Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): ⭐️⭐️: Watching giant monsters fight shouldn’t be this boring. And if every shot of the monsters is in the dark because it’s at night, in a storm, underwater, in a cave, or some combination of the four, it just makes me think that you’re not actually very confident in your special effects.
I got back home a bit ago from seeing Roland Emmerich‘s latest death, doom, and destruction lovefest: The Day After Tomorrow. The verdict? Surprisingly, not nearly as bad as I was expecting it to be, as long as you keep in mind that it’s your typical summer disaster movie, big on special effects, and short on plausible plot.
The first half of the film, dealing with all of the cataclysmic weather tearing through the world (mostly the US, though we are treated to shots of gargantuan hailstones in Tokyo and snow in New Delhi), is by far the stronger half. Since it doesn’t have to worry about niggling little details about why things are happening or how people are coping and is free to just let the effects department run rampant, it’s actually a lot of fun. Okay, so this is defining “fun” in a somewhat odd way — wholesale destruction and massive loss of life — but hey, it works.
It’s the latter half of the film where things get iffy. None of the various plot threads are really that gripping, and many of the actions taken are silly at best, and fairly ludicrous at worst. When a small group of survivors hole up inside a room in the New York Library and start burning books in the fireplace in order to stay warm, one really has to wonder why they don’t start breaking down the heavy wooden tables, chairs and sofas, or tear into some of the wood paneling all around the room for some longer-lasting and better burning fuel, for instance.
One thing that was bugging me a bit as the movie went on was how badly the passage of time was managed. While there were numerous remarks about the superstorm that glaciates the entire Northern hemisphere lasting for seven to ten days, it was very difficult to tell when time jumps were being made. Scenes just cut one to another, and aside from the occasional easily-missed line about something happening “a couple of days ago”, there was no real way to tell when scenes were changing between events taking place at roughly the same time, and when scenes were jumping forward hours or days at a time. Anything from a few quick montages, or even wipes or dissolves rather than jump cuts could have done a lot to make the passage of time a little more obvious.
I will say that I think (hope) that Emmerich may be on a bit of an upswing again, though. I’ve watched his career as a director sink pretty steadily downwards through the years, but even with all its flaws, I found TDAT entertaining enough that it gives me hope that there may be more in the future that is at least watchable. ;) My basis for this is as follows:
- 1994: Stargate — maybe it should be a guilty pleasure, but I’ve always enjoyed Stargate. The effects were good, I loved the design work mixing Egyptian themes with sci-fi technology, and while the plot was a little shaky in spots, overall it wasn’t that bad, and it was a fun look at the ever-popular theory that the construction of the pyramids was assisted by alien technology.
- 1996: Independence Day — while it was still enjoyable, even if only for the sheer ridiculous spectacle of it all, Emmerich was definitely favoring effects over plot for ID4. The effects were definitely a blast (almost literally, I suppose), but the script got to be so ludicrous at times (the virus upload, for instance) that you really had to turn your brain off to enjoy it. Still, even with good effects and a shoddy plot, it was still entertaining.
- 1998: Godzilla — some of the best trailers I’d seen in a long time…and one of the worst movies. Nothing worked in this one — bad script, bad plot, bad acting, and bad effects. All in all, a bad idea. Plus they took one of the most-loved movie monsters in history and turned him into a joke of a giant iguana. Easily the low point of Emmerich’s career to date.
- 2000: The Patriot — never saw it, so I don’t know how it figures into this. :)
- 2004: The Day After Tomorrow — here, we’ve returned to the good effects and shoddy plot combination of ID4. I don’t think that TDAT is as enjoyable as ID4 was, but it was certainly more enjoyable than Godzilla (admittedly, not hard to do).
Here’s hoping that the pendulum will continue to swing in Emmerich’s favor, and that his next film — King Tut, according to the IMDB — will actually be at least decent, and maybe even actually something close to worthwhile.
Scientifically, of course, the whole movie is laughable. I had some fun after I got home looking up some of the articles that have popped up on the web in the past week or so taking a critical look at the science in the film.
From the Seattle PI, Scientists scoff as climates run amok on big screen:
“Shameless scientific prostitution,” blasted Gerard Roe, professor in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences.
The Statue of Liberty knee-deep in snow with taxi-sized icicles dangling off her nose? A bit of a stretch?
“It was a gross distortion of almost everything we know,” Roe slammed.
And the team of tornadoes that leveled half of Los Angeles? A tad over the top?
