Trailer Face-Off: Godzilla vs. Transcendence

Published January 2, 2014

Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Godzilla vs. Transcendence, two big-budget science-fiction films about the end of humanity.

PremiseGodzilla and Transcendence both agree on one thing: the future is fucked for humanity. But will the end of the world come at the claws of a giant, clumsy, and oddly angry lizard? Or a mad scientist uploaded onto the Internet and turned into a super-human genius? Godzilla, obviously, favors the former. The subject of 30 films so far, Godzilla is a radioactive dinosaur-like creature from Japan that can breathe underwater and regenerate! Like the cockroach, it is theoretically unkillable—you can’t even nuke it! We’re not exactly sure whether Gareth Edwards’ film will grant the monster any new and exciting powers, or provide a backstory explaining its grudge against humanity.  We do know that there will be lots of CGI involved. The premise of Transcendence is a little more meaty: Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is a world-famous computer scientist, who is shot with a poison bullet by a group of Luddite/anti-tech terrorists. His girlfriend, also a scientist, decides that she can save Caster by uploading his memories and emotions onto a computer. A.I. Caster, however, seems to be both evil and intent on world domination. Chaos ensues.Advantage: Transcendence

CastBright Young Things Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen star in Godzilla. While we like both of them—believe both of them have ample acting ability—they’ve also been in a few sketchy projects recently (Olsen: Red Lights, Liberal Arts, Oldboy; Taylor-Johnson: Chatroom). The supporting cast includes Juliette Binoche, Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins, Victor Rasuk, and Ken Wanatabe. Again, a solid bunch, but we’re not sure they have the collective charisma to make a bad film worth watching. As well as Depp, Transcendence stars Rebecca Hall (meh), Cillian Murphy (we hope he plays an evil computer!), Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara, and Paul Bettany, whom we have loved since he let us photograph him in a bathtub for our December 2003 issue. Advantage: Transcendence

AntagonistSure, monsters are scary, but we’re far more frightened by the prospect of one man controlling all of the Internet.Advantage: Transcendence

Director Godzilla is writer-director Gareth Edwards’ second feature film after 2010’s Monsters. While Transcendence is Wally Pfister’s first film as a director, he’s been Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer since Memento (2000). He’s been nominated for four Academy Awards and finally won in 2011 for Inception. We shudder to think what Nolan’s next film will look like without him.Advantage: Transcendence

StakesIf Godzilla fails, it will bomb and a studio head might get fired. If Transcendence fails, Pfister might have to go back to cinematography for a few years. We don’t anyone to lose their jobs, so…Advantage: Godzilla

The VerdictBig-budget sci-fi thrillers don’t fill us with confidence, and both of these movies could be atrocious. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, though, if Pfister turned out to be as wonderful a director as Nolan? Here’s hoping.Winner: Transcendence

Trailer Face-Off runs every Thursday. For more, click here