Two movies in American theaters now illustrate completely different approaches to movie-making. Godzilla (2014) is a summer blockbuster that many will see as something to watch while eating popcorn, only to be forgotten the next day. One has to look around to find the other movie, Ida, a 2013 black and white film that makes no attempt to be the summer’s biggest movie while still having something to say. Both are enjoyable, but in different ways.
Godzilla has garnered mostly positive reviews, and there is little need to summarize the story here. If you are interested in action and seeing things smashed, you will probably enjoy it even if you do not find the deeper meaning in the story about man’s attempts to mess with nature and nuclear power.
Certainly, that deeper meaning and some excellent actors like Ken Watanabe and David Strathairn elevate the film somewhat above being just another Transformers movie. There are some human stories tucked in among the monsters, but I did not find that the filmmakers made those stories very compelling, as Steven Spielberg has done in movies like War of the Worlds (2005). I enjoyed the movie like I enjoy popcorn, but like the snack, it is not really a meal, no matter how you dress it up.
By contrast, Ida is a black and white film in Polish set in the early 1960s about a woman raised in a convent who is about to become a nun. Before taking her vows, Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) goes to visit her earthy Aunt Wanda (Agneta Kulesza), who reveals to Anna that she is Jewish, that her name is Ida, and that her parents probably died during World War II. The odd couple then go on a journey to discover what happened to Ida’s parents.
Director Pawel Pawlikowski uses no special effects, but he reveals something scarier than a giant monster while also offering something more honest and redeeming too. I was not blown away when I saw the quiet film, but it has lingered with me long after I have forgotten the story in Godzilla.
Other Reviews Because Why Should You Trust Me? Rotten Tomatoes gives Ida a high 95% critics rating and 81% audience rating, although the high numbers partly may be due to the fact that most movie-goers who sought out the movie knew they would like this type of film. Walter Addiego at SFGate says “Ida reminds you of what movies can be.” Rotten Tomatoes gives Godzilla a 73% critics rating and a 74% audience rating.
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