Review: “It Follows”

“It Follows” opens wide this weekend, and what follows is my review.  No real spoilers, especially if you’ve seen the trailer, but if you wanna remain completely in the dark — so creepy! — see the film first.

I’m a little reluctant to compare new films to seminal pieces of work.  “‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is the new ‘Star Wars!’”  Who wants that kinda baggage?  These things need time.  Well how about this: “It Follows” ain’t “Jaws” or “Psycho,” but it might just do for strangers what those films did for beaches and hotels.  You may find yourself keeping a safe distance from everyone as you leave the theater.

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The second feature from writer-director David Robert Mitchell, “It Follows” is about Jay (Maika Monroe), a young woman who finds herself pursued by an evil specter.  After having sex with Hugh (Jake Weary), he takes her to an abandoned building and ties her to a wheelchair.  In one of the film’s more harrowing passages, Hugh explains that he’s passed this entity on to her.  She’ll start to see someone following her, and this thing is only visible to those who’ve been afflicted.  It can look like anyone — a complete stranger or even a friend.  (Strangely, the film doesn’t mine the latter as much as it could.)  It moves at a walking pace, but if it catches her, it will kill her.  Jay’s best bet is to pass the curse on to someone else.

Mitchell wears his influences on his sleeve, and there’s a lot to appreciate for horror aficionados.  The basic premise, a quiet neighborhood under threat, brings to mind…well, any number of slashers from the 70s and 80s.  Disasterpeace’s nerve-jangling synth score recalls John Carpenter.  Like so many horror films from generations past, this one could be read as a cautionary tale about adolescent sex.  (“Cautionary” is a strong word — I don’t think it’s the first or even twenty-first concern for Mitchell.  But it’s certainly a clever nod.)  Even the persistence of the threat reminded me of Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers, slowly stalking their prey and eventually catching up with them despite their best — okay, sometimes not-so-best — efforts.

Above all, Mitchell brings an understanding of how to use the frame.  What’s in it and what’s out — that’s really a bedrock of cinema and especially horror.  An oft-cited shot from this film is one where the camera turns 720 degrees.  Jay and a friend are at Hugh’s former high school trying to track him down.  The camera remains outside the office as they consult a secretary.  It turns to reveal a series of windows looking onto the lawn.  Students walk back and forth, but one off in the distance seems to be headed straight for us.  Then the camera passes over an empty hallway and back to the office — they’re still talking to the secretary — and then we’re looking out the windows again.

That student is closer.

When we get back to the office, the bell rings.  We hear doors open, and I started to worry that it would sneak up on Jay in the crowd.  The threat in this film could come from anywhere.  It’s one that the director puzzlingly undercuts a few times by depicting the entity with cheap ghoulish makeup.  More often than not, creepy makeup isn’t creepy.  And I’m sure going to avoid someone who looks half-dead.  But a student in a crowd of students?  Anyone would be a goner.

So much of what’s done with the camera involves smooth and elegant movement, but one of my favorite flourishes involves Mitchell and cinematographer Mike Gioulakis strapping it to the wheelchair that Jay is tied to such that the lens is pointing back at the actress.  She struggles against her restraints, and the whole frame rattles.  It’s used to great effect when she and Hugh are being pursued by the specter in an abandoned building.  As he hurriedly pushes her toward the exit, the camera bounces around her terror stricken face and the dark figure in the background.  It’s as though the whole frame might collapse.

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Maika Monroe is really strong in the main role.  There’s a wistful quality to her performance, particularly during the first act.  Once the shit hits the fan, she plays horror with the best of them.  You’re really in her corner, which is why it’s disappointing when the film takes a turn in the second half.  By then, many of the characters have come down with stupid decision-itis, which is a disease prevalent in the horror genre wherein people on screen lose the ability to make rational decisions.  Their actions don’t come from a place of logic, they come from a need to set up more scares.  And this is never more prevalent than in the film’s climax.  I’m going to try and remain spoiler-free, but I really don’t know what the characters intended or what they thought would happen in that scene.

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Even if David Robert Mitchell leaves some scares on the table, “It Follows” is an enviable horror film.  Enviable in the way that it constructs, for the most part, empathetic characters.  Enviable in the way it eschews gore and cheap tricks to make us shiver.  And, most of all, enviable in the way that it uses the camera to instill fear.

But don’t worry, you’ll be fine.

Just don’t go anywhere with only one exit.

