Reviews, Science Fiction

Godzilla

Godzilla

Copyright © 2014 by Warner Bros. Pictures

Story
Scientists Dr Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Dr Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) from Project Monarch have been appointed to study the origins of a mysterious gigantic carcass in a ruined Philippines mine while in Japan, unprecedented seismic activity is recorded in the Janjira nuclear plant where Joe (Bryan Cranston) and Sandra Brody (Juliette Binoche) work. Sandra and a team of technicians are sent into the reactor to inspect when a tremor occurs and causes a malfunction. The entire team perishes and the plant is destroyed. Suspecting of a cover up, Joe continues to probe for answers in the next 15 years. Now in the U.S. Navy as a bomb disposal officer, Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) reunites with his estranged father to attain the truth on the actual source of the lethal circumstances in the Janjira plant and its connection to the research in Philippines. These MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) are roaming Earth that will threaten the survival of the human race. Only the arrival of Godzilla whose existence has been kept under wraps by Monarch appears to be the only hope for man to survive a war between monsters.

Review
Hail to the return of the Japanese legend since its inception into pop culture in the 1950s. The world has been waiting with bated breath for a revival of ginormous proportions after the less-than-stellar performance of Roland Emmerich’s over-the-top cheese fest. Emmerich who just scored an explosive hit with ‘Independence Day’ thought that lightning could strike twice through cartoonish and cliché-ridden characters that spurt fancy one-liners. Well, if you are Michael Bay, you could get away with it but hey, even he had that dud of a movie called ‘Pearl Harbor’.

Ensuring the same mistakes do not happen in this edition, the film makers do get it right with the human drama and Gojira is made a saviour to mankind rather than as the cause to all hell breaks loose. It is refreshing to note on Legendary Pictures’ decision to tackle such projects without compromising on the pictures’ artistic qualities. The first to test the waters began in last year’s equally entertaining ‘Pacific Rim’, a formula undeniably replicated to good use, but not essentially better.

Like its other creature feature, ‘Godzilla’ employs an array of international talent and the ensemble does a fine job of maintaining realism amidst surreal circumstances. The human personalities are surprisingly downplayed to a point of being almost bland. The main protagonists’ ongoing look for concern and nothing else does wear thin after a while. Why bother with a group of accomplished actors when they do not elevate the stakes and intensity? Quite a pity as the quiet strength displayed from Watanabe and Elizabeth Olsen could have been fleshed out further for a greater effect.

Or everyone else for that matter. The best of the lot, Cranston unfortunately leaves way too soon and passes the torch to Taylor-Johnson whose performance can rival that of Keanu Reeves. At least, Reeves’ charm offsets his inadequacies. Of course, the main reason we are even here is to see a big monster battle it out with other monstrosities, WWE style. It does not disappoint when Gojira emerges from the depths of the ocean to save the day (clearly ‘Jaws’ was an inspiration to the watery tribute on both accounts).

Fresh from helming ‘Monsters’, hats off to Gareth Edwards for carefully selecting the right earthy shades to illustrate the devastating condition and the script’s dreadfully serious tone (seriously, movies of this magnitude should just learn to chill). However, props also go to the research on its rich mythology to produce a meticulously written script with enough twists and turns to please even the most diehard of fans. If only the humans are as enthralling as our antihero with the roar. A missed opportunity to be great rather than merely good. Nonetheless, this attempt is still a significant improvement and there is hope for a sequel to do just that.

Rating
Entirety: B+
Acting: B
Plot: A-

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence

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Action, Reviews

The Wolverine

The Wolverine

Copyright © 2013 by 20th Century Fox

Story
Set to events after X-Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine / Logan (Hugh Jackman) has left the X-Men team and is residing in Canada where he is constantly haunted by the death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). Because of the great loss, the emptiness he is feeling is taking a toll on him emotionally. During his time as a soldier in World War 2 when he was held captive in a Japanese POW camp near Nagasaki, he rescued an officer named Yashida (Ken Yamamura) and protected him from the atomic bomb blast that took place. Back to the present, he gets word from Yukio (Rila Fukushima) that Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) is dying of cancer and wants Logan to follow her back to Japan upon Yashida’s request to repay his life debt. Upon arrival, he is embroiled with the Japanese mob, samurais and ninjas while still in conflict with his inner demons.

Review
After the lackluster direction of X-Men Origins, a lot has been riding on for its follow-up to turn the tide and restore movie goers’ confidence, casual and avid alike about our favourite clawed hero. It is a step towards the right direction when Darren Aronofsky (director of Black Swan) was approached to helm the sequel and Christopher McQuarrie, who had written the acclaimed ‘The Usual Suspects’ had been in charge with the script. It could very well turn out to be brooding and gritty, not unlike ‘Requiem for a Dream’ or ‘The Black Swan, but alas, the final product, while has been adjusted to James Mangold’s more mainstream sensibilities does not lose sight of its original vision. Even with a script re-write from Mark Bomback and Scott Frank, the emotional turmoil and void that our protagonist is going through are very much present in the film.

While the essence of the movie is retained, has the world weary Logan stepped out of his cave and searches for inner peace in the Land of the Rising Sun enough to make ‘The Wolverine’ the comeback everyone is hoping it to be? It definitely is a resounding ‘yes’. It is without a doubt right now that Jackman owns the role. After his stint at Les Miserables last year that earned him his first Oscar nomination, Jackman continues with this winning streak and takes us on an emotional journey not seen in the past movies. It is through the exploration of having to live forever with no purpose as your loved ones are taken away one lifetime after another provides a vulnerable facet to Wolverine.

He is ably supported by a cast predominantly Asian with endearing performances from Fukushima and Tao Okamoto as Mariko Yashida. From their renditions, it does not seem that they are novices to the film industry. Although only meant to provide continuity from Last Stand, it is always welcoming to see a fellow X-Man (or Woman) thrown into the mix. Having Janssen back as Jean adds the necessary dimension needed for the audience to feel Logan’s pain, loss and detachment from the rest of the world. Her strategically placed scenes also act as a threat to Logan’s blossoming relationship with Mariko.

For some who may find this character driven piece a little too slow, it does make up for it with some well choreographed action. It is a prerequisite in all comic book adaptations these days. While Origins was bombarded with one loud action piece after another, ‘The Wolverine’ only unfolds its fights and chases after sufficient time has been spent on dramatic exposition. The highlights begin with the attempted kidnapping of Mariko at the funeral, which stretches to a fight between Wolverine and the Yakuza clan on top of a bullet train and a drawn out swordplay involving Yukio and Shingen
Yashida (Hiroyuki Sanada) whilst Logan attempts to rid off a robotic parasite joined to his heart.

There have been criticisms about the third act faltering into typical comic book fare and revelations at the end were none too surprising but to the naysayers, this is the most personal and intimate tale in the franchise as it can ever be, thanks to efficient storytelling from Mangold. Whether the change of pacing, setting and direction can inspire bigger returns in the overall box office remains to be seen as a few key markets have yet to open ‘The Wolverine’. While Logan is not certain where he intends to go after all the kerfuffle in Japan, it is safe to say that our spiritual journey with him has been most satisfying and we can only hope for the film makers to keep pushing the envelope should there be a continuation to his adventures.

Rating
Entirety: A-
Acting: A
Plot: A

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language

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