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BWN Nerds’ Movie Review: Godzilla (2014)

No introduction is really necessary for this movie franchise. If you don’t know what Godzilla is, I’m assuming you’re a newborn or live somewhere that just recently got cable. With a slightly adjusted format, the Golden Age Nerd himself, Dave Ungar, flies solo on this review.

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No introduction is really necessary for this movie franchise. If you don’t know what Godzilla is, I’m assuming you’re a newborn or live somewhere that just recently got cable. With a slightly adjusted format, the Golden Age Nerd himself, Dave Ungar, flies solo on this review.

The Movie: Godzilla (2014)

  • Metacritic Score: 62
  • Tomatometer: 76% 
  • IMDB:  6.4/10

After Greg and I did a month-long tour of the Oceans franchise, Patrick and I decided that we would get everyone ready for the first really big movie of 2021, Godzilla v. Kong, slated for a simultaneous theater and HBO Max release on March 31, 2021. To do this, we decided that we would review each movie in Legendary Pictures MonsterVerse to lead into the Monster battle to end all battles (for this year anyway) beginning with 2014’s Godzilla, the first movie in the franchise.  A funny thing happened along the way though: Patrick could not find the movie on a streaming service and was too much of a cheap bastard to fork over the cost of even a rental (yes, he gave me permission to call him that). So, being the team player that I am, I volunteered to fly solo on this one and, hopefully, Kong: Skull Island will be on a streaming service next week so Patrick can end his hiatus.

Dave’s Review:

The 2014 version of Godzilla is a reboot of probably the best-known monster franchise in the world. The movie is really a movie in two parts as the first hour is vastly different from the second. So, let’s break this down into parts. The first hour begins with some black and white footage of what appears to be the US military trying to nuke a creature with large spikes running the length of his back. We soon learn that the nuclear tests of the 1950’s, carried out by the US and USSR, were not tests at all, but attempts to kill a creature that is initially called Gojira, but then gets called Godzilla minutes later without any real explanation as to the difference in the names. In 1999, two Monarch Corporation scientists travel to the Philippines where they discover the fossilized remains of a Godzilla-like creature. But they also discover two spores and one of them has hatched and is heading for Japan (you can’t have a Godzilla movie without Japan being involved). Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) works at the Janjira Nuclear Plant with his wife Sandra. Joe sends Sandra into the reactor to check on some readings. A large tremor breaches the reactor. A meltdown occurs and Sandra perishes. The Japanese government quarantines the zone and it is off-limits.

Fast forward 15 years and Joe’s son, Ford, is now grown up with a family of his own in San Francisco. He comes home just in time to be called to Japan as his father has been arrested for trying to enter the Quarantine Zone. Ford goes to Japan and his father reveals to him that there was no tremor 15 years earlier and he feels that “something” caused the reactor breach and the government is hiding it. Joe and Ford go back to their home, located right in the middle of the Quarantine Zone. They discover there is no radiation present and animal life is doing quite well. They are arrested and taken to the remains of the nuclear plant where they discover a cocoon like object that has been feeding off the nuclear reactors for 15 years and emitting increasingly large EMP pulses. Naturally, a winged and massive creature emerges from the cocoon and destroys the base before flying off into the night sky. Joe is severely injured and dies.

The creature is dubbed a MUTO (Massive Terrestrial Unidentified Organism). It feeds off of radiation and heads towards Hawaii, eating a Russian nuclear sub along the way. But Godzilla becomes aware of the MUTO and intercepts it in Hawaii. Godzilla’s arrival causes a massive tsunami and there is widespread destruction even though the encounter between the creatures is relatively brief. That sums up the first hour and you can see the problems that exist. When you kill off Bryan Cranston in the first hour, and you don’t even have Godzilla show up until right at the one-hour mark, you have probably done something wrong.

Thankfully, things get much better in the second hour. We learn that there is a second MUTO and this one is female. She emerges and obliterates Las Vegas. The two MUTOs were speaking with each other and Godzilla picked up on this, which is how he got involved. All three creatures are on a collision course for the Bay Area and the US Military decides that the best option is to lure the creatures 20 miles off-shore so they can be nuked. Ishiro Serizawa, one of the Monarch scientists who discovered the cavern in the Philippines, is well aware that the same strategy failed to destroy Godzilla in the 1950’s. Nevertheless, the two MUTOs and Godzilla have a major throwdown in San Francisco. Godzilla is quite cool in these segments and director, Garreth Edwards, did an excellent job of building up to that moment when Godzilla finally unleashes his atomic breath. Still, Godzilla is pretty much getting his ass handed to him by the MUTOs, until Ford destroys a nest with many unhatched MUTO eggs. The manner in which Godzilla defeats the MUTOs is quite epic, especially the female. Godzilla seems to succumb to his injuries, but he awakens the following morning and lumbers back to the sea as the media dubs him the King of the Monsters and the Savior of The City.