What did you think of “It Follows?”  Comment below!

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Review: “Interstellar”

The biggest question I had after “Interstellar” was “What happened to the sound mix?”  Hans Zimmer’s score was used to near-deafening effect, which is a shame, because it’s some of his best work in years.  Critical conversations were drowned out by overbearing sound.  And it wasn’t just my theater, other outlets have addressed the issue.  I don’t mean to be glib, but for a film with high-minded ambitions and so much promise in its first two acts, Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” left me with nothing but a ringing in my ears.

Warning: this review contains loud noises, black holes and spoilers.

Matthew McCounaughey stars as Cooper, a former NASA pilot raising his son and daughter on a farm.  It’s the future, and Earth is losing the ability to produce food.  The human race is living on borrowed time.  McCounaughey brings an appealing “everyman” quality to the Nolan-universe.   His relationship with his willful daughter, Murph (Mackenzie Foy), consumes the first 35+ minutes of the film, but their development isn’t enough to support a runtime that’s nearly three hours.

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Murph is convinced their house is haunted.  A “ghost” knocks books from a shelf in her room and leaves coordinates in the dust.  Those coordinates take Cooper to a secret NASA facility, where he discovers that Professor Brand (Michael Caine) and his daughter, Amelia (Anne Hathaway), have been working on a plan…or two…to save mankind.  Plan A: travel through a wormhole, investigate three potentially hospitable planets, and use a space station to transport Earth’s population.  Should resources run out before the mission can be completed, Plan B: populate one of three said planets with test tube babies.  Cooper accepts Brand’s offer to pilot the mission, which causes a rift between he and his daughter. “Don’t make me leave like this,” he pleads.

In space, we’re treated to some gorgeous cosmic vistas.  Cooper and his team visit a water planet where time passes more slowly.  Discovering it isn’t suitable, they return to their ship to find that 20 years has passed.  In the film’s most stirring moment, Cooper watches his son grow up over a series of transmissions.  The string of videos ends with his estranged daughter, now as old as he is (played by Jessica Chastain, very strong in the role).  In a great match cut, we watch Cooper’s monitor as Murph turns off her display and then we’re back on Earth with her.  She’s been working with Professor Brand on a way to get the human race off the planet, but on his deathbed, the professor reveals that he’s known for some time that their efforts are wasted.  He sent her father on his mission knowing Earth was doomed.

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The movie hits turbulence with the introduction of Matt Damon.  He plays Mann, an astronaut who was sent to survey one of the potential planets.  I was pleasantly surprised to see Damon at first — the marketing campaign kept him a secret and he’s a great actor — but his role is sorely lacking.  It’s the stock character that’s gone crazy, undone by the enormity of events.  (Reminded me of Tim Robbins in “The War of the Worlds,” a movie that also goes off the rails with his late introduction.) Though the filmmakers get some mileage out of subverting Damon’s upstanding persona, I couldn’t help but wonder: Why this actor for this nothing role?

Learning of the crew’s intentions to follow through with Plan A, Mann sabotages their mission.  He flees to the main craft that’s circling the planet.  In an unsuccessful docking attempt, Mann dies in an explosion that sends the larger vessel spiraling out of control.  Then Cooper successfully manages a docking maneuver in a moment that should be a nail-biter.  Zimmer’s score is insistent on it.  It’s like watching a sporting event and someone’s sitting next to you banging pots and pans together shouting, “Isn’t this exciting?!”  No, not anymore. The whole sequence is cross-cut with Murph trying to get back to her childhood home.  There was something about that ghost.  She runs up against her brother (a misused Casey Affleck), who’s inexplicably turned into a raging asshole.  He’s unconcerned with his family’s deteriorating health, and he’s determined to keep his sister out of the house.  Rather than create tension, we’re wondering why the brother behaves this way at all.  The answer: the plot needs him to.  You can practically hear the film groan — there’s that sound mix again — as it strains to up the ante.

Cooper and Amelia are the only remaining crew members.  While sling-shoting around a blackhole, he ejects into it, which enables Amelia to reach the final planet.  Cooper finds himself in a fifth dimension — no, not the Twilight Zone — where he’s able to view his daughter’s bedroom seemingly at any point in time.  During this sequence, we come to realize that he was her ghost.  This is clearly intended to be a big reveal, but Nolan doesn’t lay the necessary groundwork.  Murph first mentions the ghost early in the film when we’re not yet attached to these characters or invested in this world. The odd story development stands out like a sore thumb – Ghost? Isn’t this a space travel film? It’s like Nolan is a magician, and he forgets to draw our eye away from his trick.  Within minutes of young Murph declaring their house was haunted, I saw where the film was going.

