I feel like Hollywood does the same with actors. The combined talents of the individual actors that make up the cast of 2014’s GODZILLA would, in any other place other than Hollywood, warrant some serious attention. But here, the sound of paychecks being cashed drowns out even Godzilla’s monstrous roar.
I will admit, however, that the film — while offering a truly dimensionless script and uninspired dialogue –does harken back to those all-star Hollywood disaster films of my youth: THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, THE TOWERING INFERNO, EARTHQUAKE… And in so doing, it does stir some nostalgic memories for me, but mostly of the worst elements of those films. I was also, I should add, a huge Godzilla fan as a boy. All monster films, really, but Godzilla held a special place, so much so that familiar pangs of youthful anticipation crept in from time to time while watching my old, familiar friend recreated.
However, my adult needs are a bit different and I have avoided the majority of monster films that have been tossed out of Hollywood for several decades now. There’s a life that has been stripped from these tales, a social consciousness, a humanity. GODZILLA does indeed have some truly visceral moments and when seen in 3D, those moments can be enhanced greatly. But there’s no heart to this tale. Whatever Godzilla and the other monsters destroy, be it buildings or lives, it all feels hollow, a pretense that squanders the potential of cinema. Open-mouthed expressions of fear and loss do not take the place of actual emotions. The only actor in GODZILLA whose performance seemed to rise above the others for me was Elizabeth Olsen. Wherever she took herself, it transcended the movie despite the fact that they gave her appallingly little to work with and was only a minor character with no real story arc. Sadly, the fact that she was able to nonetheless be present in her performance, shone a light on all the grey, washed-out, lifeless areas of the film in stark contrast. For a movie that seemed to consciously want the characters’ stories to build up to and justify the monsters’ ultimate showdown, they did a shockingly poor job of using that time to create anything with resonance.
I don’t know if director Gareth Edwards wanted the film to retain some of the “cheesy” storytelling qualities that had become part of the landscape of Japanese monster movies, but I maintain that the original GODZILLA (GOJIRA, 1954) stands up as a far stronger, more impactful piece of cinema than this 2014 revisitation.
With all the technological tools at their disposal, it will never cease to amaze me how good writing does not seem to hold the same level of importance, the same value. Why is it so difficult to combine these two things into one? We either have groundbreaking special effects (GRAVITY) OR we have good screenwriting (not GRAVITY). Rarely do the two come together in modern Hollywood cinema.
It’s a shame as the teaser trailer for the film actually gave the impression that GODZILLA might have been a truly cinematic and interesting take on the genre. A deep-rooted social nightmare culled from the subconscious. A film with a little more vision behind it, a sense of tone, a more authentically involving experience. Turns out, the trailer just utilizes the single best moment in the film, the one moment that hinted at what might have been. It also, like Elizabeth Olsen’s performance, reminded us just how weak and uninspired the rest of the film was.