Burn, Hollywood, burn

Godzilla update offers nothing new … or old

There goes the neighborhood.

There goes the neighborhood.


Starring Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen and Ken Watanabe. Directed by Gareth Edwards. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG-13.
Rated 2.0

Mediocrities like Gareth Edwards’ shadow of Godzilla put me off what Hollywood has to offer anymore, and reviewing them is akin to spending 500 words describing the experience of eating a Big Mac. “But it’s only a movie,” you may roll your eyes, “Just have fun with it!” Fine. You love rock ’n’ roll? Here’s some Nickelback. Enjoy!

I want more to a movie than two hours of Walmart writing wrapped in $100 million worth of CGI. Harrumph.

The original Godzilla stood as cinema’s biggest metaphor, a 150-foot fire-breathing lizard laying apocalypse down in the name of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It wasn’t subtle. I don’t ask for subtle; all I ask is that filmmakers don’t dial it in like TimeWarner does with this latest attempt to domesticate Godzilla. At the very least, don’t market it as an homage to the original. Godzilla as mankind’s watchdog is a debasement of the original intent, and a whitewashing of history, the denial of cultural complicity in one of the biggest war crimes in history.

Of course, as the first entry of a new franchise, it has to pander to the lowest common denominator. This is product. If you expect anything challenging from the product, you’re not getting down with the 21st century. If you’re looking for Old Testament Godzilla hosing down shrieking humanity with fire and brimstone, this isn’t it. This is strictly a New Testament Godzilla. I don’t think you actually see anyone die onscreen here. WTF?

Anything smelling of sociopolitical underpinnings has been removed to avoid offending the nationalists and replaced with rah-rah jingoism, and any hint of nature bitch-slapping mankind’s hubris has been avoided so as not to alienate the climate-change deniers. There’s no story here to confuse the viewer, just an hour of the screenwriter working out his abandonment issues followed by Edwards turning over the helm to the computer jockeys for the battle royale between Big G and some intruder monsters.

The first hour of this film is almost entirely disposable, interminable stretches of human drama. “But I watch Godzilla movies for the human drama,” said no one ever. We get lots of human drama here, none of it really applicable to the second half of the movie.

There is some wonderful imagery to be found here, brief flashes of brilliance that makes one wish the director had worked with $50 million instead of $160 million so that he would’ve been allowed some narrative risks. The problem is that Edwards is so busy playing it safe and peppering the proceedings with fan-boy nods that he omits signature aspects of Godzilla, like the ominous footsteps, distant thunder slowly rolling in and rattling the paper house as the residents realized how insignificant they truly were in the universe.

If you’re looking for a matinee of city smashing, after the first hour, Godzilla ends up delivering the goods. Sort of. The mayhem is set at night and there’s lots of dust flying, so I’d recommend not doing the 3-D. And Edwards has an annoying habit of cutting away from the action when things are finally getting good, either cutting to evening news footage of the monsters going at it or even worse … more family drama.

Burn, Hollywood, burn.