Beyond that, Nolan and his co-writer/brother, Jonathan, have a serious problem with exposition.  Some of their writing passes about as well as a kidney stone.  They’ll make a point…clarify it…and then reiterate it again.  Think about the engineer at the end of “Batman Begins,” practically narrating what will happen if the microwave emitter reaches the center of Gotham.  Or the ferry passengers in “The Dark Knight.”  In both cases, the situations scarcely need explaining, and yet we suffer through these repetitions that sap the scenes of tension.  “Interstellar” is no different.  Lazarus, a Biblical story of a man brought back to life, is a recurring motif.  Waking from hibernation, Mann tells our characters:  “You have literally raised me from the dead.”  With just enough time to say to myself, “Wow, subtle,” Cooper responds, “Lazarus.”

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Nolan’s propensity for over-explanation rears its head in the final climactic sequence.  Cooper tells us that the beings who made the fifth dimension are future humans, and it was created so that he could give his daughter the missing component to Brand’s work.  The wall-to-wall exposition is such an odd, demystifying choice.  So much of the best science fiction eschews explanation for its central conceit.  Why can’t women get pregnant in “Children of Men?”  Who knows.  How exactly are they erasing Jim Carrey’s memories in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?”  Who cares!  When you confine this type of film to a box, you risk — even promise — disillusionment and disappointment.  Nolan is clearly an ambitious filmmaker, but audacity is a big part of ambition.  No matter how noble your intentions or grand your vision, when you package your film in easily digestible bites, you undercut boldness and daring.

All the ambition in the world doesn’t mean much when the experience is this empty.  Loud, but empty.

What did you think of “Interstellar?”  Comment below! 

Review: “Godzilla” (a.k.a. “Gojira”)

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the release of the original “Godzilla,” known as “Gojira” in its native Japan.  The Japanese cut of the film wasn’t available in the States until 2004, so for roughly 50 years, Americans had to make do with the U.S. edit, “Godzilla, King of the Monsters.”  It featured Raymond Burr, thanks to some…unique editing.  The biggest crime of the U.S. version wasn’t Burr’s haphazard inclusion, but the way it muted — eradicated even — the cautionary aspects of the original.

Warning: giant monsters and spoilers ahead!

Director Ishiro Honda’s film begins with a dramatization of an event that would have been fresh in the minds of Japanese citizens.  In early 1954, the S.S. Lucky Dragon 5 and the men on board were exposed to fallout from H-bomb testing.  “Godzilla” begins similarly, a group of fishermen are consumed by flames after witnessing a blinding flash of light.  Honda invites our curiosity by completely concealing the monster.  Staging the scene so obliquely, he positions the film as a haunting and even cathartic nuclear allegory.

As more ships disappear, the Japanese public demands answers.  In one of my favorite effects shots – “favorite” not to be confused with “best” — what’s clearly a model boat bursts into flames.  It floats along the surface of the water, a ghost ship, before sinking beneath the waves.  When the full nature of these disasters becomes clear, we get varying perspectives on how to deal with the problem.  Salvage ship captain Hideto Ogata (Akira Takarada) wants Godzilla destroyed.  It poses too great a threat.  Paleontologist Kyohei Yamane (played by Kurosawa-regular Takashi Shimura) wants to preserve the creature for study.  What is it?  How long has it been there?  How did it survive the atomic tests?  They’re linked by Emiko (Momoko Kochi), Kyohei’s daughter and Hideto’s lover.

Among the franchise’s 30 entries, this first film boasts the most compelling human drama.  Emiko’s allegiances are torn between her father, Hideto, and Dr. Daisuke Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata), who she’d been sworn to marry despite her true affections.  Frankly, some of the romantic melodrama could go, but the human element is juiciest when it centers around Serizawa.  Unintentionally, he’s developed a weapon of mass destruction: the Oxygen Destroyer.  When guns, tanks and planes prove ineffective against Godzilla, Emiko and Hideto urge the doctor to use his device.  Only nine years after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he’s reluctant.  “I can’t add another terrifying weapon to humanity’s arsenal.”