The second hour is filled with lots of great action, cool special effects and, most importantly, plenty of Godzilla. It makes up for a fairly weak first hour. Looking at the movie as a whole though, this is a tough one to place. The plot is a bit more linear than the 1998 version with Matthew Broderick. It makes more sense and doesn’t pull you in too many directions all at once. Still, it is not a plot that plays out very smoothly. The segments with Cranston are good but over far too quickly. Serizawa’s belief that Godzilla will defeat the MUTOs seems to be as random as many other elements of the movie. The MUTOs are not particularly special, as far as movie monsters are concerned, and are actually somewhat lame. On the other hand, the movie does a good job at honing in on the human element, especially Ford’s determination to get back to his family. This becomes the driving force in the second hour of the movie. Ford lost his father; he has no intentions of losing his wife or son as well.

As for the cast, I already mentioned Bryan Cranston, who is excellent in the limited time he had in the movie. Aaron Taylor-Johnson does a very good job as Ford and Elizabeth Olsen, known worldwide now as Wanda Maximoff, does an equally good job as his wife, Elle. Ken Watanabe turns in a solid performance as Serizawa. There are other names and faces you will recognize but I will leave that for you to discover.

So what is the verdict? To steal from Patrick O’ Dowd, the movie is “fine”, It was a decent attempt to simultaneously reboot one of the great movie franchises of the last century, while at the same time kick off a shared universe, no easy task to be sure. It does some things right and others, not so much. The acting is good as is the special effects. Godzilla is as bad ass as you would hope. It’s just not as interesting or compelling as one would have hoped and I pin that on the fact that the MUTOs just were not strong as monster antagonists to Godzilla. In the end, I always ask myself the most important question: Was I entertained? To that I respond yes. If you are a Godzilla fan, or remotely interested in the upcoming slobber knocker between Godzilla and King Kong, I strongly suspect you will enjoy this. It is much better than the 1998 train wreck that not even Matthew Broderick could save. It is far from perfect but it is good enough for you to invest your time into checking out.

 

Overall Nerd Rating for Godzilla (2014): 3/5


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Bandwagon Nerds # 74 To Binge or Not to Binge

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Bandwagon Nerds # 74 To Binge or Not to Binge

Should streaming services do episodic television?  That’s the question the Nerds try to answer this week on the Bandwagon.  Patrick, Rey, Dave and PC tackle the pros and cons of a streaming service dropping entire seasons of their original programs versus dropping one episode at a time.  Is there a “right” way to do it?  The Bandwagon returns to the trailer park this week as tons of exciting trailers hit the nerdosphere this week!  The guys continue their review of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier in an episode that was light on action, but loaded nonetheless.  Finally with Wrestlemania in the rearview, the Nerds share their thoughts of Night One and their favorite Wrestlemania stories of all time.

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About Bandwagon Nerds

Join Patrick O’Dowd, David Ungar, and a rotating cast of guests as they keep everyone up on all things nerd, and maybe add some new nerds along the way. It’s the Bandwagon Nerds Podcast!

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BWN Nerds’ Movie Review: Godzilla vs Kong (2021)

Big boy monster throw down of the year! The Nerds return with a current movie review, and this one should be interesting. Is Dave too forgiving? Is Patrick taking his role as the German judge too seriously? Find out where the overall ratings lands between these two!

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Welcome to this week’s edition of the Nerd Review!  Every week the Nerds give you their take on a different movie from the Nerdosphere.  This week Dave and Patrick review the fourth installment of kaiju cinematic universe Godzilla vs. Kong!

The Flick:  Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

What’s it About:  A researcher believes a hollow world beneath the Earth’s surface is the birthplace of the mighty Kaiju.  He convinces and old friend to help him take the mighty Kong to find his birthplace even if it means incurring the wrath of the King of Kaiju Godzilla.   The battle between the two alpha Kaiju could result in the end of all mankind.

Metacritic Score: 59

The Nerds’ Take on Godzilla vs Kong (2021):

Dave It is time for the Main Event of Legendary’s MosterVerse, the showdown we have been waiting for: Godzilla v. Kong. If you have been following along with our Nerd Reviews, then you knew this was coming. What you don’t know is whether we feel the climax to the series is worth your time or not. Well allow me to give you my take on that topic.

Plot wise, it has been some five years since Godzilla defeated Ghidorah and things have been relatively quiet and peaceful. Meanwhile, on Skull Island, Monarch has created a dome like structure to observe and try and control Kong. Kong has developed a relationship with a little girl, Jia, who seems to be the last surviving member of her clan. Jia has, for lack of a better term, been adopted by Dr. Ilene Andrews. Jia is deaf and she seems able to communicate with Kong through sign language.

