Godzilla 2014 – Film Analysis


Director: Gareth Edwards
Screenplay: Max Borenstein; Story: Dave Callahan
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson; Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston & Ken Watanabe
reviewed 5/16/14 by Ric Gibbs

“World Destroyer or Empty Rubber Suit?”

First off, I am a tremendous fan of the big guy. I was a Godzilla fan, just like I was a dinosaur fan, loved dinosaur bones and saw every Godzilla movie they made growing up. Even the cheesy ones cranked out of Tokyo with an ever expanding chorus of monsters and monster agendas and even fairies that spoke to giant moths. I get this franchise. And I love it.

So it hurts me to report that this year’s Godzilla is a dud. I wanted soooooo much to like this movie, but left the theater with such a deep sense of dissatisfaction that I just had to look into why it felt so “off base.”

It’s not a hard search. Godzilla 2014 is a classic example of what happens when the filmmakers either don’t know, or don’t care about the core myth beneath their story. This same myth that was important enough to launch a 60 year franchise and turned a 1954 “B” grade monster movie into part of cinema history! When movies connect with a core myth – Star Wars is the classic example – magic happens. So let’s look at the myth of Gojira and why it worked so well for so long.

GODZILLACentral to this myth is the angry god. The destroyer of worlds. The merciless cleanser of man’s excess. This god goes by many names. He is the angry Yahweh sending the floods that destroy the world (except for Noah and his arc). He is Kali the Destroyer, the Hindu Goddess of death, sent to annihilate all men who have grown greedy and wicked in their appetites.

Almost every major mythology has some incarnation of the “World Destroyer,” because central to the human myth is that our species will inevitably get too greedy, too careless, too arrogant, too big for our britches and need to be taken out and thrashed. That’s the myth. And that’s the job for Godzilla. He’s not supposed to be nice about it.

The reason that Gojira enjoyed such success – well beyond anything that could be expected from a cheaply made monster movie and a guy in a rubber suit – was that in 1954 the moral consequences of man’s nuclear ambitions were very real. The original movie came out a mere 9 years after Hiroshima. The US, French and Brits were STILL testing nukes on islands all over the Pacific. Deep down we all knew this was crazy, that generals were leading a charge towards the brink of annihilation. So the Japanese conjured up Gojira as a cautionary tale to say, “Hey! Enough with the nukes!” Thou shalt not play god with the planet. Or you will unleash such a beast of destruction you won’t be able to stop it.

Ken Watanabe in Godzilla 2014
Ken Watanabe in Godzilla 2014

Am I saying we should do the same exact story all over again in 2014? No! But I AM arguing to keep Godzilla in his role of destroyer! Even the guys who made the poster knew that! You wouldn’t turn the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse into prancing ponies. How come this Godzilla is suddenly our pal? Defender of San Francisco and all around good guy? With all the dumb things we are doing to our planet right now, is there really no human excess we are willing to consider as punishable?

Now, I’m sure this discussion was had in development meetings. Just like I’m sure filmmakers were told to keep things PG friendly and deliver something that can play to kids and bump the box office. But this storyline contained such nonsensical thinking that Godzilla ends up as mankind’s savior and nobody even asks why?

None of us were in the room, so we’ll probably never know how or why this cuddly, friendly version of Godzilla came to be. But for this core fan of the franchise – they missed the whole point! Maybe this is what comes of handing the franchise over to filmmakers with expertise in visual effects. You get great visual effects! But the guy in the giant rubber suit needed a story that makes sense.