Movie Name: American Godzilla (2014)


Wow. Wow, wow, wow, wow, WOW!!!

Did I mention WOW?

I know I'm going to take a lot of flack for this from Godzilla purists, and maybe it's just the excitement of seeing a Godzilla film in IMAX 3D for the first time in my life talking, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and declare this the best Godzilla movie EVER. This is the American Godzilla movie I desperately wanted to see back in 1998. A true Godzilla movie, absolutely faithful to the spirit of the original Japanese version, but with the best special effects that $160 million can buy. With good acting. And good dialog. And, above all, a consistent sense of gravitas throughout. And, here's the kicker -- it's not just a great Godzilla movie; it's a great movie, period. I hate to be the Ugly American in the room, but this is the first Godzilla movie made since perhaps the original 1954/56 version where there's no need to apologize about or justify anything. I'm (obviously) a fan of the original Japanese movies, despite (or perhaps even because) of their cheesiness, but so much of that cheesiness was the result of severely limited budgets and the constraints of needing to have people inside the monster suits to provide natural movement. Just imagine what, say, Destroy all Monsters would have looked like with the equivalent of a $160 million budget! In fact, wouldn't it be nice if they did that as a sequel to this film? But I digress...

My point is that this movie is 100% authentic in spirit to the original Godzilla movie. There's no cheese, there's no campiness -- just a growing sense of dread throughout, a somber gravitas when dealing with human tragedy on an epic scale, and a mind blowing spectacle of monster mayhem the likes of which the world has never seen before. Unlike the 1998 American version, where they (purposely?) added campy characters, bad dialog, ridiculous plot twists and people cracking jokes in the face of what should have been terrifying, this film plays it straight throughout and the result is a far superior film. Plus, Godzilla is portrayed as an unstoppable force of nature instead of a mutated iguana who can be killed with missiles.

And, in my opinion, this really is a "true" Godzilla film, which is why I actually gave it a Godzilla rating. I nearly wept with joy when Godzilla unleashed his plasma breath. Sure, he doesn't look exactly like the Japanese version, but that's because he is completely CGI and there was no need to make him look like a man in a rubber suit. And yet, he still managed to look very much like the classic Godzilla we all know and love. In fact, I was wearing an old t-shirt with an image of Godzilla from the 1990s, and two different people pulled me aside to tell me they "just" saw the movie and really loved it. Neither of these people had ever seen a Godzilla movie before and they instantly recognized the monster in the new movie as the same monster as on my shirt.

I had one complaint while watching the movie, and that was simply that they kept cutting away from the battle scenes between Godzilla and his foes, just as they were starting to get good, in order to return focus to the human side of the story. And that would have left a sour taste in my mouth if it weren't for the fact that the last act of the movie delivered all the hot monster on monster action I could have ever wanted (and then some). I actually liked the slow buildup throughout the film instead of just having nonstop action from beginning to end. And the fact that the monster you thought was going to be Godzilla turned out to be something else entirely was just fine with me, especially since I did the same thing in my second Online Godzilla Novel years ago.

Is it a perfect movie? No, of course not. It has its share of convenient plot devices [How many times can the hero be the sole survivor of an attack that kills everybody else? And isn't it convenient that he just happens to be the one person with the knowledge needed to save the day? And just how far away do you need to be from a nuclear explosion to avoid any injuries whatsoever?] But none of that detracted from my enjoyment of the movie. And not just because you don't expect great film making when watching a Godzilla movie, either. No, it's because everything else that went into the film was great film making.

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