Monday, August 4, 2014
Fixing Movies: Godzilla (2014)
I enjoyed the rebooted Godzilla movie from this past May. I didn't love it, but I am not the biggest fan of the franchise.
This critique is not a statement of dislike about the movie per se. The movie got a lot of things right, including making Godzilla an ally (allbeit a destructive one) rather than an adversary.
But the movie was a rocket that never really took off because there were some basic problems that needed fixing. Make these changes and the movie not only could have been a great Godzilla movie, but maybe the best movie of the Summer.
1. Make Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) the main character.
I am sure that they thought following Ford Brody would be much more exciting, but once Bryan Cranston was cast, that should have changed. The producers obviously were impressed by his performance and/or popularity as evidenced by his prominince in the promotionals.
Ford is more action-oriented, but Joe is more relatable. The opening scene at the reactor is the most powerful in the movie and Cranston puts his emotional hooks into you. I wanted to know more about him and his journey and felt cheapened when the movie did not emphasize him.
2. Stop cutting away from the monster action
I paid my money to see Godzilla fighting giant monsters in big cities. And while that occured, director Gareth Edwards kept interrupting the good stuff with things we don't care about. The human characters should have stories that facilitate the spectacle instead of interrupting it. It felt like watching a TV show that interrupted the exciting part with comercial breaks.
3. Recast Aaron-Taylor Johnson
I've seen him perform with charisma and talent, but it does not come through in this movie. He may have only been following Edwards' direction, but it is a disservice to the movie. Joe Brody is very uninteresting as a person. His character lacks personality and so I couldn't care very much about his journey.
4. Give Elizabeth Olsen something to do.
Olsen is great young talent and she, like Cranston, is horribly underused in this movie. She really has nothing to do in the story except looking worried.
5. Give Godzilla more personality.
I know this is difficult to do without breaking the suspension of disbelief (especially with an American audience), but we really should get a sense of Godzilla not just as a monster, but as a character. Take a look at Peter Jackson's stunning, but flawed, King Kong. Say what you will about the movie, but Kong is a fully realized character with whom you can deeply empathize. Godzilla could have had that world-weary, elder protector vibe to him that would make his fight with the monsters more dramatic.
6. Don't make the main character a coincidence magnet.
In retrospect, one of the annoying things is that Ford just happens to be right where the action is and just happens to end up in the right place for something horribly wrong to happen. He feels less like a character who is active in shaping the events and more like a Gump-ian puppet sleepwalking from disaster to disaster. I know that the producers decided that each major monster event needed a recognizable human there to give it weight, but it just strained the patience.