By Trevor Pacelli
The summer of 2014 has arrived, and the blockbuster season kicks off with Gareth Edwards’ newest adaptation of the world’s most famous behemoth, Godzilla. Every single reboot of this giant lizard has gradually made the simple story more extreme as technology has increased. This time, two other flat-headed creatures from a faraway island trigger most of the damage seen in the film, and set up the typical monsters-fighting-monsters scenario used in other reboots such as King Kong vs. Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Mothra, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, Godzilla vs. Biollante, Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla, and many others. While watching this in the theater, I did feel the excitement and thrill intended by the director, and yet I was amazed at how indifferent it is overall from any other money-nabbing movie currently existing.
First off, the acting in this movie is just awful. I realize that no one should expect mind-blowing performances in a big-budget disaster movie like this one, but I also expect the acting to come off at least a bit believable. I mean this when I say it, but the best actor in the movie as well as the only one I felt compassion for was Godzilla. All of the human characters in this movie, from the leading male to the lady in the background, are completely wooden in delivering expression. As for the highly uninspired story, the whole concept centers around a government agency that detects mysterious tremors underneath Japan, Hawaii, and San Francisco, as well as one young father who has once experienced this exact same catastrophe as a child who is asked to participate. The story is not clever or different in any way, and the characters are so flat and cliché that I did not wish to root for anybody.
The technical aspects are not anything to get excited over either. The CGI figures of the giant beasts look intense, but fake; I always knew I was watching a bunch of computerized images, for their body movements are very unnatural looking. The cinematography is handheld throughout most of the picture, and used during the most inappropriate moments such as a conversation between two characters. The editing is jarred, commonly cutting off a character’s reaction too soon. The music, although appropriate, is not memorable in any way, and the set designs look too generic to be convincing.
But what this film lacks technically it makes up for with its incredible sound mixing and editing. Each scene of the movie really works to audibly transport the audience into the setting of the movie. I could really hear all of the details within each scene come through audibly--from the electric humming of the fluorescent lights in the laboratories to the cars whizzing by in the busy chaos of destruction. I believe some of the highlights of the movie are the deafening roars of Godzilla and the two flat-headed creatures. Every time the reptile makes its roar of triumph or pain, it shakes the entire theater and gives the closest concept of what a 30-foot-tall lizard would sound like.
Yet the greatest asset of Godzilla I feel is its ability to maintain thrill and suspense from when the opening credits roll to when the behemoth makes his final descent. Where Gareth Edwards lacks heart and character he makes up for in maintaining the viewer’s interest, and he accomplishes this through gradually revealing visuals of the monsters we hear about, as well as witnessing the damage done through the tremors. Our first hint of Godzilla is in the film’s opening scene, where a team of seismologists see a giant crevice in the ground of an island, and investigation reveals the colossal bones left behind. Then when we finally do meet Godzilla, he is introduced as rescuers are launching red flares in the air, and the lights drop up in front of the giant scaly form, introducing his great size and intimidation. So even while the story and characters are shallow, the viewer will become immersed while questioning what will happen next.
The content of this movie makes Godzilla most suitable for older kids, presumably ages 10 and up. The monsters are very frightening to look at, and the grand scale of destruction would overwhelm young viewers. However, I also do not believe this is suitable for anyone over the age of 15, excluding diehard Godzilla fans who want a slight twist added to the title character. The quality of the acting and story are just simply too weak for anyone with a high school education to find any entertainment value. After all, when compared to other blockbuster hits such as The Matrix, The Dark Knight, or Inception, which all have highly thoughtful writing that does not insult the viewer’s intelligence, then it reveals how dumbed down and ridiculous Godzilla really is.
Godzilla overall does have all of the expected blockbuster elements as seen from the trailers, but should you really bother with the ticket prices? My answer would be no. Although Godzilla does offer great strides in using a theater’s surround sound and keeping the viewer fully ingested from start to finish, and I genuinely can say that Godzilla entertained throughout the entire two-hour running time. But there are far better disaster movies out there, ones with good-quality acting, pacing, and visuals to remind how forgetful this umpteenth adaptation is.
