After a vigorous marketing campaign and the promise of a fresh, talented director at the helm, “Godzilla” ends up disappointing. After a moody opening act, the film simply becomes a protracted globe-trotter, sending Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s supremely boring Ford Brody (not the only Spielberg reference, but perhaps the most egregious) after the title character and a pair of giant MUTOs. Director Gareth Edwards’ continues to show a knack for seamless digital wizardry, but his continuation of the “Godzilla” brand is sluggish and devoid of personality, especially when it comes to a roster of impossibly vacant human vessels. Great actors like Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche and Elizabeth Olsen are left stranded in parts that require practically nothing from them. When the monsters finally do clash and Godzilla emerges from the shadows, he’s an impressive CGI creation, incurring the opportunity for some spectacular shots. However by that point the film’s dead in the water, with only a handful of inspired sequences (the HALO jump from the trailer is still thrillingly edited and scored) to recommend it. This attempt to drag the world’s foremost celebrity Kaiju into a post 9/11 world deserves plaudits for maturity, but ultimately the vehicle grows more ponderous and disinteresting with each mechanised plot twist and zombified Taylor-Johnson expression. Underwhelming.
Ken Watanabe also pulls a Jeong and sets the depiction of Asians in Hollywood back about 50-years.
Grade - C
X-Men: Days of Future Past (Bryan Singer, 20th Century Fox,2014)
More successful is Bryan Singer’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, which takes the original cast and “First Class” (2011) crew, smushing them together into a time travelling narrative. The film’s apocalyptic aesthetics are beautifully rendered thanks to strong production design and an impinging but not overbearing (see “Godzilla”) aura of darkness. The most audacious moments are those set in the future, where the likes of McKellan, Stewart and a chirpy Ellen Page are forced to confront the lethal Sentinel threat from an eerily designed hideaway.
The screenplay prioritises barrelling Jackman’s (always watchable) Wolverine back to the 70s, where he meets up with a disillusioned and doped Professor X (James McAvoy), the unpredictable Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and a host of other new faces. Some of the action here is incredible, including a Pentagon bust and a destruction-addled finale, although the narrative occasionally stutters. Singer seems overly engrossed in the drama surround Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) who figures clumsily into proceedings, too often the sequel letting her hog the limelight as if she were starring in her own solo adventure. Maybe it’s the comic-book source or Lawrence’s infinitely increased star power, but either way it leads to a slightly uneasy edit. It’s a rollicking blockbuster, less equipped to deal with the interior vulnerabilities of the mutant race than say, franchise ne plus ultra “X2” (2003), but still with enough tenderness to imprint stakes on the action. Much like “Godzilla”, the money spent is all up there onscreen, which according to reputable sources exceeds $200 million.
Grade - B
Pompeii (Paul W.S Anderson, Summit Entertainment, 2014)
Paul W.S Anderson’s “Pompeii” also cost a bucket, but has thus far struggled badly at the worldwide box-office. It doesn’t help that the film - an old-timey swashbuckler set around the volcanically induced fall of the eponymous city - is so brazenly cheesy. Despite top tier 3D effects and a pleasingly physical reconstruction of the period, the drama of Anderson’s film feels like a cheapo cocktail of “Titanic” (1997) and “Gladiator” (2000), without the thespian mettle. “Game of Thrones” regular Kit Harrington may have a great name, but his performance never progresses beyond surly facial expressions and oiled abdominals. Emily Browning isn’t much better as his upper-class love interest, she has big, baleful eyes and full, kissable lips, but the “Sucker Punch” (2011) starlet only communicates her feelings through expository dialogue, neglecting the actual “acting” requirement of her job recklessly. Together they make a wooden couple, more animate when encased in molten rock than cavorting on horseback.
The gladiatorial sequences and explosive money-shots are well executed by Anderson, but the film-maker known mostly for schlock like “Resident Evil” can’t construct a believable conversation to save his life, leading to some phenomenally hammy overacting from Kiefer Sutherland and buffed up buddy to the hero Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. It finishes more predictably than you could ever imagine (which says something given that it’s rooted in well documented historical fact), but for all these sins it’s not terrible. You get the impression that Anderson wanted to make nothing more than a bombastic and utterly dopey melodrama to begin with. I giggled just enough to render the viewing process bearable.
Grade - C
Reviews by Daniel Kelly, 2014