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Garrett Stiger "Y'all know me. Know how I earn a liven'..." RSS Feed (California, USA)

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Godzilla (3D) [Blu-ray]
Godzilla (3D) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Offered by CAN'T BEAT US!
Price: $18.89
50 used & new from $10.36

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man...", September 16, 2014
This review is from: Godzilla (3D) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Those words were sung by Blue Öyster Cult in their hit song, "Godzilla." It's a philosophy director Gareth Edwards took to heart in this summer's dazzling reboot. A nifty title sequence sets the stage. We learn that the presumed nuclear tests in the South Pacific of the 1950s were in fact attempts to kill the creature. Alexandre Desplat delivers a rousing score, as we get a brief glimpse of the titular monster, his dorsal spines cresting the surface of the ocean.

Cut to 1999, a strange incident causes a Japanese nuclear power plant to go into meltdown. Bryan Cranston's Joe Brody is our emotional hook into the film, as he spends the next 15 years trying to figure out what happened. His son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) returns home after a tour of duty. Having spent only a few hours with his family, he's reluctantly called to Japan to bail his father out of prison. Joe was trespassing in the quarantine zone in an effort to discover the cause of the disaster.

Turns out it wasn't an earthquake, as reported.

Ford becomes the main focus, which brings us to the film's characters. They are its biggest liability, especially Ford Brody. The supporting roles are thin, but they're played by talented performers, so the mediocre writing is tolerable. In addition to Cranston, the cast includes Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, David Strathairn, Juliette Binoche, and Sally Hawkins. Sadly, Aaron Taylor-Johnson isn't equipped to imbue his character with any gravitas or charisma, and questionable character beats and developments land with a thud.

One such moment occurs near the end of the film. In the interest of remaining spoiler free, I'll just say Ford gives up at a critical juncture when he should be fighting tooth and nail. Some have criticized the insignificance of the human characters in comparison to the monsters, but that isn't an inherently bad thing. The movie just needed to derive more drama from their inability to change their fates, but make no mistake, Godzilla should confound mankind at every turn. After all, the character was born out of Japan's anxiety over nuclear attacks.

Much has been made about Godzilla's lack of screen time - a complaint that boggles my mind. Gareth Edwards understands, like Spielberg and Ridley Scott before him, that the quickest way to take the majesty and menace out of a main attraction is to overexpose it. He and screenwriter Max Borenstein allow their film to build toward a distinct and succinct climax, shrewdly dolling out spectacle in small doses until the thunderous ending. I can't tell you how refreshing it is to see filmmakers respect their audience in this regard, since so many blockbusters are structured for itchy teens. Climax upon climax upon climax - after a while, it stops meaning anything.

Edwards and Director of Photography Seamus McGarvey rigorously adopt P.O.V. camerawork, with much of the action being framed from the ground level. This creates dynamic scale, placing us in the action and giving the film a genuine sense of awe that's been missing from multiplexes. So many blockbuster directors are seduced by their budgets, and they use shots that showcase their resources but fail to involve the audience.

Despite the bleak subject matter, and contrary to a popular criticism that the film takes itself too seriously, Edwards knows how to have a good time. Just as things starts to heat up, he wryly cuts away from a bit of action at the Honolulu International Airport. (Gotta leave enough fuel in the tank for the big finish.) Elvis Presley's "Devil in Disguise" scores the destruction of Las Vegas. And there are so many playful uses of the camera. As Ford waits on a tram to get to his flight, the power goes out. When the lights come back on, we follow their progress from inside the tram. Suddenly, they illuminate this hulking titan as it lumbers into the airport. It's a motivated camera move and provides a nice little scare.

And Edwards isn't just adept at money shots. He's got a true filmmaker's eye, hanging entire sequences on simple images that are so lo-fi, they could have come from his low-budget debut, "Monsters." The camera lingers on an empty hallway in a power plant in crisis, as we anxiously wait to see what will round the corner. A group of marines storm a nuclear waste site searching for...something. Nothing out of the ordinary in the first two containment facilities, but when a marine pulls back a sliding door on the third one, he's greeted with a blinding shaft of light. What's that about?

"The arrogance of man is assuming nature is in our control, and not the other way around," Watanabe's Dr. Serizawa intones. It's there in the way tsunami waters wipe away a coastal street. It's there in the way a dog surveys bodies at a train wreck. And it's there in the way nature has retaken the quarantined city in Japan, plants and animals clinging to every surface. Rest assured, nature will retake more major cities before the movie's over.

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