✍️✍️✍️ Godzilla Film Analysis

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Godzilla Film Analysis

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Steve Reviews: Godzilla 1954 (The Original)

It unveils. It builds sequences gradually, withholding important information until the end of a scene or sequence. In the spirit of the first few Toho pictures, every incarnation of "King Kong," Steven Spielberg's sci-fi and suspense pictures, and the original " Alien ," the film reveals its beasts striptease-style, partly obscuring them with catwalks, cranes, window frames, TV monitors, and the like, and illuminating body parts with spotlights or flashlight beams: a leg here, a proboscis there. A newborn creature's progress from a subterranean egg chamber to the ocean is conveyed in a slow tilt-up that reveals a zigzag ditch joining mountains to sea. An impending fight between nuke-eating, electrically charged kaiju is foretold by a rolling blackout that turns a city's lights out one neighborhood at a time.

Commandos on a city rooftop fire flares into darkness; the camera traces their arcs through smoky blackness until the flames illuminate Godzilla's torso, framed from neck to solar plexus. In these moments and others, Edwards contrasts the smallness of the humans against the hugeness of the beasts. This "Godzilla" is a mural movie, and it's a good idea to remember that as you watch it.

To appreciate what it's doing, you have to take a step back. The movie has a likable international cast, including Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche as married nuclear physicists, Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins as scientists who've devoted their lives to studying ancient monsters and searching for Godzilla; Aaron Taylor-Johnson as their son, a war veteran and explosives technician; Elizabeth Olsen as his wife, a nurse; and David Strathairn as an admiral. All the characters have simple goals and strong emotions, and they never feel awkwardly shoehorned in, as humans in kaiju flicks often do.

But the film still sees them as representatives of an endangered species rather than complex individuals. Don't get attached to any of them. They are deployed in a metaphorical or dreamlike capacity, like the kaiju. For all their sincere distress, they're about as deep as characters in a Toho movie. None have the melodramatic spark you'll find in last summer's robots-vs. I'd give the movie serious demerits if it weren't so skillfully directed; if the "all the world's a stage, and we are mere extras upon it" philosophy weren't characteristic of giant monster films as a genre; and if the filmmakers didn't go out of their way to make the humans' marginal status an integral part of the film's world view—something along the lines of: We're guests here, and we can be snuffed out or kicked out at any moment.

The humans in this movie could certainly be squashed without warning, and the threat doesn't feel abstract. Unlike " Star Trek Into Darkness ," " Man of Steel " and other recent blockbusters, this one's aware of the devastation and death that would accrue if its scenarios were real. Lots of people die in this one, onscreen, screaming. That's all, folks. Relativity of scale is a motif, and it's articulated with wit as well as awe. The rampaging kaiju turn even the most capable adults into toddlers gazing up in astonishment.

A bravura sequence where monsters fight in Honolulu is anchored to the reactions of three children: a girl who watches ocean tides retreat in advance of Godzilla rising to flood and wreck the city; a boy separated from his parents and trapped on a monorail that's been de-powered by warring kaiju, clutching a plastic action figure given to him by an adult man; and another boy sitting on a couch in a San Francisco apartment, watching the event on TV.

The sheer filmmaking craft on display here shames almost any comparably budgeted superhero picture you can name. Cranston's character has the surname Brody, like the sheriff in "Jaws," and in terms of plot function he's basically Roy Neary from "Close Encounters" but with a big promotion: where Roy was a middle-class electrician employed by an Indiana power grid, Brody is a nuclear physicist married to another nuclear physicist Juliette Binoche , and both are employed by a power plant in Japan. The curtain-raising disaster transforms him into a traumatized seeker, chasing his own version of Roy Neary's Devil's Tower vision. His son grows up to become a stoic man-of-few words type. He's named Ford, as in Harrison Spielberg's favorite leading man and John one of his directorial inspirations.

Edwards and screenwriter Max Borenstein are similarly on-point in situating the film's action. The choice of Honolulu as a key locale is perfect, summing up the East-meets-West nature of this blockbuster. The city is near Pearl Harbor, where the Japanese navy attacked the United States, and it became the administrative launchpad for the American Navy to project its retaliatory power onto the Pacific, culminating in the use of nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed hundreds of thousands of people in , and inspired Toho Studios to create the original Godzilla nine years later.

The climax takes place in San Francisco, the most Asia-facing of major American cities. Every aspect of this story is a seemingly endless cycle of provocation and retaliation: by monsters and humans, by the ancient world and the modern. While "Godzilla" is less of a satisfying human drama than a metaphorically and sociologically charged sound-and-light show, it's got a good heart. It's tough, but never glib or cruel. Even when Godzilla is rising from the sea to flood and crush cities, the film never becomes a mere display of special effects prowess.

We're aware that Godzilla and his foes are animals—parts of a long gone, pre-prehistoric ecosystem, like the real creatures that dot the movie's margins: bats, birds, iguanas, dogs, wolves, beetles. There's a bit of H. Lovecraft in how the script turns the kaiju into mythic reminders of humanity's youth, smallness, and impotence, and a touch of Terrence Malick's Transcendentalist humility in how the director pauses to appreciate meadows and forests and rolling waves.

The final shot evokes "The Thin Red Line. There's surreal humor, too, as when two kaiju seem about to share a warhead like the "Lady and the Tramp" dogs sharing a meatball. The wide shots of kaiju grappling in ruined cities are gloomily magnificent, like oil paintings of Biblical miracles. The ships, trains, jets, skyscrapers, highways, and railways might as well be elements in a diorama, or toys in a child's playroom. It concerns the lessons that politicians can learn from such a nuclear disaster and how they can move forward with a minimum of finger-wagging and chest-thumping.

By now I'm sure you can tell that "Shin Godzilla" is different than other Godzilla films. It's probably drier, and more dialogue-centric than fans may want. Their vision of the character is thoughtful and clever without straying too far from the Godzilla formula established in films like the original "Gojira. But they should be excited at the thought of seeing a modern monster movie that isn't just the same ol', same 'ol. These are pieces of music that Ifukube previously expanded over the course of his decades-long tenure as Godzilla's official composer. Sagisu, one of Anno's collaborators on "Neon Genesis Evangelion," alternates the tempo of his music from bombastic, "Dies Irae"-style battle themes to rococo, John Barry-esque spy music complete with snare and bongo drums.

Sagisu's score makes "Shin Godzilla" feel perpetually dynamic, even when parts of it devolve into discussions about relief bills, urban evacuation and the planning of military actions. Anno's dialogue infrequently suffers during exchanges where he distinguishes the good humans from the selfish ones, especially scenes involving the bratty Japanese-American diplomat Kayoko Satomi Ishihara.

But these tiresome conversations are ultimately negligible, and for the most part the pacing of Anno's wall-of-dialogue style, cross-cut conversations ensures that "Shin Godzilla" never slows down long enough to feel boring. One person speaks, and then another person—not necessarily in the same room or even the same part of the city—responds with their own concerns, followed by another, and another. He takes punishment because he knows humankind isn't a threat to him. But shouldn't watch "Shin Godzilla" for Godzilla alone. He's not really the star of the film—Yaguchi and the rest of his human adversaries are.

They credibly resist the end of the world with ingenuity and teamwork, making "Shin Godzilla" just as winningly optimistic as it is pleasurably eccentric. Reviews Shin Godzilla. Simon Abrams October 11, Now streaming on:. Powered by JustWatch. Now playing. Surge Isaac Feldberg.

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