double feature: Godzilla (2014) & Avengers (2019)

I caught up on a couple of blockbusters and I thought I’d do a double feature post. It’ll keep me from going on too long about movies that everyone has seen already, and expending energy on mediocrity. Very expensive well made mediocrity.

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

I didn’t see it in the theater because it’s 3 hours long. Does any movie need to be three hours long? I mean it’s good value for the price of a movie ticket, sure. Well, I realized I was still paying for the Netflix DVD service, and I’m not shelling out money for even more streaming services, so I picked out Endgame so I could complete the my nerd obligation to see the last of an era of Marvel superhero movies. Things have already been spoiled, so I knew a lot of the story. I don’t know if I would have been on the end of my seat had I not known. The recap is that the Avengers failed at stopping Thanos at the end of Infinity War. Here the movie opens with Tony Stark returning to Earth, and right off the bat I’m thinking about how you could cut these scenes, especially with a FIVE YEARS LATER title card when Ant-Man re-enters the regular size world.  I mean, you could literally start this movie there, and have him be the emotional audience surrogate to discover what happens and how the remaining Avengers and the rest of the world have adapted to a cosmic force they couldn’t comprehend or stop, and you would not miss a thing. There are other ways to work Tony Stark’s terrible smartest-guy-in-the-room personality and crappy attitude toward his friends. I still haven’t seen Ms. Marvel so I kinda missed the boat on the most powerful new Marvel character, and why the heck she just disappears through most of the movie. This is not the most important plot point, but it’s a plot point if the smartest guy in the room falls in line with his earnest knucklehead Avenger survivors to pull off a Back To The Future 2 style heist to at least undo the damage done: why not have super powerful lady standing there waiting by the side as you all time travel, JUST IN CASE. The heist is actually pretty good, and so half the movie is pretty enjoyable, albeit it’s a movie capping off a dozen or two movies, and not like the season finale of a 200+ episode TV show. That it’s so self-referential to previous movies (I haven’t seen Thor 2) it feels less like a new story or continuation to the conclusion, and more like a “good job for sitting through those other movies, fans.” (Not to me, didn’t see Thor 2.)

Cut an hour and even knock out the big battle at the end – Thanos from 2014 catches wind of the team’s activity, and brings his armada to stop the Avengers. I really thought that they were done for, that they’d keep hitting the reset button through time travel and failing repeatedly. There’s a few precedences in sci-fi and comics, starting right with the Secret Wars comic, where the team is defeated while Cap keeps getting destroyed by Dr. Doom but keeps coming back at him out of sheer will. Anomalies like “how does this character stay in this time line after all that” don’t need to be answered, even if they’re addressed in future movies: who cares. We get a long send off, part of which is just set ups for the next movies. Then there’s an interminable credit sequence including signatures from the cast…what’s that about? This feels like the other half of the movie. Just some credits. A picture of the cast together at once at the end, or even as much as the crew as you can, the people who worked on these movies for ten something years, that’d be better. An otherwise okay experience.

Godzilla (2014)

I’m not a casual Godzilla fan – I’ve seen some of the movies with friends, with MST3K, and I saw a low point of cinema by witnessing the 1998 version in the theater. I can’t keep track of the near-WWE style movie title cards of classic Godzilla, like I’m supposed to know who these other monsters are? There’s not a lot of other media that hypes up these characters. There’s Godzilla, isn’t that enough? But I guess you can’t just title the movies “Godzilla vs.  another monster” over and over, I just don’t see anything in these movies that results in me remembering them beyond Godzilla once trashed Tokyo while Perry Mason looked on (which IS a great movie, by the way), then he’s kinda standing back until a bunch of children are like “Godzilla! There’s another monster! Come save us!” Movies like the Fast & Furious franchise would experience similar villain-to-hero conversions, though Godzilla is more relatable than those characters.

That’s the problem with this movie – no one but Godzilla is relatable. Another reason I’m lumping these “reviews” in one post is because this movie also has a “______ years later” plot jump. Like, WHY? Why can’t you tell the store in one time frame? Why do we need an introduction to characters and then a narrative time jump? Oh, the child in the opening scenes in the main character because he’s the son of the researcher in the first few minutes? And now he’s married with his own kids and he’s also a bomb expert? You could cut that intro and miss nothing. You could catch up with other characters in later reels, they could say as much as what or why they’re doing things as you see them do in the moment (for everyone other than our hero, just kind of stand around and waiting for Godzilla to do something).

The movie nearly succeeds at everything else. A couple of giant bug monsters hatch and cause some havoc and mate and prepare to watch their eggs hatch in the nest they build out of San Francisco. Godzilla surfaces and makes his way through  Hawaii to confront and then track the beasts, with the help of the US Navy who steers him toward the bay area. Our bland hero has a John McClain level of bad luck, being in the wrong place every step of the way, but being the only survivor to get to the next required location. There are some odd choices in the movie, mainly when we finally see Godzilla in Hawaii after he walks past onlookers on hotel roofs and makes a stand at the airport against one of the giant bugs. It’s an interesting sequence with a visual payoff, but then it cuts to another character asleep in front of the TV as news coverage explains away the monster stand-off. Look, we’re an HOUR into the movie, and up until then it’s a pretty boring movie. I don’t mind the slow burns and slow reveal but we already know we’re seeing Godzilla.

Godzilla as the main character? What would that be like? How could a filmmaker convey a large non-speaking lizard and get the audience on his side? Just this beast with his own story arc beyond “we think he’s trying to restore the monster balance”? That the fight wears on him, that he wins the people over? That they make room for him on the surface as a welcome entity as a result? Jeez, Johnny 5 gets a hokey happy ending at the end of Short Circuit 2, there’s gotta be a way for Godzilla to be the actual character in his own movie if that’s the way it’s going to go.

There’s just a lot of other things that are irritating If You’ve Seen Movies Before, and hoping that no one has seen the 1998 version, so you have to have characters concerned over a conspiracy, military men delivering uplifting speeches about the current situation and how America is going to defend its people (none of the troops in the room are listening, by the way)…just clichéd moments that they forget to make part of the movie, instead of just being “it’s a thing that they have in movies, “so put it in this one.”

Aside from some blandness, I otherwise enjoyed Godzilla 2014, and Endgame wasn’t that great but still a bit of fun. Both disappointing in some ways, both with a bit of fun and energy (and those Marvel characters are perfectly cast in most ways, with charisma alone fueling the next batch of movies). Cut down some of the time and don’t be afraid to lose some of the clichés just because you spent all the money on making the movies, you’ll eventually get it back.

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