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The Critical Couple Reviews “Godzilla”

May 19, 2014
The Critical Couple Reviews “Godzilla”Watching movies may be one of America's most popular date-night activities, but it can also be one of the most contentious. That's where critics and real-life couple Roy and Adriane step in, putting their relationship on the line so you don't have to. HIS TAKE When the chips come down in the final act of Godzilla, something unusual happened to me: my fist flew skyward in involuntary jubilance and I hollered “YEAH!” That escalated into three more spasms of joy and the urge to do something I always find insipid: applaud at the closing credits. Godzilla is an unusually careful film and a bit of a misfit among modern summer blockbusters. It delays gratification, it never treats the audience like rubes, it tries (and succeeds) to be timeless. Most importantly, it creates a genuine sense of awe the old-fashioned way. And by the old-fashioned way, I mean 1975’s Jaws, to which nobody ever said “Less talk, more shark.” Here’s what you need to know about Godzilla. Aside from one coyly placed Elvis song and some knowing winks to Ishirō Honda's 1954 original, director Gareth Edwards plays this with a straight face. No cheese. Not a single one-liner. And none of the destruction porn typical of movies in which millions are slaughtered by CGI monsters. When the menacing, mantis-like MUTO rampages major cities, Edwards chooses grim aftermaths over gore—and it’s effective as all hell. But the most essential fact about Godzilla is this: you have to wait for the big guy, and it’s worth it. It’s a reveal that fills your eyes with marvel and makes the big screen a necessity. And there’s a bona fide third act, the kind that good filmmakers remember to build up to. The kind Steven Spielberg used to make. The kind that makes a grown man yell “YEAH!” in a theater.  ★★★ 1/2 HER TAKE Alfred Hitchcock popularized the term “MacGuffin,” which is defined as a plot device that motivates a film’s action without having much impact on the narrative. In Godzilla, I think it’s fair to say that the human characters are all MacGuffins. The cast is impressive, but they’re given very little to do (besides look up in terror) and even less to say. That would be a huge slam against the film if the action sequences and special effects weren’t so damn great. And action is this movie’s bread and butter anyway—it’s a two-hour-long roller-coaster ride and one of the best examples of pure escapism I’ve seen in recent years. Director Gareth Edwards has clearly done his homework, nailing nearly every rule for making a successful thriller. In the first two acts, he shows the creatures sparingly—a tail here, a spine there—to build anticipation à la Jaws. And when the giant lizard is finally revealed in all its glory, it’s one of those rare examples of CGI that actually exhibits realistic depth and fluidity of movement. Edwards also builds tension by constantly upping the ante. Just when you think you’ve gotten your fill of faceless crowds running for their lives, he narrows the camera’s focus to the POV of just one terrified dog, causing animal lovers everywhere to squirm in their seats. Lest your blood pressure drop back to normal, he follows that up with a busload of imperiled doe-eyed children and the threat of a nuclear blast leveling San Francisco. Disaster pictures and monster movies frequently get short shrift from critics, but Godzilla reminds us that there’s a real art to making these genres well.  ★★★ 1/2 THEIR TAKE If you’re in the mood for smart dialogue and character development, stay home and watch Downton Abbey. Godzilla isn’t about that—it’s all about spectacle, destruction, and special effects that make you feel like a kid again. And since so much of what makes those effects work is the massive scale of the creatures, make sure to see this one on the biggest screen possible. After all, a Godzilla on an iPad is really just a bloated chameleon. Read more movie reviews from the Critical Couple.

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