I usually leave the sparring to my partner Scott Marks — he’s got more spleen, and better references, besides. But it’s a slow news week, and I’m feeling spunky. Godzilla came out last Friday, and it’s making lots of money, so it must be good. But I didn’t much care for it. Here’s my review:
“Why do you want to see Godzilla? Is it to see an embiggened update of the famous radioactive lizard? Is it to hear a tweaked, booming, maybe-recognizable version of the famous squeal? Is it to see the big guy breathe his famous nuclear fire? Then step right up! Is it to see awesome monster battles and catastrophic urban destruction? To experience vicarious terror as tiny humans cower and perish before the onslaught of nightmarish natural forces? Well, there’s some of that, I guess. Is it to nod in appreciation over an updated exploration of nuclear anxiety in the wake of Fukushima? To delight in the perfectly pitched performances of fine actors like Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe in an old-fashioned monster movie? Um, not so much. Anyway. Godzilla is now the only alpha predator besides man who doesn’t eat what he hunts. But somehow he still exists to restore the balance to nature — even if that means saving humanity and its practice of nuclear fission. Bonkers and boring. Oh, well. At least there’s a nice lesson about the importance of family.”
And here’s a comment from Michael Eric Carlson that got 14 likes on Facebook: “Matthew Lickona can lickona my balls. Two thirds of your review were questions...you have the easiest job on the planet and your [sic] awful at it, congrats.” John Koser (10 likes) chimed in with “One of the fucking worst reviews I have ever read. You don’t even offer any legitimate criticism in this ‘review.’“ Thanks, fellas!
How did I come to produce such a lousy review? Glad you asked. I go to a lot of screenings, and it’s super-duper rare for an audience to applaud in the middle of a film. For Godzilla, they applauded twice. For a terrible movie filled with terrible scripting and terrible acting and terrible plotting and oodles of stupid exposition and scads of pointless, stupid moments. Amazing!
Well, I thought, they must be getting what they came for. So that’s how I pitched my review. Hence the questions that so irked Mr. Carlson. I wanted to let people know that they’d get their iconic moments of Godzilla action but that the battles and carnage were so-so and the acting and story were just bad and dumb, respectively.
About the dumb story: I didn’t want people to simply take my word for it, so I gave an example from the movie. Godzilla is held up as a force of nature, an alpha predator who can be counted on to keep things in balance. Sort of the way lions cull the antelope herds, I guess. But it’s a funny sort of predator who doesn’t eat what he hunts. Instead, Godzilla seems to act more like a defender of humanity, even though he and his prey have existed since long before humans walked the Earth.
Oh, and the nature that Godzilla exists to keep in balance? I wonder how it felt about Chernobyl, or Fukushima, or the BP oil-rig disaster, or the Exxon Valdez, or nuclear test bombing, or any of the other things humanity has done to the planet. If your mission in life was to preserve the balance in nature, who would you go after: a couple of gigantic bugs who just want to make babies or the species that melted the polar ice caps, chopped down the rain forest, and perforated the ozone layer? I’m a lousy environmentalist, but why does Godzilla hate the bugs and not the people? If anything, the bugs are restoring the balance — by eating all our nuclear waste. As I said, bonkers.
Godzilla: Asia Trailer [HD]
As for “boring” — well, it’s an assertion, I admit. But a number of my fellow critics agreed. “Strangely unthrilling.” — Daily Mail. “Even the most spectacle-hungry viewer is going to get bored.” — Independent. “Bloated and often boring.” — People. “Appreciation of a movie like this requires an almost morbid degree of connoisseurship, which may, in practice, be hard to distinguish from bored acquiescence.” - The New York Times. The list goes on.
And I wasn’t kidding about the lesson on the importance of family. Bryan Cranston’s character, who has abandoned his role as grandfather in order to prove his theories about a government cover-up, tells his son that protecting his family is all that matters.
Isn’t that nice? He learned something!