By Kyle Gorry (Long Island, NY)
This past weekend I saw the new Godzilla movie and boy do I have a lot to say about this one. First of all, let me just say that this review/rant has spoilers so don’t read this if you were planning on seeing the movie… But consider this a service.
OK, so call me naive for expecting human drama in a movie called Godzilla, ya know the one about the giant dinosaur like monster that wreaks havoc on Tokyo/now the rest of the world? But without the human drama to drive the plot, we’d just be watching Godzilla fight for two hours, which we definitely did not get. Since the movie wasn’t just monster fighting, I thought I might as well enjoy how the humans were handling this onslaught of giant monsters. And I did, at least in the beginning. It started out great mainly because this was the part with Bryan Cranston. OK now I know what you’re thinking, “you’re only saying that because he was on Breaking Bad.” It does sound like I am jumping on the bandwagon, but let me clarify, Bryan Cranston is the best part of this movie because his character is the only one with well…a character. This is why I’m offering my suggestions as to how this movie could be a little more than just CGI eye candy.
OK so if you’ve seen the movie, you know that Bryan Cranston’s character Joe Brody dies early on in the film. This was a very interesting route to take considering Breaking Bad just ended and this has been one of Cranston’s first roles since that show ended. He was the star power behind this movie and he himself, most likely brought in viewers. Now killing him off isn’t necessarily the reason why I didn’t like this movie. His character could have been played by any good actor. I didn’t like it because after his death, his character isn’t mentioned once. Having your main character die is a risky venture but it’s been done and it has worked, but in order for it to work it has to be relevant to the plot. Take Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho for instance. Marion is the main character for a good chunk of the movie, then the infamous shower scene happened, she got killed, and the rest of the movie was fueled by her sister’s investigation of Marion’s whereabouts.
In Godzilla Joe dies and his character is not mentioned once. His son Ford, played by Aaron-Taylor Johnson, doesn’t shed a tear at the news of his father’s death. Come to think of it he doesn’t care about his mother’s either. There is no reaction from a young Ford about her death and when Joe and Ford meet again in 2014, Ford gets angry at his dad for obsessing over it still. I do understand why Ford would say that because it has been 15 years, it was time for Joe to move on, but this would have been a perfect opportunity for Ford to show some emotion. If Ford simply put his arm around his dad’s shoulder and said something like “I miss her too but it’s time to move on,” we would get a sense that Ford actually cared about his mother.
This is why my first suggestion is to have his son Ford actually care about his parents’ deaths (maybe, just a little). Call me crazy, but this is the most logical one. Ford’s motive for fighting was to protect his wife and son, who we can only assume he cares about. The only interaction we see with the three of them is in a brief montage where the three of them laugh at dinner, Ford has a tickle fight with his son, and he begins to kiss his wife. The rest is done with a few phone calls but mostly voicemails. During the montage he says he missed his wife but that’s about it before he gets the phone call to go to bail his dad out of jail in Japan.
Instead of fighting to protect two characters we barely know, my suggestion is to have him fight to avenge his parents the people who DIED AS A DIRECT RESULT OF GIANT MONSTER ATTACKS! There is one simple way this could have been done, but first let’s backtrack a little. When we went into Joe’s apartment earlier in the movie he mentioned that he didn’t even have a picture of his wife because they were evacuated so quickly. When Joe and Ford go to the abandoned house, Joe picks up a photo of him, his wife, and a young Ford. Now this picture motif is used again later on in the movie. At this point Ford is on active duty. He is seen on a plane about to deploy on a mission to stop Godzilla. Before he is about to jump out of the plane, he pulls out a picture of his wife and kid. Two characters who we the audience were not close to.
The wife and son in this movie are more symbolic than they are two individual characters. They are a lazy motivation. If Ford looked at the photo that his dad picked up from the house instead, that would give the movie a much deeper meaning. Here he is about to stop a giant monster and to motivate him he looks at a picture, the only remaining picture of his mother mind you, of his parents who were killed as a result of…giant monsters! Pictures are very powerful devices used in movies to express a character’s feelings without words. It would have been a strong visual symbol that the character could not have expressed with dialogue. This really emphasized how insignificant Joe’s character had become. Also this would make their deaths significant because he’s fighting the monsters that indirectly killed his parents.
After Joe dies the dynamic of the movie shifts. Instead of Joe and Ford, father and son, sharing the narrative, it switches between Ford and Ichiro, played by Ken Watanabe. Ichiro is a scientist at the same place that Joe worked at. The two weren’t necessarily friends, it was just explained that it was the same company. This brings up my second idea that Joe and Ichiro’s characters should have been friends in the scene that takes place in 1999. Then once the film shifts and Ichiro shares the narrative with Ford we would at least have some sort of connection to him.
When we first meet him, he is a stranger to the audience and he kind of stays that way for the rest of the movie. We know nothing about Ichiro except that his dad died in Hiroshima. So to give Ichiro some depth he would see his friend die from a monster kept under surveillance from his orders. This would give his character more of a personal motivation to stop them. To take the idea of Joe and Ichiro knowing each other in the past even further they could have even had them portrayed as enemies in the past. Then once Joe comes back into the picture, Ichiro and him could have a big argument where Joe is basically shouting “I told you so, those weren’t earthquakes that killed my wife.” Then once Joe dies as an indirect result of the monster, have Ichiro in deep remorse because Joe was right and the rest of the movie will be him trying to right his wrong of keeping the monster alive.
Then of course my last suggestion would be to keep Joe alive. Joe and Ford could have bonded again, Joe could have ended up saving Ford from a disaster (I couldn’t save my wife but I’ll be damned if I can’t save my son!) and he could have been in the last shot being the grandfather that Ford wanted him to be. He could have even sacrificed his own life to save Ford. He was the strongest character and it feels like he was just shoehorned in.
So these were my suggestions for this movie. I’m not saying these would make the movie Oscar worthy, but they would have made the movie more enjoyable for the people who like character development. I mean Godzilla himself was barely in the movie for more than ten minutes, you might as well care about what the other people are up to the rest of the time, am I right?