Saturday, May 31, 2014


I have never been a fan of the Giant Rubber Suit movies. I remember them as interminable scenes of tiny Japanese army men firing ineffectively into the air as primitive models were destroyed. And Raymond Burr.

In a lot of ways they foreshadowed the modern superhero movie, with mayhem going on interminably until some arbitrary point.

I love the 1933 King Kong but that has a lot to do with the stop motion animation. I find that more compelling than guys in rubber suits.

And had you asked me, I probably would've said Pacific Rim is going to be as good as you can get with this genre. Especially after the awful 1998 version, which really should've been good, given that it was in the hands of Devlin and Emmerich who had been so successful with Independence Day.

And yet.

This latest incarnation of Godzilla is quite delightful and kind of the anti-Pacific Rim. To say nothing of being the anti-D&E Godzilla.

There's nothing hip about this movie. It's sincere from its backstory about a seismologist (Bryan Cranston) obsessed with the death of his wife 15 years ago, to the current relationship with his estranged son (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), the navy man who still cares enough to bail him out of jail when he'd rather be with his wife (Elizabeth Olson) and son.

Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins play the scientists trying to figure out what's going on.

There are some real acting chops here. And complete earnestness in delivering a simple melodrama to serve as the backdrop for giant monster hijinks.

But the movie makes you work for it: None of Pacific Rim's jumping into battles from scene one. Also, none of the hipster-suave ironic detachment of the '98 Godzilla. When Godzilla's name is spoken, it is with reverence. And when he appears, you are both awed and kind of happy, in that childlike way.

It's actually kind of nice. There's no moral ambiguity, no shame, no sense that the proceedings are beneath anyone. No camp. Everybody acts their hearts out.

Oh, yeah: David Strathairn and Juliette Binoche.

This was very much an unexpected and pleasant surprise. The Boy enjoyed it, though he said he lost interest in the human characters once the monsters showed up because, hey, they're not giant monsters.

I'm not sure he liked it as much as I did, which may have to do with a nostalgia factor that I'm not immune to, even as someone who's not a fan of the originals. I know that my contemporary tweeps who have seen it (@uncommentari and @The_Monarch) had similar good feelings, so that may be a factor.

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