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The film’s special effects centerpiece is Godzilla’s attack on Tokyo, made possible by “suitmation.”  Pioneered by Eiji Tsuburaya, an actor in a monster suit storms through a miniature city.  Though the technique is dated, many shots hold up.  Honda and Tsuburaya frame Godzilla from low angles with foreground elements — buildings, power lines, and a bird aviary in one case.  This creates scale while inky cinematography hides the seams and contributes to a sense of dread.

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But, in the infancy of suitmation, there are plenty of geographical inconsistencies.  Firefighters barrel through the streets only to careen off them…presumably due to Godzilla, but we never have a sense of their proximity to each other.  Still, those mishaps are easily overlooked when you consider the number of chilling moments.  A mother comforts her children as the city falls around them.  “Don’t worry, we’ll be with Daddy soon.”

So many films, post-9/11, attempt to channel the apocalyptic sense of doom from that day, but few achieve what this one does.  The morning after the attack, an eerily-calm establishing shot of Tokyo shows the city in ruins.  A young girl cries as her deceased mother is carried through a hospital corridor that’s bursting with wounded citizens.  A doctor examines a patient with a Geiger counter.  A children’s choir sings for peace.  These moments carry all the weight and immediacy of a documentary.  Despite this film having only one city-leveler — not the smorgasbord* of later installments — the stakes have never felt higher.

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The sorrowful tone is carried through to the film’s final moments.  Dr. Serizawa, seeing the aftermath of destruction, concedes to use his weapon.  In doing so, he takes his own life.  Now that the world knows of his invention, he can’t be coerced into making another.  Where many films might strike a triumphant note with the demise of the monster, this one does not.  Akira Ifukube’s mournful score recalls the choir’s prayer earlier in the film.  Like many great movie monsters, Godzilla is a victim of man’s overreach.  As Kyohei watches, the ancient creature lets out a death cry and finally succumbs.  He warns — in a bit of dialog that’s just a shade too on-the-nose — against further atomic tests.  Alongside science fiction classics like “Frankenstein” and modern classics like “Blade Runner,” “Godzilla” stands as a stirring reminder of the reckoning that follows from man’s hubris.

* – Not that I’m casting judgments.  I’m all for a smorgasbord of giant monsters!

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Have you seen the Japanese cut of the original “Godzilla?”  How about the American cut?  Comment below!

Review: “Fight Club”

In honor of the 15th anniversary of “Fight Club” and to coincide with the release of director David Fincher’s latest, “Gone Girl,” I thought I would review this 1999 cult classic. I’m afraid, by talking about it, I’ll be breaking the first two rules of Fight Club. So you’ve been warned…spoilers ahead!

Truth be told, I wasn’t big on “Fight Club” after first seeing it.  A lot of the humor escaped me, but in the 15 years since its release, it’s gotten better with each viewing.  There’s exuberance in Fincher’s filmmaking, from tricks from the silent era to his use of state-of-the art toys.  It’s some of Edward Norton and Brad Pitt’s best work, and Jim Uhls’ script streamlines the novel by Chuck Palahniuk while maintaining his scalding sense of humor.

The film opens with one hell of a credit sequence, which doubles as a tour of the Narrator’s mind.  Norton is great in the role, depicting a man so consumed by his possessions that he’s anesthetized himself to everything and everyone else.  He has a fridge full of condiments and no food — all decoration but nothing to hang it on.  Following super-serious roles in “Primal Fear” and “American History X,” Norton proves he can do comedy.  With a gun in his mouth, he wryly observes in voice over “I wonder how clean the gun is.”

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Foreshadowed by the credits, we spend the whole movie knocking around the Narrator’s head. One thing that struck me on my recent viewing was the sound design.  The movie’s packed with aural touches to cue us into the character’s psychology.  In an effort to feel something – anything – the Narrator joins a slew of support groups where he doesn’t belong.  At a meeting for testicular cancer, he’s embraced by Meat Loaf’s Bob and begins to cry as a church choir creeps into the soundtrack.  In another great moment, Fincher’s (virtual) camera drifts through a wastebasket filled with cups from Starbucks – at which point the Narrator warns that with the advance of deep space exploration, corporations will name everything.  What sounds like a sonar ping evokes the vast emptiness of space.  [“But Garrett, there’s no sound in space!”  I know!  I read the “Alien” tagline.]

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Particularly in the first half of his career, Fincher occasionally indulged in technical wizardry that could derail scenes.  I’m looking at you, “Panic Room.”

