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It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to relish in being what Burn Gorman referred to as a “Kaiju groupie” out in the general public. As cheesy and tropey as Pacific Rim might have been, it opened the door to Americans who were not familiar with the glory of witnessing giant monsters nonsensically fight giant robots, and it granted those of us who grew up exhilarated by said giant monsters destroying cities and crushing giant robots with a sort of reprieve from years of social stigma.

Given that I had seen Pacific Rim three times in 3D, you can imagine my anticipation when Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. announced May 16, 2014 as the date that the ultimate Kaiju would be released back into American theaters. I held my breath, partially out of excitement, partially out of fear that the Roland Emmerich effect would taint this adaptation of film’s most favorite Kaiju.

***SPOILERS AHEAD***

LP and WB had me at the opening credits. Each cast, crew and production member’s name was being introduced with a taste of confidential information  and video shots only to have it redacted five seconds after it appeared on screen. The opening credits succeeded in building up the classic suspense that we come to expect from the Godzilla franchise while telling the back story without falling into the horrible fiction rabbit hole of “telling more than showing”. The last time I had been sucked into opening credits of that depth wherein they had convinced me that the movie was going to be masterful was Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. I should have known better this time around. I should have seen the signs.

First things first, we’re flown to the Philippines where an ancient cave full of Kaiju bones and pods have been discovered. Enter Ken Watanabe, the vaguely described specialist Dr. Serizawa who is the perfect combination of Exotic Detective and Noble Savage, and his assistant Vivienne Graham, a character whose presence and purpose in the film has me baffled since she barely passes the Sexy Lamp Test. Dr. Serizawa and [presumably – though it’s been made apparent that it’s not important] Dr. Graham spelunk through the cave of Kaiju carcasses and desiccated pods and are somehow able to discern that the pods were viruses that killed off the Kaiju without collecting samples, running labs, or analyzing data; you know, doing any of the shit that lets scientists know how something actually works. They have a name for that process, but leaving out the major facets of it has given me enough foresight to infer that the producers of this movie weren’t counting on the main demographic of attendees believing in it anyway.

By now, my double Makers and Coke is half gone and I…Holy Great Narrative Leaps, Batman! One of these pods appears to be active! What do we do with it? In the spirit of Kaiju movies, the humans are going to the best thing for everyone. They’re going to take it to a man-made storage facility that is “COMPLETELY” impenetrable, so of course it will definitely hold this possibly billion [fossil chart evidence need not apply here] year old creature that no known human has ever laid eyes upon. Wait, what is this trail leading from the cave into the Pacific Ocean?

Now let’s move to the opening scene in Janjira City, Japan. Nothing sells me on a movie centered on a Japanese monster myth set in a Japanese city like opening the first arch of conflict with a painfully Anglo-American family who happens to be in charge of the local nuclear power plant. True to Hollywood form, it’s the lone, passionate Anglo-American scientist expressing concerns about the anomalous seismic readings that have been traveling toward the power plant for the last few weeks! Anomalous seismic readings emanating from one of the most active plate boundary systems on the globe? Say it ain’t so!

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Don’t get me wrong. I’m not doubting the qualifications of Bryan Cranston’s character Dr. Joe Brody, but given that the United States lags behind the Far East region of Asia in STEM, you have to understand my skepticism that Dr. Joe Brody’s qualifications surpass many of the Japanese nuclear engineers that are working under him. Then again, I suppose it’s just not probable to have a Japanese Science Hero in an American movie even though the movie supposed to be centric to Japanese lore and moraes.

But what’s more American than a Fast Forward? Because who wants to waste any time on human character development [particularly that of the protagonist’s]…cue throw away scene of Joe Brody’s offspring standing by and watching the wanton destruction of the nuclear plant that employs both of his parents! Let’s see, we’re 30 minutes into the movie, complete mayhem has ensued, Janjira is being evacuated and we still haven’t seen one goddamned Kaiju.

And I am completely out of bourbon.

Fast forward 15 years to Present Day San Francisco where we met Joe Brody’s now-adult son Ford returning from deployment to his own symbol of Aryan feminine perfection wife and awkward, silent son. The irony that the adult Ford Brody is played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson of Kick-Ass renown begins to pound away at my sobering skull which yearns for either (1) less emotionally manipulative dialogue between our glorious white savior and his unquestioning, selfless damsel; or (2) more bourbon to shield me from this cataclysm of retroactive, formulaic, gender essentialist tripe. This trope cloud could not have been better crafted if it had been created by Mark Millar.

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But what is a white savior without conflict? Fix Or Repair Daily Brody receives a call from the Tokyo police department stating that his father has been caught trespassing in the quarantine zone in Janijra City because the writers aren’t going to let something like the science of radioactive half-lives mess with their plot development.

What irks me most about this scene is that it is the perfect jumping off point for some character development albeit its scientific inaccuracy. The prodigal son is returning home to assist and hopefully make reparations with his father. Our hero is poised to face his internal conflict in the narrative and thus become more empathetic towards the audience. Unfortunately, the father-son duo gets captured trespassing in the quarantine zone by Japanese security forces UNDER THE CONTROL OF MORE AMERICANS? Why the hell are there more Americans in charge of Asian establishments in Japan? Oh that’s right. We never left.

It turns out that the focal Mad Scientist was right. Janjira was no accident and the Anglo-Japanese coalition keeping Janjira under lockdown has brought the one active pod found in the Philippines to Janjira to nourish and study it. Cue classic Godzilla reference to the audacity of human arrogance, so, of course, it’s all going to go well. Oh look, the United States Army has made its appearance, and they’ve exchanged the waste of one talented actor for another in some sort of twisted WWE-esque older white male actor tag team event.

This is pretty much when I mentally checked out of the movie because, at this juncture, the overwhelming white savior/damsel in distress/noble savage focus is making me want to do this:

Bored Now!

Bored Now!

I spend the remainder of the movie banging my head against my reclining seat while muttering pretentious comments to my movie companion who, at the end of the movie, posited that “Ken Watanabe must have needed that paycheck badly. ”

So why all the hate?

Gareth Edwards has transformed the franchise that served as a treatise to the ramifications of human arrogance into a conservative love letter to mutually assured destruction and deliberately obtuse racism. I’m a member of the adolescent ID4 generation. My influential movie years were awash with Aliens Are Bastards themes blaring with the horribly narrow ideal that humans can do anything if we come together and use a large enough nuclear payload. Godzilla was the one monster I could count on to teach me that complex problems require complex solutions. Godzilla was the one monster that reflected the multiple levels of scarring that war inflicts upon a populace. Most importantly, Godzilla was the one monster that taught me that your actions, no matter how small, have consequences.

Gareth Edwards has robbed the younger generation of Kaiju groupies of its mandatory moral lessons. In lieu of self-reflection, this Godzilla has given them self-aggrandization. Instead of “action -> reaction”, this Godzilla has given them “might is right”. Instead of Akihiko Hirata, this Godzilla gives us Raymond Burr.

For me, Godzilla meant growth, change, and reflection in order to achieve something better. I went in expecting to leave the theater with some new insight into my behavior as a human being in relation to other human beings. Instead, I left with a mild hangover wondering if Aaron Taylor-Johnson was wearing the Kick-Ass SCUBA suit underneath his fatigues because, given the hour and 45 minute ‘Murika-jerk through which I sat, that could have been the only plausible reason why he and an entire helicopter crew were saved from exposure to lethal doses of radiation.

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