Friday, May 16, 2014

Cage Match: Godzilla vs. Pacific Rim

One of the hardest things about writing movie reviews, and something I struggle with, is to come up with something that stands out and hasn't been done 8 million times.  With the release of Godzilla this week, I really wanted to do something different than a regular review.  And since Godzilla has a ton in common with Pacific Rim (big monsters, stoic heroes, same studio, etc.) I thought I'd do something that's only been done 7 million times and measure how the two contemporary kaiju classics stack up against one another.  LET IT BEGIN!!

 THE SKINNY: Godzilla is about humans trying desperately to survive in the face of marauding giant monsters.  It's more about the human characters and how they react to their situation.  Think of it as The Walking Dead of big monster movies.

Pacific Rim is about humans trying desperately to survive in the face of giant marauding monster.  But they do so by building towering mechs to punch the monsters in the face.  Repeatedly.  And the monsters are from another universe.  And Ron Perlman gets to chew some scenery.

THE RUN TIME: Godzilla clocks in at a relatively trim 123 minutes, while Pacific Rim is a bit longer at 131 minutes.  The difference is that Godzilla is a slowly developing, deliberately paced drama, while Pacific Rim is a ridiculously entertaining action movie.  ADVANTAGE: Pacific Rim

MONSTER ORIGINS: Like the classic Godzilla movies, the monster in this new movie are the result of mutation brought on by radiation.  In Pacific Rim, the monsters come through a portal at the bottom on the ocean, direct from some screwy alternate universe where everything is in day glow colors.  I like other universes better than radiation.  ADVANTAGE: Pacific Rim

THE CASTS: Both films feature stoic leading men who kick ass and don't say very much about it.  Charlie Hunnam (from Rim) and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Godzilla) are pretty much the same character.  So, the supporting casts have to pick up the slack and make things interesting.  Godzilla has some great actors in the cast, like David Strathairn and Ken Watanabe.  Rim treats us to Charlie Day, Ron Perlman, and the always badass Idris Elba.  While I have to admit that the Pacific Rim cast is more fun to watch, the better acting comes from the Godzilla cast.  What really tips the scales is Bryan Cranston.  He is fabulous in Godzilla, and puts the King of the Monsters over the top.  ADVANTAGE: Godzilla

THE WRITING: Neither of these scripts is anything to write home about, but the writing in Godzilla seems more realistic.  At least as realistic as a movie about rampaging giant monsters can be.  ADVANTAGE: Godzilla

THE MONSTERS: Here you probably have to count the Jeagers from Pacific Rim.  After all, they are big, metal monsters.  And the giant stink-beetles-from-hell in Godzilla are kinda cool-looking, but they reminded me a little too much of the Cloverfield monster.  But, Godzilla had Godzilla.  Granted, Godzilla kinda looks like a giant reptilian version of Bob Hoskins here.  But he's still King of the Monsters.  ADVANTAGE: Godzilla

THE ACTION: You go to movies like this to see monsters tear sh*t up, and neither disappoints.  The climactic end battle in Godzilla is phenomenal, and will have any kaiju movie lover cheering.  Still, Pacific Rim has big monsters AND giant robots fighting, sometimes while using freight ships like baseball bats.  Plus, nobody in Godzilla ever gets to yell "ELBOW ROCKET!!"  ADVANTAGE: Pacific Rim

THE HOLY SH*T MOMENTS: (Spoiler Alert)  No movie from 2013 had a better "Holy Sh*t" moment than when Otachi spreads out his (or her, or its) wings and drags Gipsy Danger into the sky.  But, Godzilla has a couple of moments that are exactly that awesome.  ADVANTAGE: Draw

THE MUSIC: I was a bit disappointed that I didn't hear anything that hearkened back to the music from the 1954 original in Godzilla.  The score was fine, though, and did the job.  It just wasn't all that memorable.  Pacific Rim had that awesome, guitar-spiked score which made you want to go stomp on cities yourself.  It's the second thing in his career that Tom Morello should actually be proud of.  The first was getting knocked into oblivion by Tony Stark's Mark I suit in the first Iron Man flick.  ADVANTAGE: Pacific Rim

THE DIRECTION: Guillermo Del Toro does everything he does with a fanboy love that bleeds through the screen.  That love for kaiju and mechs is all over Pacific Rim.  You can just imagine him geeking out while coming up with fight scenes or killer shots.  There is love present in Godzilla, too.  But it's more reverential.  Gareth Edwards has chosen to make every frame in Godzilla a tip of the hat to the original movies.  The backgrounds of shots are stuffed full of references to those old movies and past Godzilla foes.  And you know what?  Neither way is superior.  ADVANTAGE: Draw

So, it's time to count up the points.  And the winner is... Pacific Rim!!  But barely.  The fact of the matter is that while Godzilla is a very different movie with a very different focus, if you liked Pacific Rim, you'll probably dig Godzilla.  I love both films and can't wait to watch 'em back to back in a marathon.  So, get out to your local multiplex and see Godzilla.  And if you haven't had a chance to scope out Pacific Rim on video, well, what are you waiting for?  Killer, kick-ass kaiju action awaits!

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