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Sure, in “Fight Club,” there’s some superfluous digital camera, but I thought Fincher’s choices were really inspired.  I’ve already mentioned the “camera” in the wastebasket, but another great moment comes when the Narrator walks through his apartment.  Names and descriptions appear over his Ikea-bought items. They consume him.  Here’s a man drowning in his possessions.

When his support group scheme is foiled by another faker, Marla (Helena Bonham Carter), the Narrator inadvertently creates imaginary friend Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt).  Tyler looks like the Narrator wants to look, acts like he wants to act, and says what he wants to say.  Together, the two start Fight Club.  It’s an organization where men assemble to re-assert their dominance and truly feel something.  Ya know, knuckles to the face or a knee to the ribs.  Tyler tells his followers, “We’re the middle children of history…Our Great War’s a spiritual war.  Our Great Depression is our lives.”  But some roughhousing and a few minor acts of rebellion quickly escalate.

When Bob returns to Fight Club HQ with an exit wound at the back of his head, the Narrator realizes how wildly out of control his organization has spiraled.  Only then does he realize that Tyler is a figment of his imagination.

Although the filmmakers have laid out a number of clues, I’ve never gone over the twist with a fine-tooth comb. Frankly, I don’t think it matters that much.  This is a film where the Narrator breaks the fourth wall and characters comment on flashback humor.  More importantly, “Fight Club” doesn’t leave you with the twist.  It’s the jumping-off point for the third act.

The end of this film is ultimately about whether or not the Narrator can suppress the worst aspects of himself, and it’s a joy to behold.  There’s a great skewering of the traditional bomb-defusing scene.  While the Narrator tries to stop a device designed to level a building, his alter ego goads, “Maybe, since I knew you’d know, I spent all day thinking about the wrong wires.”  A confrontation between the Narrator and Tyler ranks among my favorite movie fights.  Fincher uses old school tricks like cutting on action and body doubles to give the sense that our Narrator is fighting someone that can do anything and be anywhere.  He offers amusing glimpses of security footage that reveal our Narrator is, in fact, just fighting himself.

In one of the movie’s more darkly comedic passages, member of Fight Club surround poor Bob, who’s lying dead on a table. Like lemmings, they repeat after the Narrator, practically chanting “His name is Robert Paulson! His name is Robert Paulson!”

Some criticized the movie for glamorizing this lifestyle, but how anyone could watch these clowns and think the filmmakers are condoning them is beyond me. The film certainly appreciates a certain level of rebellion, but it also demonstrates how easily rebels can fall down the rabbit hole. The block-busting final images (heh heh) represent one man’s struggle with those impulses writ large.

What are your thoughts on “Fight Club?”  It’s okay to break the first two rules here, this is a safe place!

Review: “Godzilla” (2014)

In honor of the disc release of this summer’s “Godzilla,” I wanted to offer my thoughts on the film. You might remember that I’m a huge fan – gargantuan, even – of the character. The following is pretty spoiler free, with one exception, but I’ll give you a heads up.

“History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man…”

Those words were sung by Blue Öyster Cult in their hit song, “Godzilla.”  It’s a philosophy director Gareth Edwards took to heart in this summer’s dazzling reboot.  A nifty title sequence sets the stage.  We learn that the presumed nuclear tests in the South Pacific of the 1950s were in fact attempts to kill the creature.  Alexandre Desplat delivers a rousing score, as we get a brief glimpse of the titular monster, his dorsal spines cresting the surface of the ocean, like the world’s largest super shark.

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Cut to 1999, a strange incident causes a Japanese nuclear power plant to go into meltdown.  Bryan Cranston’s Joe Brody, a supervisor at the plant, provides our emotional hook into the film, as he spends the next 15 years trying to figure out what happened.  His son, Ford (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) returns home after a tour of duty.  Having spent only a few hours with his family, he’s reluctantly called to Japan to bail his father out of prison.  Joe was trespassing in the quarantine zone in an effort to discover the cause of the disaster.

Turns out it wasn’t an earthquake, as reported.

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There’s a passing of the baton, and Ford becomes the main focus.  This brings us to the film’s biggest liability: its characters.  Especially Ford Brody. The supporting roles are thin, but they’re played by talented performers, so the mediocre writing is tolerable.  In addition to Cranston, the cast includes Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, David Strathairn, Juliette Binoche, and Sally Hawkins. Sadly, Aaron Taylor-Johnson isn’t equipped to imbue his character with any gravitas or charisma, and questionable character beats and developments land with a thud.

