Monday, 19 May 2014


Godzilla is the heartwarming tale of a taciturn Japanese scientist (Ra's Al Ghul) and his forlorn pursuit of the only woman he's ever loved, a hundred-foot tall lizard. At all turns he is foiled by the bumbling, unlikeable dude-bro dipshits of The World's Greatest Nation and their Blessed Armed Forces (themselves), who stomp about the place chest-bumping, high-fiving, and generally making up their own dialogue as they go along. They're given a grim approximation of a human face by Rear Admiral Brigadier Colonel Field Marshal Lt. Chip SpeedDial (Macklemore) who gurns his way through a succession of scenes, most of which are poorly lit and incoherent, because reasons. Chip is a man of action, clearly, but one of the good ones - you see, he's not in Real Army, the Army that kills people, but is instead in bomb disposal. That's okay then. He wants nothing more than to return home to the loving arms of his wholesome, Aryan wife (a plank of wood carved into the vague likeness of Amanda Seyfried) and his emotionless child (a brick with googly eyes and a wig). To call this Chip SpeedDial's motivation, however, would be to overdo it. He simply happens, like rain or the wind. He's there. Now he's over here.

Chip SpeedDial can't have the nice things he assumedly wants, though, because of Mothras, and also because his dad, Walter White (Hal from Malcolm in the Middle) had to kill his wife one day in the middle of the Fukushima Daichi disaster, because of Mothras. On his birthday. Walter is only in the movie for about half an hour, and he still manages to chew more scenery than Godzilla. He might just have pulled this whole thing together with sheer force of campy will, but then they zip up the body bag and we're left with the acting (?) talents (?) of Chip and friends.

Nothing happens for about an hour, then Mothra decides to show up. Mothra kills some people whose names and faces you don't know, destroys some buildings in Definitely Japan, then flies off. Eventually, Lady Mothra appears and destroys Las Vegas, to raucous cheers from the viewers. Mothra and Lady Mothra toddle off to try and do what couples do best. Godzilla shows up, is introduced with appropriate gravitas (none), and then swims to America, where all things need to happen because the American movie-going public still can't be trusted to give a shit about dead Japanese people. While making this journey he's apparently under escort. Does the US Navy have Godzillas now? Who knows! He's not really explained, which is actually nice in an era of over-explanation and relentless backstory-churn. His name's on the movie. You don't need to explain Godzilla.

Nothing proceeds to happen for a bit longer. The movie almost shows some fighting, then decides that'd be far too much like something you'd paid to see, and cuts away. When we do finally get the final confrontation, it follows the standard daikaiju formula. Godzilla almost gets beaten. Oh no! But there's a twist, as Chip SpeedDial resourcefully torches all of Lady Mothra's unborn kids, causing the giant monster genuine, visible anguish in the movie's one authentically emotional moment. Then Godzilla hits his Limit Break, vomits fire down her neck and tears off her head. Hooray! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Oh, yeah, there's something about a nuke with a charmingly old-timey clockwork detonator on there, because Mothras can cause electromagnetic pulses somehow. Which is ironic, because the one device in the movie that can definitely cause that sort of effect is... well, never mind. Eventually it goes off, despite the actually-not-really-trying-all-that-hard efforts of Chip SpeedDial and the Howling Commandos, so the US military establishment gets to achieve its long-dreamed-of goal of nuking 'Frisco.

The movie doesn't trust its monsters enough to have them carry the action, which is probably a safe bet, because although Godzilla himself is charmingly ropey, the Mothras look like they were sketched on the back of a napkin then idly coloured in with a grey marker. Small elements of design interest - like Lady Mothra's glowing, egg-filled womb - are too slight and too brief to add up to anything memorable. In place of the cool monsters you're here to see, you get more Chip SpeedDial, more identikit dude-bro soldiers and more execrable dialogue. Example: Ra's Al Ghul has been saying, to Col. Hap Happablap's face, that nuking the creatures won't work. It won't work, and it's monstrous. Look, here's my dad's watch from Hiroshima, says Ra's. Nukes are bad. Don't do it.

In the very next scene, Col. Hap says "I need to know two things from you - will this work?" I forget the other one.

Pacific Rim was great because it took all the daikaiju nonsense, admitted it was nonsense, and went hell-bent to be the best nonsense it could possibly be. It's a campy, silly monster movie made by people who really wanted to make a campy, silly monster movie. More than that, it's supported by good performances by real actors (and also Charlie Hunnam) playing characters you might actually give a single iota of a shit about. It's anti-militaristic. It's about personal connections, cooperation, and comradeship in the face of hopeless odds. It wasn't afraid to show its hand with the monsters and the robots - indeed, it positively revelled in them - and at no point did it take itself too seriously. Del Toro did everything Godzilla should be, but better, and he probably wasn't even really trying.

In the end, Godzilla himself walks into the welcoming embrace of the cold ocean, there to be swallowed by the vasty depths. Ra's Al Ghul, heartbroken, fires his agent.

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