As I’ve mentioned every single time, trailer equals hype and this film was no different. Seeing Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah for the first time made me cheer immensely. They had been perfectly designed to be more “realistic” takes on the characters while still maintaining core elements of their original designs. All of the imagery and subtle story beats compounded with the haunting take on “Over the Rainbow” made a damn fine trailer. The promise of seeing a full-blown Japanese style Godzilla film was an exciting prospect.
I’m probably gonna say something jarring here considering everything I’ve said about all of these films up to this point, but I walked out of this film feeling empty. As if the film didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Now, I want to preface this by saying that right before I watched this film, I received some bad news. Like I was literally sitting in the theater waiting for the film to start and got a phone call. I’ve wondered if it tainted my viewing experience at the time, but even repeat viewings have left me feeling about the same.
But my biggest question is “why?” This has the makings of every single thing I ever wanted from an Americanized Godzilla film and then some! Michael Dougherty clearly seems like a fan and lovingly crafts so many Easter eggs throughout the film. Then Bear McCreary’s score pays homage and even remakes several compositions by Akira Ifukube, which were amazing. Although I was disappointed that neither Rodan’s nor King Ghidorah’s themes were used, there may have been licensing fees for those that could have prevented their use. And McCreary’s own Rodan theme was pretty cool in its own right.
Perhaps the story could be to blame. I liked the idea of the Russell family having been affected by Godzilla’s fight in San Francisco. It frames the situation differently, now seeing people suffering a tragedy in the wake of that event. I liked Vera Farmiga and Millie Bobby Brown in their respective roles. They’re both great actors. Kyle Chandler is also great and I feel like I can relate to his character arc, having disdain for something that was in some ways responsible for the death of a loved one.
I know that Emma’s story arc is the one that people have complained about the most. And I’ll admit I have no sympathy for the character. When she dies at the end, I couldn’t care less. She was a terrible person and had no redeeming qualities. I guess I do find her reasonings somewhat fascinating. Titans will save the world or something but they screw up and release a real threat.
Look, anyone who is going to bitch and complain about the realistic nature of a plot in a Godzilla clearly hasn’t watched any of the films. Godzilla has been to space for god’s sake! When monsters go smash, you can’t expect Shakespeare. Sure, it would be nice every once and awhile but this is the nature of the beast. I’m not sure what people were expecting.
Then there’s the “I don’t care about the humans. Why can’t it just be monsters fighting the whole time? That’s what I’m here to see!” complaint. You try watching 90 minutes of nothing but monsters fighting and I promise you, you’ll get bored at some point. We need human characters to drive any kind of plot along, regardless of how silly it may be. There isn’t much character development that can be done with kaiju. That is unless you want them to start talking. Sorry, I’ve gone off the rails a bit.
If the story isn’t to blame, it’s surely not the kaiju. I love seeing every single one of them, even the ones I don’t know! I’d have to say Rodan’s introduction was probably one of the biggest highlights for me. I feel like he’s one of those kaiju that doesn’t get enough recognition even though he’s been around over 60 years. As far as the others, Godzilla’s just doing his thing and constantly clashing with Ghidorah while Mothra’s being Mothra.
And it’s that last statement that really helped me reflect what may be my biggest issue with the film: I’ve seen it already. There were very few things about this movie that surprised me. First, the marketing was relentless so I felt I’d seen half the movie before sitting in the theater. Secondly, I saw all of the story beats coming. I’m sure all of that coupled with the numerous Easter eggs throughout were meant as a love letter to fans. And I appreciate it. BUT I’ve seen those films and would like something that pays homage while doing something different. Something new.
Perhaps in time, I can find a new appreciation for the film when the new car smell wears off. But for now, as amazing as all that monster action is, it’s not enough for me to say it’s everything I ever wanted in a Godzilla film.