“The whole thing is absurd,” declared David Battisti, director of the Earth Initiative, a UW-wide program looking at the effect of humans on the planet.
From TechNewsWorld, ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ Heats Up a Political Debate:
“I’m heartened that there’s a movie addressing real climate issues,” says Marshall Shepherd, a research meteorologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “But as for the science of the movie, I’d give it a D minus or an F.”
From MTV’s review, ‘Day After Tomorrow’ Rich In Effects But Hilariously Implausible:
And where did this “science” come from? Well, it’s worth noting that “The Day After Tomorrow” was “suggested in part” by a book called “The Coming Global Superstorm,” by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber. Art Bell is a UFO buff who hosts a syndicated radio show devoted to the paranormal. Whitley Strieber is the author of a best-selling 1987 book about his many encounters with space aliens. The name of the book is “Communion: A True Story.”
Lastly, MSNBC has a good Q-and-A page about some of the climactic theories put forth in the film.
Every so often, Prairie and I will go through Apple’s movie trailer page, checking out what’s coming up in the next few months and seeing what interests us. Here’s today’s batch of possibilities (in no particular order)…
- The United States of Leland: Can Jena Malone be in a bad movie? Everything I’ve seen her in so far has impressed me (Contact, Donnie Darko and The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys), and now I keep seeing her in trailers for movies that catch my eye (Saved, and now Leland). Add Kevin Spacey and an interesting looking trailer, and it definitely goes on the “potential” list.
- King Arthur: So far, I’ve got mixed feelings on this one. If they can do the story well, then I’m all for it (one of my favorite retellings of the Arthurian saga is Jack Whyte’s Camulod Chronicles, which take a very realistic non-magical approach) — but something about the trailer isn’t quite grabbing me. All the stars look much to “pretty” on first blush, like they’re trying to aim for a cast full of Viggo Mortenson-as-Aragorn to pull in the teen girl contingent. On the other hand, Keira Knightley looks supremely drool worthy in her battle garb, so maybe I’m not one to talk….
- The Village: M. Night Shyamalan is a bit of an enigma to me. So far, each of his films has been great upon first viewing, but has absolutely no replay value afterwards (with the sole exception of The Sixth Sense, which was fun to watch a second time just to see all the subtle hints you missed the first time), and I found Signs to be a letdown at the end. As with the rest, the trailer for this one has me going “Oooohhh…” — but will he finally be able to craft a movie that stands up to multiple viewings?
- Raising Helen: Okay, this one was definitely a Prairie pick. ;) Looks to be a cute little comedy — but it’s got Kate Husdon (yum) and Joan Cusack, who I’ve always enjoyed when she pops up in a film. Probably a renter rather than one to beeline for in the theater (at least in my estimation).
- Connie and Carla: The first part of the trailer had me cringing. Then the drag queens showed up, and suddenly I was fine with it. Which probably says something about me, but I’m not sure I want to go there….
- The Notebook: Again, sappy romantic stuff is generally more along Prairie’s tastes than mine, but if I’m in a mood for it, this looks like it could be good, and it’s certainly pretty. We’ll see when it comes out.
- The Last Shot: I’m most intrigued by the fact that this is apparently based on a true story about a guy hired by the FBI (without his knowledge) to direct a movie (that will never be released) in order to run a sting on the mob. The trailer has some cute lines in it (though these days, often those are the only good lines in the entire film)…reserving judgment on this one for the moment.
- Godsend: This one I’d never heard of before tonight, but it’s rocketed right the top of my “potential” list. After a couple loses their son in an accident, they’re approached by a doctor who offers to inseminate the mother with a clone of their son, essentially allowing him to be “reborn.” Once the new son hits the age that he died, things start to get all sorts of freaky. Looks to be quite cool.
- Garden State: This trailer caught my eye when Prairie, Kirsten and I went off to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Very little idea what the movie is about, but the imagery in the trailer is enough to catch my interest. I am amused by the link on the trailer page to the trailer’s music on the iTunes Music Store, though — hadn’t seen that trick before!
- The Stepford Wives: I’m really unsure about this one. While I’ve not read the book, I’m a fan of the (dated, but still creepy) original film version, and the fact that this is listed as a “comedy” makes me wonder about it. Of course, with Nicole Kidman (yum) and Christopher Walken in the film, it can’t be all bad, right?
- Godzilla: The orignal — UNCUT. UNCENSORED. UNDUBBED. I am so there.
iTunes: “Kooler Than Jesus (Electric Messiah)” by My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult from the album Confessions of A Knife (1990, 4:12).