The Once and Future King (of All Monsters)? – Godzilla
There are many fine moments in Michael Mann’s classic thriller Manhunter — the best of the Hannibal Lecter film series despite the absence of Anthony Hopkins in the Lecter/Lektor role that made him famous. One of the best comes during our first glimpse of that film’s serial killer bete noire, the Tooth Fairy, after he abducts tabloid journalist Freddy Lounds and binds him up in his disturbingly appointed house. It’s terrifying and sends chills up and down your spine, and Tom Noonan, one of our most underappreciated character actors, is his usual imposing, strange self. What has always sold that one scene is a great quote from this wounded, demented loner at the center of the titular manhunt, the man who wants to become a monster, a real, living Red Dragon. He stands in front of the scared out of his mind Lounds and tells him, simply: “You. Owe. Me. Awe.”
This is the bedrock of a successful Godzilla movie, what the filmmakers have to deliver and what the audience has to feel. We. Owe. Him. Awe. Everyone from the studio execs to the fat schlub digging into his extra-large tub of buttered popcorn. Awe. Capital A.
Which begs: Does Gareth Edwards, in his sophomore directorial effort after the low-budget Monsters, get it done in the big, new Godzilla? Does he give us the eponymous antihero that we crave?As much as it pains me to say it — not really. That first illicit, leaked, glorious trailer that we saw last fall — the one that combined Oppenheimer with creepy 2001: A Space Odyssey music and monsters as tall as buildings — got us all believing that maybe, just maybe we’d be getting a thinking man’s Godzilla in the summertime, a season that’s been getting dumber and dumber each successive year. It had that key ingredient of awe. But what’s been thrown up onto the screen is just another bland, cliché-riddled plot with a number of characters that do nothing but stand around and spout endless exposition — a necessity when your star is someone who only roars in a roar that hasn’t changed in sixty years, but still. And Godzilla himself, while wonderfully realized and a worthy CGI successor to the black and white rubber suit original, suffers from some clumsy handling. The movie is passable, but could have been so much more. And the more I think about it, the more I dislike it.
And speaking of more, there’s more analysis, with some spoilers, on the next page. Though it’s a challenge to spoil anything in a plot that you can see stomping towards you from miles away.
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