Halfway across the globe, Apex Cybernetics is engaged in some sort of experimentation that attracts the attention of Godzilla, who shows up and annihilates their facility in Florida. Godzilla’s attack shatters humanity’s notion that he is their friend. Bernie Hayes is an employee of Apex, but he also hosts a Podcast focusing on conspiracy theories involving the Titans. He is soon joined by Madison Russell (from Godzilla: King of the Monsters) who is a fan of the Podcast, and her friend Josh as they start poking around the remains of the Apex site in Florida. We soon discover that Apex is looking for a massive power source that they believe is located in Hollow Earth. Hollow Earth is really more of an Earth within the Earth (Middle Earth, perhaps?) and the quandary is how to survive the trip to Hollow Earth. Nathan Lind is a Hollow Earth expert whose brother perished in a prior expedition to Hollow Earth due to a reverse gravitational effect. But Apex has developed vehicles that can survive the voyage. They just need Kong to lead them there.

In the process of transporting Kong to Antarctica, which has an entry point to Hollow Earth, Godzilla senses his old rival and attacks. Godzilla definitely gets the better of this battle, forcing the expeditionary force to transport Kong by air to Antarctica to avoid detection by Godzilla. Kong gets the group to Hollow Earth and it becomes clear there has been an ancient rivalry between Kong’s ancestors and Godzilla’s. Kong discovers an axe made out of portions of Godzilla’s ancestor’s skins. Back on the surface, Bernie, Madison, and Josh have been whisked away to Hong Kong and they discover what Apex is really up to….Mechagodzilla. Mechagodzilla can be telepathically controlled and it is Dr. Serizawa’s son who is pulling the strings, using the severed head of Ghidorah to do so. The problem is that to utilize Mechagodzilla to its full potential, they require more power, much more power to be exact. This is where the search for the Hollow Earth power source comes into play.

Mechagodzilla is activated and this attracts Godzilla. Godzilla also senses what Kong is doing in Hollow Earth and he sends a blast of atomic breath from Hong Kong to, in essence, the center of the Earth. Kong and the Hollow Earth expeditionary force follow the hole made by Godzilla to the surface. Everyone emerges in Hong Kong for a massive fight between Kong and Godzilla. Kong fares better this time around but is ultimately rendered near death by Godzilla. At about this time, Mechagodzilla is imbued with the power source from Hollow Earth and he also achieves sentience. This leads to the big brawl between Godzilla and Mechagodzilla and it is a mismatch in favor of Mechagodzilla…. until Kong is revived, evening the odds in an enormously predictable moment. Godzilla supercharges Kong’s ax with his atomic breath and the two Titans take down Mechagodzilla. Godzilla and Kong show each other a sign of respect and go their separate ways. Apparently, there can be two alpha Titans after all.

Let’s talk about the good stuff first: the monster fights. They are all fantastic. The battles between Kong and Godzilla feel as big as you would expect. They are titanic clashes in every sense of the word. Godzilla fans will have bragging rights after watching this movie because it is clear that Godzilla whups Kong’s ass on more than one occasion. Kong fans save face though by noting that without Kong, Mechagodzilla would surely have triumphed. As for Mechagodzilla, his appearance in the movie was not a secret and he did not disappoint. The clash between Godzilla and Mechagodzilla was done very well to show just how much more powerful Mechagodzilla was and why it took the combined might of Godzilla and Kong to turn the tide. If massive Kaiju action is your thing, then Godzilla vs Kong is definitely your movie.

Now for the bad: The people. Now, I know what Patrick is going to say. That the movie shifts the focus to the people too much and detracts attention from the monsters. I know he thinks the concept of humans using a defibrillator on Kong is absurd. I am OK with those points in a movie like this. The problem I have with the people is this: They don’t matter. Not at all! They are white noise in the purest sense of the word. 90% of the characters are wholly uninteresting and meaningless. They add little to the plot and just get in the way. So, to be real, Patrick and I are, to a certain extent, talking about different sides of the same coin. The exceptions to this involve Jia, who is quite important to the whole notion of establishing Kong as the “good guy”, and Bernie, who is a fun character and kind of represents a microcosm of conspiracy theorists that are quite common in the real world today. Bernie epitomizes the notion that just because you are paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t watching you. But, beyond those two, the characters are quite dull and just felt very pointless.

As far as this being the series finale, I greatly enjoyed the movie. The dynamic between Kong and Godzilla is interesting and keeps you engaged, regardless of whether you are rooting for one, the other, or both. There are some interesting concepts in the movie, specifically how Hollow Earth is different than you might expect and much more interesting, no matter how far-fetched the idea might be. Interestingly, this movie really showcases just how bad ass Godzilla is. I am not sure why it took three movies to get it right, but I digress. Then there is Kong, who ends up being a multi-layered creature that is shown even more heroically than he was in Kong: Skull Island. As for me, I always favored Kong over Godzilla and I left the movie feeling fine with the outcome of everything. If there is a downside it’s that it appears the MonsterVerse has come to an end, just when it was getting really good. That’s too bad. As for Godzilla vs Kong, the awesome action sequences and special effects vastly outweigh the issues involving the people. This is a very good final installment (we think) in this franchise. It is the best of the movies involving Godzilla. I still liked Kong: Skull Island more, but this was a close second.

