Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast Headliners: Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe
Original Release Date: May 16th, 2014
He has been called the King of Monsters, a god lizard, Gojira. But to us he is Godzilla, the most classic representation of the idea of a giant monster destroying cities. The Godzilla franchise has a long and storied history of cheesy yet epic bouts between this beast and his many equally frightening foes; they are some of Japan’s defining pop culture exports though however they ended after a point. The rights to a new Godzilla film have ended up not with Japanese company Toho again, but with Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures. After the very lame 1998 American version which had Matthew Broderick and radically different atmospheres and visuals to the original, it can gladly be said that this time Godzilla “2014” gets right why these movies can be awesome experiences.
In some ways the film tries to capture the messages of the original 1954 titular movie. Godzilla was the nightmare climax of the nuclear era, a threat spawned by man. This movie takes a twist on that by saying the entire Cold War was merely attempts to kill this titanic beast. Like any good monster movie, at first there is only small references to Godzilla and his kin. We are introduced to the Brodys, expats living in Japan (clever clever). 15 year prior to the main events of the film, something happens at a nuclear power plant where Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is a physicist along with his wife Sandy (Juliette) and their son Ford. After this flashback, and other events which set the cauldron bubbling, happen it jumps to 15 years later where Joe and his son (now played by Aaron-Taylor Johnson) are estranged. Ford returns home from a tour of duty as an EOD military expert to his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) before he has to return to Japan as his father has become involved in shenanigans.
A question to ask might be, “I thought this movie was about a giant lizard destroying cities?” A good one to ask, as it seems a large part of the film is about the humans. The slow build to hell breaking loose is interesting, but at times the human element of the film drags it down. Bryan Cranson is absolutely brilliant in his role and the only notable quality acting performance of the movie aside from Godzilla himself, but sadly his time on screen with his ranting about conspiracies to hide Godzilla is only a small segment of the entire experience. The view of Ford as an on-foot soldier during the monster’s attack is pretty good but not always so, it feels like a distraction from the best parts. However there are effective and awe-inspiring uses of his and other people perspectives of the giant beast’s combat. Even less entertaining are when we see Elle’s experience (which there are a bit too much as well). However, another good human element is Dr.Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) who seems to understand the power of Godzilla and whose ideal of “let them fight” enhances the thought provoking factor of nature’s fury.
When there are not people having dramatic dialogues or military missions happening, there’s massive epic destruction. This is the most exciting part of the movie, and interestingly once “they appear” it gets mixed in with other parts. For besides Godzilla (who looks perfect in his insanely tremendous size and finely detailed scales and spikes), there are a pair of new monsters in the “mutos.” It’s interesting enough to see Godzilla just merely exist and be massive, but what makes up the soul of these movies are when he fights against equally deadly enemies. The mutos resemble the xenomorph aliens from Ridley Scott’s franchise and are just as cool to see tower over and destroy cities as the King of Monsters. One of them even flies; when fight scenes between the beasts actually do happen there’s some incredible “choreography.” The fact that director Gareth Edwards was able to have some classic Godzilla vs other giant monster fights in the movie is a wonderful reason why this is so much better than the 1998 American movie. We don’t want to see Godzilla fight tanks and helicopters forever, we want him to throw creatures into buildings and shoot blue laser beams. Luckily after a point the slow buildup gives way to a mostly constant stream of intense action. The visuals look gorgeous, it is highly recommended to see this on a IMAX screen if possible.
Godzilla feels at times a lesser part in a movie which features his name on it, which is perhaps not the best thing. The atmosphere is very grim and dark, but it is not consistent as sometimes it will feel slightly less so. That is what the original films were though; they jumped all over the place in their style. It is perhaps best that they didn’t stick with being totally grim. Overall it maintains a quo of epic classic Godzilla spectacle mixed in with a human perspective that’s hit or miss. It is a really good reboot the big guy deserves and delivers on the simple pure fun that fans or general audiences will like and kicks off the summer blockbuster season in style. (insert Godzilla roar which sounds especially awesome in this version) for 8.45 out of 10