By Trevor Pacelli
One of the intended money-making hits of 2014 is the sequel to Marc Webb’s interpretation of Stan Lee’s popular webslinger, The Amazing Spiderman 2. While watching this superhero action flick, I was no doubt entertained most of the running time, and did see some depth and insight placed into the characters, unlike most teen-targeted movies nowadays. However, the numerous flaws that make up this movie are so dominant, that they almost count all of the positive qualities as insignificant.
Alex Kurtzman’s screenplay for The Amazing Spiderman 2 follows right up from where the last film took off, structuring primarily around the relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. Since the last movie focused on Peter’s struggles to maintain a relationship with Gwen as Spiderman, the sequel centers around each of them leaving high school and facing the fear of separating for college, a fairly interesting scenario, even if overdone and unrelated to Peter Parker’s identity as Spiderman. But Kurtzman’s biggest flaw in the screenplay is the failure to present anything new and defining that opposes what other Hollywood films commonly do.
Director Marc Webb has proven by now that he defines acting as reciting lines from memory while placing a change of voice tone. Seriously, the performances were atrocious. The two leads Andrew Garfield (Spiderman) and Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy) have zero chemistry as actors, and all of the so-called “romantic” moments between the two just left me groaning repeatedly after hearing their lines delivered without any inner monologue in mind. None of the other performers helped out much either- particularly Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn, who literally overacts every single line that he delivers. The quality of the acting is a darn shame, as there were actually a lot of moments that called for a great deal of character depth and growth. Yet there was one actress who pulled off an exceptionally convincing performance: Sally Field, who played Peter Parker’s Aunt May. She put a real sense of firmness and morality into her role that clearly was carefully planned and played honestly. Too bad Field only takes up about 15 percent of the film’s running time, though.
While The Amazing Spiderman 2 fails uproariously on the philosophical side, it achieves very, very well on the technical side, as is expected of a tent-pole blockbuster. The cinematography, done by Daniel Mindel, actually created some very beautiful and impressive lighting setups that were appropriate and fit the tone of each scene. Trust me, if Mr. Mindel was working under a more credible director, then he would grasp an Oscar nod in no time. The editing, done by Pietro Scalia, also worked excellently in pacing the story so it’s clear and linear. The makeup effects were good, if not super impressive, and the computer effects were not half bad, even if they fail to stick out from the millions of other movies of a similar genre. But would this succeed to impress those in the technical field? My answer to that is a definite yes. The Amazing Spiderman 2 is both a visually and audibly impressive experience.
So who would The Amazing Spiderman 2 be most suitable for? This undoubtedly is intended specifically to entertain fans of the original Spiderman comics. Marc Webb has made sure to incorporate all of the bright colors, big-budget spectacles, fast-paced action sequences, tensional moments, and moral values that Marvel comics have always pulled off in the 2-D format. A lot of the time, I really did feel like I was watching a live-action comic book, and the overall plot stays true to its source material. So if you are a big fan of Spiderman or just Marvel in general, then this will be right up your alley. But if you’re not a comic book reader, then a small precaution should be made. As big and impressive as the film looks, it overall is a true cookie-cutter blockbuster that may not impress you.
Would I recommend The Amazing Spiderman 2 to other audiences? It mostly depends on who you are. If you want a completely new and unique experience, then this may be a letdown. If you are a hardcore fan of the Marvel comics and wish to see a faithful adaptation of the wall-crawling hero on the big screen, then you will not be disappointed. If you are looking for something more lose in its message and does not force you to think too much, then you’ve come to what you have been searching for. And if you want something that achieves great strides in storytelling quality and worthy of an Oscar, then you will not miss anything if you choose not to see Spiderman swinging over New York yet again.
Inspiration for Life with Autism
This blog has a variety of articles about people living life with autism, and topics and ideas that can help in the journey. Guest bloggers are welcome. Inspired by Trevor, a young adult film critic, photographer and college graduate on the autism spectrum.