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Sci-Fi Fridays, Episode 24: Five Disturbing Similarities Between ‘Godzilla’ and ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’

Sorry to burst the bubble of those who adored Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla yet retched during every frame of Transformers: Age of Extinction. Though both are visually superlative and feature spectacular action that helps them rise above the pitiful written material provided, I’m a bit surprised that Godzilla walked away scot-free from the problems it shares with Trans4mers. That’s where I come in…to show you guys that the film you’ve been praising doesn’t exactly deviate in quality from the film you’ve been trashing for the past two weekends (full disclosure: I don’t care for either film but find spectacle value in both). Anyways, here goes…

WARNING — PLOT SPOILERS BELOW!

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1. Poorly conceived human story and characters – I fully understand the need to factor human characters into the equation — humanity serves as our entry point into these incredulous film universes fill with monsters and giant alien robots who live David Fincher’s Fight Club on a daily basis. Our suspension of disbelief needs to be eased into; I get it. However, both films feature humanity at its most derivatively analogous. We are littered with “types” who only fight the good or bad fight because destiny (the script) deems that they must. Their arrogance is off-putting, their entitlement is obnoxious, and their purpose for existing boils down to moving from Point A, to Point B, to the final showdown at Point C. Both Godzilla and Trans4mers want us to care about its human cast without out giving us any reasons why, and “being human…duh!” is possibly the laziest way to go about it. So just because the end of days may be drawing near automatically means Ford Brody and Cade Yeager (even their names sound massively douchey) become the solutions to a non-human problem? Oh wait, I do believe I just answered my own question! If a writer can’t successfully buoy a human story that isn’t essential to begin with, why bother crafting one in the first place? Oh wait…the writers actually thought they gave their human protagonists a ton of depth (killing off the father of a “ready-to-serve” military man as a catalyst for said man to defend his country? Mourning the loss of your daughter’s virginity?!?! Depth aplenty right there!) to make up for their superhuman deficiencies, right? That’s cute.

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2. Bizarre pro-faith/anti-science stance – To me, this recurring theme/argument is the biggest head scratcher in both movies. Given the fact that breakthrough technology is what allowed such exquisite cinematic visuals to exist in the first place, you’d think Godzilla and Transf4mers would ease up a bit on the technophobia. No sir – they go the extra mile in blaming man-manipulated science and the scientific community at large for whatever destruction humanity is currently facing or will soon face. In Godzilla, the scientists are blamed for covering up their studies of the male MUTO monster and causing his eventual escape from the chrysalis. Likewise in Transformers: Age of Extinction, the scientists, led by Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), attempt to use the recovered “Transformium” – the element that gives the Transformers the ability to, you know, transform – for greedy, corporate America purposes but wind up being manipulated by formerly deceased Megatron and his fellow Decepticons into bringing them back to life. What ultimately saves the day in these two films, that one shining force that can save humanity from its “evil” technological aspirations? FAITH!!! Yes, Godzilla’s Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) pleads for everyone on Earth to “just have faith” that Godzilla’s preordained purpose is to save all of humanity by hunting down and killing the MUTO’s. So please, pesky, skeptical, overly-involved and deeply mistrustful humans…back off and put all of your trust into a monster you’ve never seen before and who’s currently destroying your cities one tsunami at a time. As for Trans4mers, we get yet another nauseating speech from Mark Wahlberg’s Yeager about how Optimus Prime needs to “have faith” in the human race, aka the one species that has consistently disappointed and betrayed Prime and his fellow Autobots. Well, I guess Yeager risking the life of his own daughter to save Optimus Prime is justification enough that having faith in humanity really might be the best course of action. So what have we learned from both movies, kids? Here’s what: science’s inherent “evilness” will destroy our planet, but blind faith will carry us to into a better, safer tomorrow. Yes, because faith in the unknown is the reason why we all get along so well today…

