Review: Godzilla’s spine seems to be the star of the show

Marcus Goh
Godzilla awakens. (Warner Bros Pictures)
Godzilla awakens. (Warner Bros Pictures)

Marcus Goh is a former Singapore television scriptwriter. He's also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. Tweets at @Optimarcus and writes at marcusgohmarcusgoh.com. The views expressed are his own.

Running time: 123 minutes (2 hours)

Secret ending? No.

"Godzilla" is a monster movie that features the titular antihero Godzilla as the massive monstrosity traverses major cities engaging in battle with the Muto, giant radioactive insects. It stars Ken Watanabe (Dr Ishiro Serizawa), Bryan Cranston (Joe Brody), Elizabeth Olsen (Elle Brody), and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Ford Brody).

So, what exactly makes this movie worth watching?

Godzilla vs Muto

The last fifteen minutes of the movie features a knock-down drag-out fight between Godzilla and the Muto, where they tear apart the city in a mess of nuclear breath attacks, giant tail slaps, and aerial sting stabs. Although it takes place in the dark and the buildings are strangely sparse for a supposed metropolis, it gives you what you really want to watch - monsters attacking each other.

Ken Watanabe pulls off the stereotypical professor role

Despite playing a cliched, 80's Godzilla-esque professor — Ken Watanabe manages to play it straight and pulls it off quite well. He doesn't take himself too seriously, but neither does he ham up the mad professor angle, which makes the moral that he delivers more easy to swallow.

Humanising Godzilla

At the end of the film, you truly feel sorry for Godzilla. That came as a surprise to me, because for most of the film there's only fear and apprehension towards him. It was a pleasant moment seeing a vulnerable, noble side to Godzilla, and thanks to Ken Watanabe's performance, we gain a strange sort of respect for the creature.

Father and son investigate a nuclear facility. (Warner Bros Pictures)
Father and son investigate a nuclear facility. (Warner Bros Pictures)

Unfortunately, many other flaws plague this film.

Overused filming techniques

As you watch this film, three shots stand out as favourites of the director (Gareth Edwards). Godzilla/Muto retreating into the mist; Godzilla and Muto fighting/rampaging in the city, then cut to a shot of their fight/rampage on TV (much smaller, and with poorer resolution); an exciting 3 second opening salvo between Godzilla and Muto before panning down to see the human cast running around executing their plot functions.

Used sparingly, it's OK. It builds tension, showing little snatches of the monster and glimpses of terror. But in "Godzilla," it keeps teasing you and teasing you and teasing you with quick shots of the monster that by the time you come to the climatic finale, you don't care who's fighting who any more.

Godzilla is underwhelming

You only see Godzilla's spiny ridges for about 80% of the movie, I kid you not. Godzilla also moves and looks like some kind of obese sloth. Forget all those dynamic action poses you've seen in the posters — Godzilla's fighting consists of him pushing the monsters back and forth, and the occasional nuclear breath. Men in rubber suits would have been able to enact more dynamic fighting scenes.

Not enough fighting

Whenever Godzilla or Muto appears, you don't see them destroying cities — you only get to see the aftermath of their destruction, i.e. ruins of cities. The only time you get to see them in full glory is the climatic final battle, which is interspersed with some forgettable human plot. Despite their seemingly vicious attacks, you don't actually see wounds or injuries on the monsters. It's like the animators forgot that when you get stabbed, it usually leaves a gaping, bleeding hole.

Elle Brody despairs. (Warner Bros Pictures)
Elle Brody despairs. (Warner Bros Pictures)

The premises of Muto & Godzilla are ridiculous

From a story perspective, the origins of Godzilla & Muto are ridden with plot holes and logical inconsistencies. The worst part is that those origin stories aren't even necessary, not even for plot development or plausibility. It's a waste of time and money that could have been put to better use animating more monster fights.

Ford & Elle Brody fail to resonate with the audience

Much of the film centres around the danger that young couple Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Elle Brody (Elizabeth Olsen) face amidst the monster attack. The problem is that their relationship is perfect, and there's hardly any tension, conflict, or relatability that makes you want to care about them. And the film keeps cutting back to scenes Ford, Elle, and their son. "Godzilla" is already so light on the action, cutting back to boring characters strains the patience of any viewer.

Godzilla attacks. (Warner Bros Pictures)
Godzilla attacks. (Warner Bros Pictures)

I really didn't like "Godzilla." There's so much wasted potential there — it begins well, but swiftly falls off the tracks into a mish-mash of failed starts and unresolved set-ups. It's more of a disaster movie than a monster movie, and in that sense, "Godzilla" completely misses the point of its existence.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? No.

Should you watch this for free? Just skip to the fight scene at the end.

Godzilla opens in cinemas May 15, 2014 (Thursday).