Zarm wrote:That is an incredibly narrow band if I understand it correctly. But off the top of my head, all main characters in Godzilla vs. Megalon. Anyome but Yuki and Miki in vs. SpaceGodzilla. Chujo in Tokyo S.O.S. nearly the entire cast of Shin Godzilla, with the exception of Anne Patterson (unless you count that exempt as ensemble).
It is a fairly narrow band, but that's what cements him at the top of the list for me. Chujo would absolutely be contender #2, on an almost level playing field, though far more attention is lavished on Ford and over a longer run time.
The cast of Shin Godzilla
wouldn't even enter into it, as our two or three focal characters are all well drawn enough for me to understand who they are removed from the immediate events of the film (Yaguchi's sincere political ambitions are the subject of a few conversations throughout the film, as other characters'--Godzilla is just the instrument through which they find immediate outlet and exploration--Yaguchi attaches himself to the Godzilla problem because the Godzilla problem is convenient for him, both in terms of his sense of sincere civic obligation and his careerist side).
The cast of Spacegodzilla
is cartoonish, but at least well-drawn enough in their cartoonish ways. I know what they want when they're off screen. Even the bare-bones cast of Godzilla Raids Again
come off a little more fully drawn as people removed from Godzilla than our protagonist in '14. (And indeed one of the few strengths of that film is it casting an occasionally, fleetingly successful clarity on what the lives of real people--more so than the cast of the original--might look like if they came into accidental proximity with one of Godzilla's attacks.)
Rodan wrote:He's a patriot and family manstill scarred by the childhood loss of his mother, struggling with a father whom he is both estranged from and frustrated by the conspiracy theorist obsession of, and yet wants to be close to and cares deeply about. He's a protector with a sense of responsibility to those around him, to help in whatever way he can.
He wants to be home with his family. A sense of responsibility, or possibly the need to work through his issues, led him to the military and a deployment... but now that his deployment is over, he wants to be back home with his family. It's a simple motivation, and yet as all-consuming as such a motivation would be for anyone that has been away from their loved ones for months. And he wants to keep them safe, the other primary motivating factor for his actions in the film. Neither of these are especially complex, but neither of them are unrealistic or unwarranted either.
The ability to tell what he is feeling during any particular scene is, I suppose, an objective one, but one that I never had any trouble with.
And, as I said earlier, 40 is perfectly tailored to the film he is in. He is our Viewpoint character, but he's also designed to be an unobtrusive figure. He's written specifically to be a tour guide, to take us through the highlights and high points of the Kaiju encounter and keep the spotlight on them rather than himself. He's not under written or a low point for Hollywood 10 pole movies, but purpose designed to fill a specific role in an expertly crafted story. A different sort of character would not fit as well as for does into the role that he was designed for.
He may not be the strongest character ever written, in a vacuum, but he was never designed to be in a vacuum, he was designed to be in the 2014 Godzilla film. As such I see absolutely nothing negative about him as a protagonist. And even so, I think he is given a lack of depth and an overemphasized shallowness unfairly- because he has a lot more attributes than his detractors frequently note. And I certainly see far more unlikable characters, and far stronger ciphers, in many other films in the Godzilla series.
I suppose you can read a connection between Ford's damaged parental relationship and his longing to return home in the film, or even his decision to pursue a military (protection, cohesion) career, but much of that is jettisoned in his father's early exit from the film and a pronounced lack of reaction to his death.
After that, his motivation is ... to get home. That's inseparable from the events of the film--I don't know what drives he has going on beyond Godzilla, or that are finding exploration through Godzilla, and I'm not sure the script does either. Ford's motivation is to get home, and the reason he can't get home is because of the monsters. Take away the incident, and you lose the bulk of our idea of who he is. With comparatively stronger (read, compellingly or even basically competently written) characters, I know who they are and what they might be after independent of--in this case--the monsters, and I understand why those motivations might bring them into and keep them in interactions with said monsters. Ford's reason for being in proximity with the monsters is essentially that he's in the wrong place at the wrong time, and everything else I really know about his wants is also dependent on him being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The entire script after the release of the MUTOs hinges, in fact, on Ford continually being in the wrong place at the wrong time, over and over again. Poor guy just can't catch a break. (His father has reason to be in proximity to the monsters, and stay there, but those motivations are never passed onto Ford himself, nor is that connection through his father highlighted in any remote way after his passing.)
But in all this my chief issue is not that Godzilla
2014 isn't a character-driven film--it's not; Ford is jettisoned from action scene to action scene based on anything but his own initiative; it's always some other force keeping him around, be it the monsters themselves or the other parties taking a more active role, and not only is his own volition not driving the story, when thrust into these situations, he hardly reacts--but that it treats itself like one, not with a dull character simply being vehicle for spectacle, but being the primary focus, toward which it seems to beg audience connection and empathy, over a run time of more than two hours.
At least Chujo (easy, easy runner-up) gets out of the way for Mothra in the end in a cartoonish movie with a runtime of less than 90 minutes. And even with that deliverance, it's still one of the worst entries in the series. The Godzilla series may be filled with other ciphers, but, whether from tone, pacing, style or script, I can't think of another that asks of the audience what Ford does.