Dave’s Rating: 4/5

Patrick:  Here we are again covering the fourth film in the Warner Brothers/Legendary produced Kaiju Monster universe.  And once again this film somehow finds a way to mess up a simple concept.  If you recall, in my review of Godzilla King of the Monsters I said good kaiju movies minimize the involvement of human beings in the film and let the monsters take center stage.  Unfortunately, the folks at Warner Brothers still have not quite grasped the concept here in its fourth Kaiju film. The result is an uneven film that shines when the monsters are on screen and leaves me tuning out when the focus shifts to the little primates.

In this fourth installment, we learn that Monster research organization Monarch I closely monitoring Kong.  Going so far as to create an enclosure around Skull Island so that he is safe from Godzilla.  This of course will not last because, well, humans.  One human in particular, a man named Nathan Lind comes with the backing of a mysterious tech corporation called Apex to search for “Hollow Earth.” Hollow Earth is a world beneath the surface of our Earth that is believed to be the birthplace of all Kaiju.  Lind visits his friend and Monarch researcher Ilene on Skull Island.  Lind believes Kong is the key to finding this hidden world.  Despite knowing, Godzilla will attempt to kill Kong, Ilene agrees to embark on the expedition.  Of course, Godzilla attacks and we get the first of three rounds of monster battling that we paid for.

Unfortunately, to get to round two and three, the audience has to sit through overwrought dialogue and subplots all in an attempt to help the audience connect to the experience.  It’s all really boring.  You know why?  PEOPLE DON’T WATCH KAIJU MOVIES FOR THE HUMANS. But, I digress.  Naturally the tech corporation Apex is not on the up and up with Lind.  Color me stunned, but Apex turns out to be the real enemy to both Kong and Godzilla.  I haven’t even covered the conspiracy theory guy and his gang of teenagers trying to expose Apex from the inside.  Again, no one cares because, read it aloud…NOBODY WATCHES KAIJU MOVIES FOR THE HUMANS.

But this isn’t the end of the dumb.  The audience is treated to an ancient history between Kong’s ancestor and the other Kaiju where we see Kong find the ancient axe of his ancestors.  Because a monkey wielding an axe is cool looking.  Did I mention Kong can charge the thing up with Godzilla’s radioactive breath?  AWESOME?  How about the humans using a high tech battery as defibrillator to revive a dying Kong?  Just dumb on top of dumb followed by more dumb.  And humans.  All of the humans.

The cast for Godzilla vs. Kong is quite the list of names.  Alexander Skarsgard essentially fills the role of human protagonist Nathan Lind.  Honestly, he is the only human character given anything to work with.  Kyle Chandler is back in his role as researcher Mark Russell, but if you blink you miss him.  Millie Bobby Brown is also back as Madison Russell, but horribly wasted in a sidekick sort of role to the previously mentioned conspiracy theorist.  She is limited to trying to discover why Godzilla has started attacking human cities.  Someone of her talent could have and should have been used better.  There are tons of other folks in this movie, and yet I struggle to understand why we needed them all.  All they do is distract from what the audience wants to see which is GODZILLA and KONG FIGHT.

Ok.  So what’s good about this film?  Well, the Kaiju.  The special effects team outdid themselves crafting these battles.  Kong and Godzilla’s bouts all feel epic.  I was also impressed with how much more well lit some of the night scenes were.  As Kong and Godzilla battle at night in a Chinese city, everything is well lit without appearing phony.  The choreography of the battles are terrific, albeit a little silly at times.  Again, radioactive monkey axe.  But the joy of Godzilla vs Kong is in these epic clashes.  I watched the movie on HBO Max, I can only imagine how amazing it would have appeared on an IMAX movie screen with Dolby sound shaking my eardrums.

I came into Godzilla vs. Kong with pretty low expectations.  I want to stress that I loved, loved, loved the action sequences involving the Kaiju.  Unfortunately, you have to sit through an inordinate amount of human exposition to get to those epic moments.  That’s not to say the humans and their stories need to be gone entirely.  The audience does need a guide and some context.  But Godzilla v. Kong would have been so much stronger with a pared down human side of things and a focus on the monsters. It seems Warner Brothers and Legendary pictures still haven’t learned the key to Kaiju: it’ all about the monsters.

Patrick’s Rating: 2.24/5.0

 

Overall Nerds’ Rating on Godzilla vs Kong (2021): 3.12/5.0


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