Monday, January 26, 2009


If I were in the business of making soundbites, I'd call this a non-stop action thrill ride! As I am not, I'll call it an interesting - if ultimately unsuccessful - experiment. It clearly is supposed to be some sort of American Godzilla, and like all American Godzillas, it just doesn't work like it should.

In the film, some guy named Rob has just boned some girl named Beth. And then we jump a month ahead in time to my birthday, when Rob is going away to Japan (where the real Godzilla lives!) and is having a big surprise party. Everyone's invited, including Hud, the wacky comic relief/cameraman, Jason, his brother, Lily, Jason's wife, and Marlena, some chick who Hud likes. There's some drama when Beth shows up, and there's drinking and partying, and ultimately it's all pointless because a gigantic monster shows up and blows up the Statue of Liberty. You know all of this, because it was in the famous, and well done trailer.

Now don't get me wrong, it had a good trailer. It left enough to the imagination that you wanted to know what was going to happen next. It hinted, the shaky camerawork was compelling, and you might have been tempted to have seen the film based on it. But, what works in a trailer doesn't necessarily work in a feature-length film.

Take the camera. The main gimmick is that the entire film is handheld, and shot by one of the characters. Clever, you might think, and an interesting way to make a movie. But the deliberately poor framing and jittery camerawork, which works so well in short form, gets extremely nauseating over 80 minutes. I can't imagine seeing it on a big screen, you'd get motion sickness.

You can be sure that it's very action packed, and quite unrelenting. But because of that, you stop getting attached to the characters. Here's a drinking game, take a swig every time someone says "OH MY GOD!" You'll be on the floor in 10 minutes. Instead of making characters interesting, we just listen to them shouting and reacting. It's a shame, because in the party scene the characters are actually interesting. The drama and conflict running under the surface at the party are just abandoned as everyone screams and runs away.

The aesthetic does lead to some fantastic moments - when the characters get caught in the middle of a firefight, for instance - but there are also several shots where I thought "this scene would look pretty cool with decent camerawork". It tries to provide verisimilitude, but then you notice that the camera is always conveniently filming moments important to the story. Like how they all go to a electronics store and just happen to see a news report on the incident. For me, it killed it, and it'd be a lot more interesting if you didn't know what was happening, and weren't conveniently placed for maximum exposition. There's a feeling that they didn't realize that not knowing something is just more powerful.

I admire what they did, in a way. It's a different way to make an action movie, and it does have a level of immediacy that not many films achieve and the limited perspective is a cool way to film a disaster film. I'm glad they did it, honestly, and at least they tried something different. But it's just too hard to watch, and the story just doesn't stay interesting long enough. Maybe Godzilla should be left to the Japanese?

(I have no idea what I should do with the screens. I tried random times, but I frequently ignored that until I got an image I liked better. I almost want to do deliberately bad ones, but that wouldn't be fair, especially if the movie is actually, you know, good.)

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