It’s not a blazingly original observation, but that doesn’t make it any less true: good presentation covers a multitude of sins, and the slickness of modern films lulls audiences into accepting movies where there’s less going on than meets the eye.
Movies look better now than ever, with sprocket holes, drooping mikes and other imperfections a thing of the past. Modern pictures have a level of technical polish that 70s filmmakers would’ve killed for, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re any better.
Take Pearl Harbor, a three-hour recreation of the events of December 7 1941 as told by the director of Armageddon. It’s a coarse, empty movie, but it was sold as spectacle and spectacle is what it delivered, prompting the Washington Post to call it “the best piece of popular entertainment to come along in years” (which must’ve surprised fans of Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Rings, released the same year).
Digitally created spectacle is all very well, but in an overcrowded marketplace where every blockbuster includes umpteen sequences of epic destruction, there has to be something more to retain our interest. The following films didn’t have it, but they won over critics who were content to worship the surface.
10. Godzilla (2014)
What The Critics Said: “Orchestrates its thrills with such rare diligence, you want to yelp with glee.” (The Telegraph)
Released to theaters sixteen years after Roland Emmerich’s movie, Godzilla 2014’s remit was simple: make a better movie. Director Gareth Edwards succeeded, but in trying to avoid the 1998 film he’s also minimized the humor and dumb fun.
This version does give the Big G his dignity back, though, and he gets more to do this time around than rampaging through a city for two hours. One of the best calls the movie makes is to give him some actual monsters to fight, but after watching Tranformers, The Incredible Hulk, Pacific Rim et al, the thrill of watching a monster smackdown has been somewhat diminished.
If the movie’s ultimately not that satisfying, it’s still a better launchpad for a franchise than Emmerich’s film, and Godzilla’s fight with King Kong has been promised in a future installment so stay tuned.