Saturday, May 17, 2014
Godzilla vs Monsters: a review
Many motifs are repeated between films. The need to enter a quarantined zone, and looking at the things therein with cautious, questioning eyes. The strange experience of a world laid unfamiliar by massive destruction: finding yourself in a brave new world with monsters in it, and much wreckage to boot. Destruction and death coming to America - Edwards' whole sensibility seems shaped by 9/11, the idea that we are no longer invulnerable and have to get used to a changed reality. Images of said destruction on TV, where the headlines pack relevant information. Strange glowing monster eggs with creatures wriggling inside; the sense of a world on the cusp of an even more frightening transformation, which we may not have the power to stop. And then there's the main role of humanity in both films, of standing on the sidelines as creatures you do not understand enact rites wholly alien to you. In Monsters it's a tentacly mating, in Godzilla it's plus-size fighting; but in both cases we're mostly there to bear witness.
People who watch Godzilla and wonder what all the fuss is about should watch one other movie besides Monsters to get a sense of the value of this particular monster: that of course being the original Toho 1954 Gojira - the one without Raymond Burr, in Japanese with subtitles. Humble as the special effects may be, that film actually has a rich and fascinating story, and is a meaningful and moving experience, relating to real-world events (the Criterion commentary for it is particularly illuminating on that count). Sadly, the 2014 Godzilla is just another big, empty, and only momentarily engaging blockbuster, with a few interesting things happening on the peripheries. If you have the money to blow and want a night out, it's not offensively bad - but it's not a very moving experience.