This movie is much better sans dubbing and Raymond Burr. Godzilla is downright scary, partly due the to the fact that we don’t actually see him until half way through the film. His immense size and incredible strength make him a virtually indestructible killing machine, and that is before he unleashes his radioactive breath. The scenes showing the aftermath of his destruction are shocking and grim, on par with the best war movies. There is a love story that is little more than filler and the means of Godzilla’s demise are classic B-movie silly science, but when it comes to pure terrifying destruction, Godzilla can’t be beat.
I went into this movie ready to nurture some deep hate towards this movie (after all, my opinions of Roland Emmerich’s other “masterpieces,” The Day After Tomorrow and 10,000 B.C. are well documented here) and right off the bat the movie delivered. I was treated to a series of disjointed scenes that are supposed to give the audience a sense of dread, but instead left me silently screaming at the screen, “Just get on with it!” The worst scenes involve respected scientists telling high ranking officials that something really bad is about to happen, but the screenwriters go so far out of their way to keep the really bad something a secret that it all ends up being awkward and forced. Then, fifteen minutes into the movie, we are finally introduced to our main character, played by John Cusack. After it is firmly established (and then some) that he is a bad father and estranged from his kids, he learns that the world is going to end, but that there is a secret government conspiracy that is planning to keep humanity alive. Then we get far too many contrived scenes of driving really fast while being chased by a crack opening up in the earth. Then, once Emmerich decides that driving away from a crack in the ground isn’t good enough, they graduate to a plane and have daring escapes flying through toppling buildings while the earth disintegrates. (Though, correct me if I’m wrong, but can’t airplanes go up? So shouldn’t they have been able to just fly over the tops of the crumbling buildings without a care in the world?) Then it just happens that John Cusack is a chauffeur for a rich guy who has a “get out of the end of the world free” card, so Cusack & Co. join up with him and they get in an even bigger plane and fly through an even bigger crack in the ground. Interspersed throughout all this thrilling stuff are scenes of characters around the world who pop in and out of the movie at random, and I think we are supposed to care about them, but since Emmerich does not invest anything in these characters, neither does the audience. Even when the characters die horribly, the scenes are far more likely to induce yawns than tears. After countless scenes of improbable coincidences and contrived tension (due mostly to the scientists saying, “Oops, we miscalculated, and the world will end tomorrow instead of a week from now; actually, cancel that, the end of the world is six hours away; no, wait, it’s more like thirty minutes”), Cusack & Co. finally make it aboard a giant ark that is designed to weather the storm and save humanity (after all the expendable characters are killed off, of course). And did I mention the politicians who are demonized merely for being pragmatic? Ultimately, 2012 wishes it was Deep Impact with a heavy dose of The Day After Tomorrow, sprinkled with a spoonful of Titanic, but The Day After Tomorrow is the only movie it managed to not be vastly inferior to.
Coming up next: the biggest fanboy and fangirl movies of 2010.