2014-05-19

Godzilla – Sometimes Tame Isn’t a Good Thing

by Yo Snyder

My initial reaction upon leaving the theater after seeing Godzilla was, “What an utter
disappointment.” However, given some time to reflect upon it, I’ve decided that
the movie was really just a disappointment (note the softening of my opinion by
decided it wasn’t an utter disappointment).
Yes, I was expecting more from this
rendition of Godzilla. The trailers
raised my expectations to, apparently, unreasonable levels. I was thinking that
I was going to finally see what Cloverfield
had shown was possible; that a Godzilla movie could be scary, intense and
dramatic. The trailers certainly set that tone, but like a comedy that shows
all of its best jokes in the trailers, most of the really intense, scary stuff
for Godzilla was shown in the
trailers, leaving behind more of the campy, nonsensical, sort of goofy stuff
that one usually finds in giant monster movies. In short, something more akin
to Pacific Rim. And so I left the
theater feeling disappointed and a little bit deceived. After all, I was sold
on one thing, and instead saw something quite different. Still, the movie was
enjoyable, but perhaps it would have been more so had I known what kind of
movie it was really going to be.

In order for a movie like
Godzilla
to really work as something more tense, scary and dramatic (as
opposed to just sort of campy and silly), it needs two very key things;
suspension of disbelief and narrative fidelity. All movies need some element of
suspension of disbelief, but something like Godzilla
much more so than most if a viewer is to take it a bit more seriously.
Something like Pacific Rim never
really bothered with suspension of disbelief; it never tried to convince us
that something like this could ever happen, it was just good, silly (and
awesome) fun to sit back and enjoy. Cloverfield,
however, wanted to give a sense of what it would be like if something like that
were to really happen, and hence it worked very hard to have a reasonable level
of suspension of disbelief, where you as the viewer kind of go along with the
whole “what if” scenario. I believe Godzilla
was going for the latter more than the former, but there were too many
distracting elements for me to really buy into it. There were parts that seemed
kind of goofy but were taken far too seriously, and other part that were
unintentionally goofy.

This is also where the second element comes into play;
narrative fidelity. The events and actions of the unfolding plot have to happen
in a logically manner that not only makes sense, but to a certain degree, has
an organic element to it in order to help enhance that suspension of disbelief.
Now, don’t hear me wrong; all stories have plot holes of some sort. However,
the better stories make it so their plot holes aren’t recognized right away;
generally you don’t think about them until well afterwards and you have given
the story some careful thought. However, it’s very distracting when those plot
holes and their gaping presence can’t help but be noticed right away, and
you’re left trying to figure out why or how something happened even while the
movie plows ahead. In Godzilla characters
show up and then disappear, make questionable and even silly choices because if
they didn’t then such and such wouldn’t happen, there are repeated mentions of
a certain character’s skillset which is never actually used (so then why call
attention to it in the first place?), and there’s pile upon piles of
coincidental happenings that stretches any sort of credulity. It always sounds
funny when talking about a movie with a giant monsters in it and someone says,
“You know what didn’t make sense…” However, when people start saying stuff like
that about a movie with giant monsters, you know you have problems with
suspension of disbelief and narrative fidelity.

However, the film does handle Godzilla himself quite well
(even if he isn’t in the movie as much as you might expect), and returns him to
his original characterization of being somewhat of anti-hero. He’s not really
out to protect humanity, but he’ not really out to destroy it either; he pretty
much has his own agenda. To small degree, something similar could be said of
God. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who suggested that he isn’t really a “tame”
God, i.e. he’s not going operate according to our agenda. I find that much of
my disappointments with God are the result of him failing to do things
according to my expectations; on my
timetable according to my agenda with my goals and purposes in mind. God’s
agenda, quite frankly, isn’t the same as mine, and he really isn’t beholden to
conform my agenda. Which isn’t to say that he doesn’t care about us or our
wants and needs; he does, quite a bit. However, what with him being God and
all, he has a much greater understanding of what we truly need and what we
should really want. He knows, quite frankly, what’s truly best for us. He’s not
a genie to grant our wishes, not a “break glass in case of emergency” entity
that we should only turn to in times of trouble in order to make that trouble
disappear, and he doesn’t operate at our beck and call. But he does love us, he
does care for us, and he does want what’s best for us. Sending his only son
Jesus Christ to live, die and live again proves just that.

As I sat in the theater watching Godzilla, I kept waiting for it to deliver on the experience it
promised in the trailers, but it never did. Looking back on it, it’s not really
a terrible movie. In fact, there are parts that I quite liked, and some very
cool moments. Most of those had something to do with Godzilla fighting the
other monsters, and most of those were cool and fun in the same way the fight
scenes of giant monsters and robots were cool and fun in Pacific Rim; but that’s not really what I was expecting to see.
Still, the monster stuff is fun, and Godzilla is, as he’s always been, pretty
cool. However, that doesn’t make up the bulk of the movie. The bulk of the
movie is made up of uninteresting character making nonsensical choices as they
share expository dialogue in uninteresting ways. Everyone seems so subdued and
one-note, which I suppose is supposed to communicate just how serious it all
is, but in the end just seems dull. And so, a movie I was looking forward to
ended up being disappointing, but at least it wasn’t an utter disappointment.

Score: 4 of 7 – I didn’t take my kids to this because I
thought it would be too scary and intense for them. I was wrong, it wasn’t, and
in fact, to a certain degree seemed made for kids. It’s the kind of bloodless,
tense-less, exciting adventure/monster movie that I think kids 12 and up would
enjoy.