So the first hour of the film is a waste, storytelling wise. Now, I am sure the filmmakers made the decision to do this so that their protagonist was younger and more attractive to younger audiences, it is a decision many filmmakers make with an eye to trying to build the box office, but it is a decision that undermines the story. Another reason they did it was to have an active figure who could actually engage in combat with the monsters in the film. Again, I understand the reason why, I just am telling you that it completely distorts and destroys any coherent or effective audience attachment to the main characters.

A big complaint I have heard from people regarding "Godzilla" is that it takes nearly an hour for Godzilla to show up. I actually disagree with this criticism to a certain extant. The structure of the film could work if you use the first hour of the film establishing a connection between the audience and the lead character, and building tension for the arrival of Godzilla. "Jaws" is a great example of this structure. We spend the first part of the film unravelling a mystery and getting to know Chief Brody. It works very well in "Jaws". But a big difference between "Jaws" and "Godzilla" is that Chief Brody doesn't die an hour in and then we have to watch his kid chase a shark. Or more accurately stated, we don't watch his kid fight an octopus that shows up before the shark. That's what happens in "Godzilla". The first monster we see isn't Godzilla. It's the MUTO, or Mothra monster. This goes against every storytelling convention there is, and so if switching main characters from Cranston to Johnson is strike one, then giving us Mothra first when we want Godzilla is strike two. (Also, there is a strike two and a half…namely…when Godzilla FINALLY arrives, and does battle with Mothra Number One in Honolulu, we only see about ten seconds of it, then they cut away and don't show us anymore. The main rule of Godzilla movie making is that when Godzilla shows up, you keep the camera on Godzilla. He is the goddamn star of the picture. The film isn't titled, "Unkown Guy I Don't Give a Shit About", it's titled "Godzilla" fergodsakes, so when Godzilla arrives, everything else becomes secondary..everything…and also…never, ever, ever cut away from a Godzilla fight. It's a sin.)

Here comes strike three. The main structural flaw of the film is that it tries to make a 'superhero' movie instead of a 'monster' movie. In this film, Godzilla is the savior of mankind, he fights two "mothra-esque" creatures and saves humans from their destruction. Even though it is highly flawed, this film still could have worked if it only corrected that main flaw. Godzilla is not the savior of mankind. Godzilla is wrath upon mankind. Godzilla is punishment for man's sins. Godzilla is the God encounter, not in the new age, light, love, puppy dogs and rainbows version of God, but in the old testament, wrathful, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Flood, and Job- type of encounter with God. 

1954 "Gojira"

1954 "Gojira"

The original Godzilla film, "Gojira" from 1954, is a fantastic film. (It is Japanese and not to be confused with the 1956 American re-cut which has Raymond Burr in it, which is pretty terrible). In it,  Godzilla is a result of the use of atomic weapons. He is nature pushing back. Mankind thinks he is beyond nature, more powerful, Godlike even. Well, Godzilla/God is here to tell you that your cities will burn, and a thousand years from now Godzilla will still be here and you humans will not. Godzilla is Leviathan from the Old Testament.

2014 "Godzilla" turns Godzilla into mans protector, which changes the structure of the film and the myth of Godzilla and renders it useless. Godzilla as a super hero lacks much, but Godzilla as a monster has much to offer. In a Superhero Movie (a good one at least), you get to know the superhero, you get to know the villain, and you get to know the people the superhero is trying to protect. For instance, we know Batman, we know Batman's love interest, we know the Joker, we see the Joker try and hurt Batman by trying to hurt his love interest. Pretty simple. So when we spend time with Batman's girlfriend, it propels the movie along because she is an integral part of the story and shows Batman's human and softer side. 

Now, with a Monster Movie, we get to know the people the monster is after, and we root for them to survive the monster encounter, or if the monster is a metaphor for God, we see them survive, or not survive the God encounter. "Jaws" is a fantastic monster movie. "Jaws" wouldn't work if the shark is trying to save children from a ravenous octopus. 

