Godzilla: King of the Monsters

godz1Monumentally silly action blockbuster. I mean really, this is just incredibly dumb and amazingly inept in execution. You can usually dismiss films like this stating ‘well, its daft but at least the visual effects are fun’ but that’s not true with this one. I think it is one of those films that simply has so much effects work (and likely done in so short a time) that the quality goes down the plughole. I’m sure they make these things with the best of intentions (other than the usual one, which is to make loads of money) but this is really a bit of a train wreck.

Which is a shame and rather a let-down, because I really enjoyed Kong: Skull Island, thinking it was quite a lot of fun and with some decent, and quite effective, effects sequences that had some thought invested in them. Godzilla: King of the Monsters has so much going on all the time it obviously just got out of control and regards the effects, its clear that quite a few got through to the editing suite before they were really polished/finished. This thing really wasn’t ready for its release date and needed more time.

Not that the surprisingly shoddy effects work is the only problem. The script, such as it is, is really all over the place with, in particular, some of the worst dialogue I have ever heard in a film in  years. Its really awful- the kind of ‘witty’ one-liners that are clearly designed to be featured in the trailers as soundbites. Or its lines written just to try explain whats going on and why- something that really has become a pet hate of mine. The script is obviously not finished or written well enough to explain the film through its plot so has to stitch sequences together with dialogue. Woefully inept film-making- my rule is: show me, don’t tell me.

In any case, the substantial budget is reflected in the fairly high-calibre acting talent that is paid to speak the awful dialogue as sincerely as their pay-cheques can muster, but its like getting Pacino or De Niro to play in a High School drama written by a thirteen year old. Its such a waste. The characters are underwritten to the point of nothing being there at all, you don’t care about anybody in any scene, so there is nothing reinforcing any of those shoddy silly monster effects. As for all the hardware on show, and the destruction in which tens of thousands of innocents are just killed off  without a mention or anything, its all just reduced to the level of a video game. There’s no context, no drama.

Is there a good film in here? To be honest, I have to wonder if there is even a film in here. Maybe it works as a long trailer for an Xbox game, but that’s about it.

Hail the King

2017.38: Kong: Skull Island (2017)

kong1If Lara Croft was a photographer, then she’d look like Brie Larson in Kong: Skull Island. Not that Lara Croft: Tomb Photographer is a likely prospect for a future film/videogame, but its definitely the ‘look’ they were going for.

Kong: Skull Island is immense fun. Its one of my biggest genuine surprises of the year so far- its a film that from the trailers looked pretty lackluster to be honest, so the film didn’t really interest me too much- I gave it a miss at the cinema, as I expected it to be just another cgi snore-fest. Boy, was I wrong.

As it turns out, yes it is a cgi-fest in places but that cgi is very well done, indeed technically audacious and quite imaginatively executed with some thoughtful design choices and while it is a fairly dumb film,  its also great fun. The cast is great, the script witty and the direction has considerable flair. Its a far better film than I expected and really much, much better (and decidedly less calculated/by the numbers) than the recent Jurassic Park reboot.

Kong himself is huge here- I mean, crazily, ridiculously, mentally over-sized, but I suppose its all part of the intentional, over-the-top fun of the whole piece. This Kong is literally Godlike, a gigantic force of nature to finally put puny man in his place. This Kong won’t get beaten by humans in their war planes- this King tosses around helicopters straight from Apocalypse Now as if they are playthings. Its like monster-movie revenge for the 1933 original finale (and that of the 1976 and 2005 remakes); gloriously rewriting the traditional Kong story- I can almost imagine this being a Joe Dante movie, its so like Gremlins in how it has such naughty fun subverting conventions of earlier Kongs. Its glee could only be intensified had it somehow got a Jerry Goldsmith score similar to his riotous Gremlins score.Yeah, a Joe Dante King Kong movie- this is nearly it.

With credentials like that, this film is a must-watch. I can still hardly believe it, and can’t wait to watch it again. If they can keep the creative team together,  the Godzilla vs Kong mooted to follow will be an absolute riot. Hail the King indeed.

Godzilla (2014)

godzilla1I have no problem with this version of Godzilla basically being a big tease, offering mostly glimpses of the titular character as opposed to in-your-face full blown action. Its a problem with modern movies and all their CGI that we generally see too much. Little is left to the imagination these days, and sometimes less is more. The power of the original Alien, for instance, is that we see so little of the monster. It was likely something enforced on the film-makers because of the limitations they were under, but it worked to improve the film and is one of the reasons it stands the test of time so well. A modern Alien film would just go nuts showing the creature in all sorts of grisly detail, but I don’t think it would make the film any better.

Godzilla is a huge epic movie with lots and lots of CGI destruction, but it often limits how much we see of Godzilla itself, preferring to show what he/it leaves in its wake (I always wonder if I should I refer to Godzilla as ‘it’ rather than ‘he’), focusing much of the time on the effects he has on the environment as if he is a force of nature. This approach has frustrated many viewers but I think its refreshing. The problem is that the film struggles to fill the gap left by not focusing purely on the title character: the human supporting cast suffers somewhat in a fairly mediocre plot that, by being oddly formulaic, is at odds with the challenging approach of not focusing wholly on the creature itself. Its certainly a part of the script that deserved a little more work and focus. Its frustrating to see some of the fine cast fairly wasted as if they were in your usual effects-driven blockbuster, because it really isn’t that kind of film- its trying to be more sophisticated than that but unfortunately the end result is pretty much the same: by the last hour the carnage is colossal and the human characters are left floundering in its CGI wake. It isn’t the dramatic work it wants to be or should be. But it does have an impressive sense of scale, and many of the shots are breathtakingly good in the way they demonstrate the sheer size and power of the film’s monsters*. There is a beauty in all the destruction, so much so its odd to consider all the thousands of human deaths it represents; there is an odd dichotomy there.

Its commendable that the studio and producers intend to wait for director Gareth Edwards to become available for the sequel (Edwards sidelined for a year or two by a Star Wars project) rather than rush into it with another director at the helm. It will be fascinating to see where Edwards goes with the next film. I would imagine that it will be a better picture, simply as it will not be so hamstrung as this first film was with having to set everything up, but perhaps also it will be able to better serve the human cast as well. In a way, this film is indeed a big tease, but not simply in how it shows the title character- its actually teasing a better film that this should have been but hopefully the next will be. I don’t always look forward to sequels, I’d sooner films be better standalone pieces, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Roll on Godzilla 2.

 

*This is one of those films that I regret not seeing at the cinema. It looks gorgeous on Blu-ray but there is no way a home tv screen can approximate what this film must have looked like projected on a big theatrical screen. Must have been quite an experience.