May 28, 2014
This was exactly the movie it needed to be, and I kinda loved it. A lot of fun (and everyone who says there isn’t enough monster in this is delusional). This is not to say it’s particularly good: it’s the kind of movie where the soundtrack adds taiko drums when the scene shifts to Japan, and where top-flight actors like David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe, and Sally Hawkins (who played Anne Elliot in that great BBC production of Persuasion a few years ago) each get to do exactly one thing through the whole movie. (Okay, Ken, in this scene I want you to look shell shocked. And in this scene I want you to look astonished and shell shocked!)
There were some really, really great visuals: the HALO scene, with Ligeti’s Requiem playing (I’m working on a whole essay about music as horror focused on this piece of music), is one of the most creative, best sequences I’ve seen in an action movie in a long time — this bit’s in the trailer, but in context it manages to be even more spectacular. (Listen to Ford’s breathing, and how it slows down when he sees the monster — good stuff, here.) I also really loved watching the entire Pacific fleet following Godzilla swimming to San Francisco. People, I bounced in my seat, I was so happy with that.
If this movie succeeds, it does so because it’s a throwback: it’s a perfectly simple, straightforward, classic disaster movie. The kind where you wonder what the hell that one guy did in a past life to get stuck in one crappy situation after another. The kind that spends a lot of time focusing on the faces of small children. Cheesy, over the top — and strangely affecting. Let me tell you a story.
I’ve talked quite a bit about my dad’s Air Force career and our time at Grand Forks Air Force Base. One of the things he did there was pull alerts — he and his crew lived pretty much on the runway for a stretch of time, so they could get their plane in the air in a matter of minutes. You know, when the bombs went off. We could visit him — there was a big house with a playground, grills, pool table, and all the crews and their families would get together for an afternoon. I played pool for the first time there. There were also the alarms, and if they went off, all the dads had to go to the planes, and the rest of us would stay behind and likely get blown up when the nukes fell twenty minutes later or whatever. It never happened, of course, but at the time, I’d imagine what would happen if it did.
There’s a scene early on in Godzilla where young Ford is in school, there’s a disaster in progress, and he looks out the window to see the nearby nuclear plant — where both his parents work — falling to pieces. Those few seconds of film perfectly captured that old childhood fear of mine, of what it would be like to see the disaster in progress, and know my family was in the middle of it. I started crying — just for a minute, but there it is. It was a very strange feeling to have in a movie like this. And it meant I was pretty much on the movie’s side, because as cheesy as it is, it got me, right where it intended to get me.