Cause it’s got ‘god’ in it. Minor spoilers follow.
Wow, I did not enjoy Godzilla. I didn’t hate it, but by the time the finale arrived I’d long stopped caring. And it didn’t help that I was watching it in 3D, yet there was almost none to speak of. I know, I know, it’s my own fault for choosing 3D, but the other potential theatre had less than 200 seats, whereas the one I saw it in was an IMAX theatre. As it was the Big G I decided that seeing him give ’em the breath would be better in IMAX than on a screen a little bigger than my home one. I was hoping for some WOW!!! factor.
The monsters looked fantastic, but CG has been around long enough that for the audience it’s an expectation and not a draw. Peter Jackson’s giant ape looked great, and King Kong was almost a decade ago. The T-Rex in Jurassic Park, the film that brought CG monsters to the big screen, looked great, and that was a little over 20 years ago. And last year Pacific Rim stomped the same ground as Godzilla, and coincidently I saw it in the same theatre and it floored me with the 3D. Yet these 3 monster movies are all ultimately underwhelming. No one ever talks about them in any way other than the technical achievements that they brought to the screen, and Godzilla can be consigned to the same bin – pretty to look at, dull to watch.
Of the four I enjoyed Pacific Rim the most; not because it has the most jaw-dropping effects, but because unlike the other three it takes its ridiculous premise and rides it so fast that it goes full-steam ahead over the wafer-thin and hole-riddled plot. Pacific Rim is not a good film, but it entertains, and in doing so you can forgive (but not forget) its numerous shortcomings in script, acting (not helped by the script), and plot.
Godzilla tries to take the slow-burn route. It wants to be Jaws. It wants to hold off on showing the monster so that when the Big G arrives, the reveal has maximum impact. Godzilla, you’re no Jaws. Here’s what it’s doing wrong.
First, the film attempts to build a mystery around strange seismic disturbances. The problem is it’s a mystery for the characters only and not the audience. Hey scriptwriters, we already know its Godzilla so there’s no point in drawing this out.
Second, the science is extraneous mumbo-jumbo. Partway through one of Ken Watanbe’s Fox Mulder-like leaps of logic Ted leaned over and said, “I fucking love science”, and lo, a new movie meme was born. Everything Watanbe’s character says to explain the monsters makes no sense and adds nothing to the story except to leave the audience scratching its collective head at why the other characters take these utterances as fact.
Third, almost all of the script is exposition, which is a Scriptwriting 101 no-no. When it’s not pseudo-science it’s upcoming plot. We’re in no doubt about what’s going to happen, because someone has kindly explained it to us. The characters aren’t people, they’re narrators. The very few bits that aren’t exposition are heavy-handed attempts to make us care for the cardboard cut-outs that pass as characters.
Which brings us to the last point I can be bothered with tackling, the characters are totally superfluous. There is not one action taken by them that advances the plot; they are gnats at the feet of the monsters. Playing the film back in my head I’m confident that Godzilla: The Phantom Edit sans humans could very easily be made and the monster’s story would play out exactly the same. We’re given two hours of idiots spouting nonsense and making plans that come to nought. When characters have zero agency, and there’s nothing particularly human that replaces that gap such as a witty script or an examination of the human condition, that’s not entertaining.
After being so well reviewed I was surprised at how poor the film was. As of today it has a rating of 7.1/10 from almost 130,000 voters on the IMDB. Looking at the breakdown for the ratings 14.7% of voters rated it a 10, which is a little less than all the percentage of voters from 1 to 5 combined. For the record I rated it a 4.