I went to see Godzilla last night on a hot date with myself. I dressed up nice, wore black stockings and blue lipstick along with my Gipsy Danger shirt, and treated myself to a movie and cheese sticks.
While I do enjoy hot dates with myself from time to time, I realized after I finished the film and drove home that I needed someone to sound off to. Because while I ended up liking the film and it was certainly better than that 1998 one, there were so many things about it that bothered me the more I thought about it. Maybe because I was so spoiled by Pacific Rim last year that the things that bothered me about it, I kept comparing to how Pacific Rim did it.
This is a list of all my grievances about the film compared to things I enjoyed in Pacific Rim. Note that this is only my opinion and I would still suggest seeing the film. Also, SPOILERS AHEAD FOR GODZILLA. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.1.) Godzilla was barely in the damn thing – Say what you will about Pacific Rim, but the film delivered on the trailer promise of giant robots punching giant monsters in the face. Which, hey, made me enjoy it on a base level even without the cast and storyline. If you call a film Godzilla, I kind of expect him to be there more than the MUTOs that were trying to destroy San Francisco with their mating and radioactive babies. When Godzilla was on screen kicking MUTO ass and telling those damn teenage kaiju to get off his lawn, it was amazing! But there wasn’t enough of it.
2.) Everything the Navy did was basically what the Pan Pacific Defense Corps learned not to do – I kept jokingly referring to the film as “The Pan Pacific Defense Corps: The Early Years” in my head. I know that they don’t have a lot of experience dealing with ancient creatures from beneath the sea sucking on radiation to survive, but how do these people really think “Shoot bullets at the giant monster while people taking refuge from a tsunami stand nearby. That’ll slow it down.” There’s a reason the Jaeger program exists and it’s because it was assessed to do the least amount of damage and be more cost effective in the long run than trying to have the army shoot down a kaiju in a three day battle and irradiate a metropolitan area to the point no one could live there anymore. At least there was some damn sense to take the bomb attempt as far away from land as possible. You know, if it had worked. Which brings me to my next point…
3.) Does no one listen to scientists? – I understand that Dr. Serizawa was working on a hypothesis that Godzilla was the alpha predator coming ashore to fight the MUTOs and establish his dominance. He had no way to confirm it until the very end of the film when that’s actually what happened. However, you think with how many times Serizawa and Dr. Graham said the monsters feed off of radiation, you think the Navy would want to come up with a better plan besides “Put some old bombs that run on clockwork on a train to San Francisco, then put them on a boat as far as we can possibly get.” I mean, they were also working on a hypothesis that the force from the blast would kill them instead of the radiation making them stronger. Or the radiation from the bomb attracting one of the MUTOs to the train. You think when you’re dealing with people who have studied these creatures for YEARS, you might want to consult them on plans for minimal damage to both the city and your men.4.) The film doesn’t even pass the Sexy Lamp Test – I know it’s a huge point of contention over Pacific Rim and the Bechdel Test. And it’s a valid concern. However, the Bechdel Test isn’t the end all, be all test for female representation in film. I also Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Sexy Lamp Test concurrently. The Sexy Lamp Test is simple: if you can replace a female character with a sexy lamp and still get the same plot, maybe you should go back and rewrite those characters. Mako Mori may not interact with any other women in the Shatterdome on screen, but she is a central part of Pacific Rim’s plot. Replace her with a sexy lamp and Raleigh doesn’t get back in the pilot seat nor does Gipsy Danger win the day against Otachi.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Godzilla. There are three major female characters in Godzilla and on top of not interacting with each other, it feels like there’s not a whole lot of reason for them to be there. Ford’s wife Elle mostly sits around and waits for him to come back, even keeping herself in danger to wait on him instead of getting the hell out of dodge with her son. Replace her with a sexy lamp and you can easily change all of Ford’s motivation for getting home to his son. The only part where it would be hard to replace her with a lamp is when she hands her son over to her co-worker instead of going with him. Mom of the year, everybody. I guess it was Elizabeth Olson prepping herself to be Wanda Maximoff.
Dr. Graham keeps being presented as Dr. Serizawa’s partner, but she often comes across more as an assistant to him more than anything else. She has a few lines of exposition, but I feel like if you gave her lines to Serizawa, you still got the same movie. Which is disappointing because I would have loved to have seen more of a kaiju studying lady scientist.
I guess you couldn’t replace Joe’s wife Sandra with a lamp, but her whole character was basically set up to die and motivate Joe to find out what really happened the day she died. She may not be a sexy lamp, but she’s certainly the woman in the fridge.5.) At the end of the day, there’s not a whole lot of diversity – You know, for a film that starts in the Philippines and Japan and features a monster created by three Japanese men, there’s not a lot of Asians in the main cast. In fact, the only one is Ken Watanabe. Even San Francisco, a city with a high Asian population, looked pretty white. I’m glad Bryan Cranston was there and the acting was well done for the most part, but would it have really killed the studio to have some people of color coming together to assess the MUTO threat?
At least the two black men we see on screen don’t die horribly. In fact, one of them was sensible enough to bypass a police blockade and drive a schoolbus full of children over the Golden Gate Bridge before it collapsed. In fact, I think that bus driver was the smartest guy in this film. Four for you, dude!
Still, it was beautifully shot and when the monsters were on screen, it was amazing. Especially the mating ritual between the MUTOs and Godzilla just being his badass King Kaiju self. It’s a good dramatic popcorn flick for yelling at the screen. Give it a shot. You might enjoy it.
Or go watch Pacific Rim again. That’s cool too.