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3. The Female Characters Contribute Close to NothingGodzilla and Transfromers: Age of Extinction both feature scripts written by men who have no clue about what to do with characters of the opposite gender. Yes, Bingbing Li’s Su Yueming does kick some butt in Trans4mers, but she’s primarily an object of desire for Stanley Tucci’s Joshua Joyce, who noticeably gets turned on when her leg extensions work to keep him out of harm’s way. Even in her climactic fight scene in Hong Kong against Attinger’s men outside of the elevator, Yueming is ultimately saved by a male passerby who happens to know martial arts. Had Yueming been involved in taking down the actual threat – the newly modified Decepticons or Lockdown and his men – I might have seen her as more than just an orgasmic release for Tucci’s horny Joshua. Nicola Peltz’s Tessa Yeager is another character who does nothing of value until the very end when she swings the cable around to help release the sword impaling Optimus Prime. Performing one small task in an entire film, in which Tessa previously couldn’t even attempt to break the backseat window of a car, is the sort of half-assed female contribution male writers use to justify their gender inclusiveness. Honestly, the men in Trans4mers may as well have said “pass me the wrench” to Tessa, because for the film’s first 120 minutes, the girl screamed, cried, posed in her daisy dukes for the camera, and uttered forty or so reactionary lines of dialogue. Godzilla’s female characters are even more problematic because they have important jobs but the film makes damn sure not to show us the value of those roles. Honestly, I don’t even remember seeing Ford’s wife, Elle (Elizabeth Olsen), perform any of her nurse duties during the Battle of San Francisco. She wore scrubs and ran around a lot…and that’s about it. Even Sally Hawkins’ Dr Vivienne Graham seems to only be on hand to provide intel to protagonist Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). The rest of the time she’s following Dr. Ishiro Serizawa around like a lap-dog assistant on an invisible leash. According to Max Borenstein’s screenplay, behind every great male scientist is a female scientist without a backbone to take ownership of her intelligence.

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4. Ken Watanabe plays walking, talking, “broken engrish” Asian stereotypes in both films – Ken Watanbe may need a new casting agent if Godzilla and Trans4mers are any indication. Much like in Inception, Watanabe’s thick Japanese accent is exploited for the sole purpose of propagating Asian stereotypes that the ignorant West seem to be fond of. In Godzilla, Watanabe’s Dr. Ishiro Serizawa is the wise, benevolent, grammatically imperfect Yoda-like voice of reason whose devoutness inspires those around him. I was half expecting a Godzilla shrine to appear in the middle of the damn planetary war zone for Serizawa to pray to. Even worse, in Transformers: Age of Extinction Watanabe voices Drift, a Transformer Autobot in full samurai gear whose gruff and affected Japanese accent doesn’t just scream, “Look at me, I’m a Japanese samurai caricature!” but also invites audiences to laugh right alongside the Autobots at the ridiculousness of Drift’s character. Both films make you shake your head in disgust by how little Hollywood has progressed when it comes to appropriate representations of Asian characters on screen.

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5. Both films painfully rewrite history – I don’t have a problem with artists taking some liberty with world history from time to time, but Godzilla and Transformers: Age of Extinction do a pitiful job of contextualizing the past with their fictitious present. Godzilla sweeps some of the worst crimes committed by the U.S. under the rug by claiming that the 1954 hydrogen bomb tests weren’t tests at all; rather, the weapon was used to exterminate an ancient alpha predator known as “Godzilla.” Forget the Soviet Union — America had bigger fish to fry…literally! As for Transformers: Age of Extinction, it doesn’t sit well with me that the entire eradication of the dinosaurs serves as a convenient origin story for the Dinobots…who barely are shown in the film at all (aside: both movies also feature very little of their hyped main attractions)! Seriously, if you’re going to claim fictional ownership over the worst catastrophe our planet has ever experienced, then it better damn well lead to something worthwhile. Instead, screenwriter Ehren Kruger makes the eradication of prehistoric life the equivalent of a warning shot, doomed to repeat itself unless humanity gets its act together. Yes, that’s exactly what I want to hear: that dinosaurs died for our sins and now we must repent. Never heard that one before…

That is all, readers. Post your thoughts below in our comments section!

What do you think?

AC Fan

Written by Joseph Braverman

My name is Joseph Braverman. I am 31 years old and a graduate from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Digital Media. I love watching and analyzing films and television shows. I live in Los Angeles, CA, enmeshing myself in the movie industry scene in any way possible. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @JBAwardsCircuit.

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