One such moment occurs near the end of the film.  In the interest of remaining spoiler free, I’ll just say Ford gives up at a critical juncture when he should be fighting tooth and nail.  Some have criticized the movie for the characters’ insignificance and lack of impact next to the monsters, but that isn’t an inherently bad thing.  What do the protagonists accomplish in “Seven?”  Nothing.  In fact, drama is derived from their inability to change their fate.  That’s what this “Godzilla” needed, but make no mistake, Godzilla should confound mankind at every turn.  After all, the character was born out of Japan’s anxiety over nuclear attacks.

Much has been made about Godzilla’s lack of screen time – a complaint that frankly boggles my mind.  Gareth Edwards understands, like Spielberg and Ridley Scott before him, that the quickest way to take the majesty and menace out of a main attraction is to overexpose it.  Each and every time Godzilla is on screen, Edwards makes it count.

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Indeed, he and screenwriter Max Borenstein allow their film to build toward a distinct and succinct climax, shrewdly dolling out spectacle in small doses until the thunderous ending.  I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see filmmakers respect their audience in this regard, particularly when so many blockbusters are structured for itchy teens.  Climax upon climax upon climax – after a while, it stops meaning anything.

Edwards and Director of Photography Seamus McGarvey rigorously adopt P.O.V. camerawork, with much of the action being framed from the ground level.  This creates scale, placing us in the action, and combined with the well-timed set pieces, gives the film a genuine sense of awe that’s been missing from multiplexes.  So many blockbuster directors are seduced by their budgets, and they use shots that showcase their resources but fail to involve the audience.

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Despite the bleak subject matter, and contrary to a criticism that the film takes itself too seriously, Edwards knows how to have a good time.  Just as things start to heat up, he wryly cuts away from a bit of action at the Honolulu International Airport.  (Gotta leave enough fuel in the tank for the big finish.) Elvis Presley’s “Devil in Disguise” scores the destruction of Las Vegas.  And there are so many playful uses of the camera.  As Ford waits on a tram to get to his flight, the power goes out.  When the lights come back on, we follow their progress from inside the tram.  Suddenly, they illuminate this hulking titan as it lumbers into the airport.  It’s a motivated camera movement, an organic reveal, and it provides a nice little scare to boot.

And Edwards isn’t just adept at money shots.  He’s got a true filmmaker’s eye, hanging entire sequences on simple images that are so lo-fi, they could have come from his low-budget debut, “Monsters.”  The camera lingers on an empty hallway in a power plant in crisis, as we wait to see what will round the corner.  A group of marines storm a nuclear waste site searching for something.  Nothing out of the ordinary in the first two containment facilities, but when a marine pulls back a sliding door on the third one, he’s greeted with a blinding shaft of light.  What’s that about?

Okay, it’s gonna be difficult for me to avoid spoilers here.  If you haven’t seen the film, go ahead and skip to the next bit of bolded text.

At the end of the film, Godzilla slides into San Francisco Bay, having defeated an ancient menace that threatened the city.  Onlookers cheer as a news broadcast proclaims, “King of the Monsters — Savior of our city?”  I love the nod to the Americanization of the original film and the clever commentary on our media’s propensity to slap labels on things.

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The celebratory nature of the ending has been ribbed in some corners, but I thought it was a wonderful continuation of the film’s main theme: man’s hubris.  What could be more arrogant than to assume that a force of nature acted on our behalf?  “He did this for us!” Think I’m overreaching? Check out how Edwards’ camera descends as Godzilla submerges.  We’re left at the surface, as though we were treading water, a precarious place to be when there’s a massive beast swimming beneath your toes.  The shot holds after Desplat’s triumphant score has faded, creating an eerie calm, as though waiting for the creature to re-surface for one last attack.

Okay “Godzilla” virgins, it’s safe to come back now.

“The arrogance of man is assuming nature is in our control, and not the other way around,” Watanabe’s Dr. Serizawa intones.  It’s there in the way tsunami waters wipe away a coastal street.  It’s there in the way a dog surveys bodies at a train wreck.  And it’s there in the way nature has retaken the quarantined city in Japan, plants and animals clinging to every surface.  Rest assured, nature will retake more major cities before the movie’s over.

What did you think of “Godzilla?” Comment below!