And while we are at it, there are times in the film when we hear that Godzilla has appeared to fight the Mothras (or is it Mothri? In any case, there are two of them), in order to "restore balance" to the earth. What sort of tortured logic is this? I agree that Godzilla, the original myth, is meant to restore balance to the earth, he is in fact sent by "earth" or "God" if you will, to restore balance, the balance being restored is the one which puts mankind back in it's place. Godzilla is meant to humble man, not save him. If the current Godzilla is meant as a metaphor for environmentalism, then the best thing Godzilla could do is not kill the Mothras, but kill the people. The Mothras didn't fuck the earth up, we did. That's why God/Mother Earth sends Godzilla to us…to kick our ass and put the "fear of God" in us.

If you've ever been in, or witnessed, a hurricane, a tornado, a tsunami, an earthquake or a volcanic eruption…that is the God encounter, that is Godzilla. In our entertainment driven culture, we don't like to make people feel uncomfortable. We want, not necessarily a happy ending, but at least we want mankind to win and to be the "good" guys. Godzilla is not a myth where we should win or where we are good. Godzilla is a myth about mankind's sins and our helplessness in the face of the destructive power of God. Godzilla is wrath, Godzilla is the Goddess Kali, Godzilla is Old Testament God putting us in our place.

Mankind likes to think it is in control, likes to think it is in charge and that there is an order to the world. The Godzilla myth is meant to shatter our illusions of control, and to show the power and helplessness that results with chaos being unleashed and reigning in our world. Godzilla is the God of War unconsciously released into the world by man who thinks he can control it. War cannot be controlled, it has a power and mind all it's own. War is chaos. Godzilla is war. Godzilla is coming to get us, and there is nothing we can do about it. We can build walls, he will topple them. We can send armies to fight him, he will kill them. We can drop nuclear weapons on him, he will absorb their power and get stronger. Godzilla is retribution for sins committed against the earth. Godzilla is retribution for man's sins against man. Godzilla is man's punishment for arrogance. Godzilla is death. Relentless, unstoppable, unforgiving. You cannot argue with it, you cannot fight it, you cannot make it pity you. You can only step back and marvel at it's enormous power and bow down and kneel at the almighty horrific divinity that destroys all the minuscule and ridiculous plans of man.

That is what a Godzilla movie should be. Instead we get narratively incoherent niceties telling us that Godzilla is our friend. Just more lies we tell ourselves so that we can avoid thinking about the beast from the abyss that is closing in on us every moment of every day.

Soon...some day very soon, Godzilla will be here…he is coming for you...are you ready to meet him? He isn't coming to save you, he is coming to obliterate everything you have ever known, or will know. He is coming to annihilate you. Don't be a fool….Prepare.

ADDENDUM: Some people have asked me what I think the film should have been. Here is what the film "Godzilla" should have been. It should have been Bryan Cranston trying to get to his son in San Francisco after the beast that killed his wife has risen again and is bearing down on the Bay area. Cranston would try to: one, convince people Godzilla is real, two, convince people Godzilla is coming and, three, figure out a way to stop Godzilla. He would succeed at the first two only because Godzilla would show up, thus proving he wasn't crazy... but he would realize that there is nothing to be done to stop Godzilla once he is here, nothing but to run and hide and pray that he spares you. Then the military would fight Godzilla, and Godzilla would win. The bay area would be destroyed, mankind humbled and Godzilla would slowly walk back into the Pacific ocean leaving us to think about the lesson he has taught us. We would see him walk away and pray that he would never return. But of course, we could never be sure he wouldn't return. He would be lurking in the back of our minds as he lurks in the depths of the Pacific. Then you could make a sequel where he does return, and this time, if you really wanted, you could have him fight other monsters and in a sense be a savior, because you have already established his fearsome power in the first film. The first film would be Godzilla as punisher, the second film would be Godzilla as savior. But instead we got the piece of crap film they gave us, which of course will have a sequel, but what kind of sequel will it be? It will be Godzilla saving us from different monsters, because that is all you can really do from here on in, more of the same. So with the wrong myth driving the story, audiences will be left unconsciously unfulfilled, leaving them with a vague sense of dissatisfaction. They are stuck in the superhero narrative now, not the monster narrative. So like mankind, the makers of "Godzilla" are reveling in their monetary success which they interpret as genius, but they have committed a fatal error in tampering with the myth of Godzilla, and eventually…the myth, like all powerful myths, will exact its revenge, on their box office and on our psyches.