Tokyo didn’t get it this time, but Honolulu and San Francisco met the wrath of atomic-fueled monsters from Japan in 2014’s reboot / installment in the Godzilla franchise. To my great misfortune, I bought this movie on Blue Ray and I found it a napper on the “small” screen. That is, this was a gargantuan film about gargantuan monsters from a gargantuan era so far distant that its years are measured in gargantuan numbers. TV simply doesn’t do this film justice.
Who is Godzilla? In this film, the monster is described as being like a god—a force of nature, an aspect of the cosmos, he’s usually pretty docile. just kind of swimming around out in the Pacific (probably plays chess with Cthulhu.) But when the parasitic MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms) emerge, the monster is stirred to hunt. In the process, the grieving Bryan Cranston is killed… again. I guess the guy knows how to play to his strengths.
An Eastern concept of divinity, of what constitutes a god, gets expressed nicely in the film. Ask any Hindu which god created the world, he’ll smile and wave you away because what god could create the world? It’s the other way around—the world created the gods, the same as it created us. Godzilla is, as his name implies, a god, a potent aspect of the world about which we can do nothing. It’s all very generically Eastern, but that’s all it needs to be for an American audience.
Godzilla’s instinct to hunt the MUTOs coincides with a similar drive in the MUTOs that requires a Godzilla carcass for the purpose of reproduction. Let the fun begin as the chase takes them a quarter of the way around the world from the islands of Japan to Nevada and California as a navy flotilla escorts an unstoppable, inscrutable Godzilla across the ocean. Here, given the ships for perspective, the scale of Godzilla can be ascertained and he’s enormous. This worked on the small screen and gave me some idea of the scale of these things, otherwise the film’s visual effects simply didn’t translate well.
The elements of cultural cooperation and culture clash between Japan and America are noted from the military’s seizure of the MUTO project, to the broken watch, to the migration of the monsters themselves, to the protagonist as a child attending a Japanese school. The film explores the bond and tensions between the two nations, the problem of nuclear dependence, and the role of the military in large-scale natural disasters in foreign lands.
But it simply didn’t work outside of the theater, I’m afraid. Everything was meant to be seen on a big screen, something measured in tens of feet, not merely tens of inches. The film lost impact with each reduction in scale. The epic battles became tiny and boring.
So overall I enjoyed it, but I didn’t enjoy it in the format in which I saw the film. Epic monster movies like Godzilla must be seen in the theater. Unfortunately, that means putting up with jerks on their cellphones and never really being able to suspend disbelief. And now I’m sad….