Godzilla vs King Kong is on the way so what better time to take a look into the previous Godzilla films in the franchise.
I remember when the teaser trailer for this dropped. Soldiers are skydiving into a war-ravaged city. Trails of red flowing behind them. As they break through the clouds, the camera finally reveals that the city hasn’t been destroyed by guns or missiles, but a giant creature. Then the biggest reveal, Bryan Cranston. This was just off the back of the final season of Breaking Bad so this reveal sent everybody crazy.
Then the film came out and most people liked it. It wasn’t amazing but it was a serious attempt at a Godzilla film. It took the traditional Jaws approach of limiting the how much screen time the monster receives. However, this doesn’t really work in a film about a giant lizard wrecking cities.
It’s a common criticism. It doesn’t work is because it isn’t used to build tension. It’s used to tease the audience. Arguably, building up expectations is a form of tension building. This film doesn’t understand why Spielberg didn’t show the shark in Jaws. The shark is a source of fear and it’s physical absence allows audiences to project their own fears onto it. Godzilla isn’t the source of fear. The monster he fights, MUTO, is. And we see plenty of MUTO. The only reason that it doesn’t ruin the movie is because the film does deliver its monster action in a satisfying way. Once they’re actually onscreen.
Bryan Cranston suffers similarly to Godzilla. He appears during the first act of the film and dies in the first half hour of the film. The trailer made it seem that Cranston would be the protagonist, but no. We get his son, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass), who is a poor substitute. It isn’t completely Johnson’s fault; his character is blandly written. He has plenty to do and has character motivation, but the characterisation itself is incredibly bland.
For a film attempting to focus on the human aspect of a monster movie, the humans are the worst part of it. Ken Watanabe is fun, and he gets the coolest line in the film, but he isn’t enough to save the human aspect. This is the essential problem with the film, it focuses on the human characters without giving the audience a reason to care.
So why watch this film? It is an interesting take on the franchise so for long-time fans it provides something new. I think this is largely why the film was a success upon it’s release, unlike the sequel.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
The sequel heard criticisms of the first film and decided to take them on board. So much so that the human characters are even worse but with one saving grace. They certainly aren’t the focus. Godzilla and the troupe of monsters are front and centre.
For many, this made the film worse. The first film attempted an interesting take on a tired franchise. There was vision there. This film, has less ambition but is more confident in what it is. It’s a monster movie that doesn’t apologise for it. This means that it’s complete with all the cliches and tropes audiences are used to. This can as much as a turn off for people as it may be a draw.
This film makes little to no attempt at delivering something other than spectacle. In some ways, it improves over the first film. The set pieces are truly at a massive and impressive scale plus we get far more Godzilla.
There is no Bryan Cranston, nor do we get someone who matches him. Audiences got Millie Bobby-Brown instead. She doesn’t have much to do but is at least more memorable than Johnson’s character in the first film. The best character is Watanabe’s returning, Dr. Ishiro Serizawa. He gets some nice character moments with Godzilla himself, strangely enough but it’s only momentary. We get right back into monster action very shortly after any small character moments.
The quality of this film depends entirely on audience expectations. A continuation of the serious tone of the first film is noticeably absent. If that’s what you wanted, you will be disappointed. If you just want to see Godzilla fight other equally large monsters than this delivers completely.
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