Director: Gareth Edwards
Writers: Max Borenstein (screenplay), Dave Callaham (story)
Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, and Ken Watanabe
It’s been 14 years since the mighty Godzilla wrecked theaters (pun intended), and now the most iconic monster of cinema has returned. The last American attempt was so reviled by audiences, that as I write this review, the monster’s home country Japan is scared to see the new film releasing Friday (or so I hear). Not that anyone can blame them for being skeptical. The last film was led by a pour cast, and two dimensional characters, including a less than interesting Matthew Broderick as an earthworm scientist. Then there was Godzilla, who was undeniably cool during the build up, but was drowned by silliness in the second half of the film. What director Roland Emmerich and Sony forgot is Godzilla isn’t supposed to be goofy at all. Godzilla is a force of nature and is supposed to be scary to anyone who opposes him.
Well my friends, director Gareth Edwards has done it! Audiences, get ready to fear and cheer for the legendary Godzilla!
The new film centers around Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor Johnson), an EOD specialist from the military who has finally came home from duty. His wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) has been taking care of their son while he’s been away, and now that Ford has came home, it seems that things in their life are finally beginning to settle down. That is until Ford receives a call that his estranged father Joe (Bryan Cranston) has been arrested for trespassing.
Joe’s wife, and Ford’s Mom died many years prior in a mysterious accident at a power plant..Since the tragedy, Joe seeks answers to what caused it, and the Japanese government sectioned off the area where the disaster unfolded allowing no one to enter. Why did they do this? The Government claims to protect citizens from radiation harm, but Joe believes they have a “bigger” secret within those grounds. Cranston sets the dynamics up, making us want to find the answers to his sad past, which creates a great build up for our investment. Who better than Bryan Cranston to make us give a shit about the human side of this film?
Ford arrives in Japan to bail his father out. It’s clear they haven’t kept the strongest relationship since their family’s heartbreaking tragedy, and Ford perceives his father as a crazy man chasing conspiracy theories. This all quickly changes though as Ford senses some rational nature in his father’s voice. The next day, Ford decides to follow his father into the cutoff zone and put the rest what actually happened to his mother many years ago. Of course you can probably guess this leads to a monstrous discovery.
This is where the fun begins! At this point, the film turns into an amazing slow-burn monster movie. Each detail revealed when needed, and given to us in the exact doses we deserve. This makes us keep wanting more as the creatures (yes I said creatures) are given to us as much as Gareth Edwards allows it. The slow exposure gives a mystique nature to Godzilla, truly making him feel larger than life, making this is the best utilization of the “less is more” method I’ve seen in quite some time.
The cinematography of the action sequences is beyond clever, even for a monster movie. Almost the entire viewpoints are grounded, making the viewer feel as if they are watching the monster rampage from within the city themselves. There’s a very voyeuristic style to the action sequences, especially towards the end when even the soldiers have trouble keeping up with the carnage. It really puts you in the moment, and makes Godzilla feel absolutely massive.
The story could have used a small amount of polishing in some areas. Many moments the narrative suffered from convenient scenarios where mayhem would occur the second a major character landed somewhere. Did it matter enough to hinder the film? Absolutely not! The minute the finale hits, there is absolutely no way you will care what minor flaw occured in the story. Is there plot holes? Yes, a few. Why was Cranston’s character the only one seeking answers to the deaths? Why would the military use a nuke against a monster who gets strength from radiation? How can a dog outrun a tidal wave? It does not matter! This is the Godzilla show, and we are glad to see the big man back in top form.
Fanboys like myself will have a little trouble forgetting that Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor Johnson are playing brother and sister in next year’s Avengers sequel. Especially when they’re making out and having intimate moments. I know it was hard for myself to take the scenes seriously with that knowledge in mind. However, I believe everyone else who is ignorant to that knowledge will find them very convincing as a couple.
The Spoiler Zone
Okay, I’m starting a new section on my reviews where I can talk freely about some aspects without being vague for the sake of spoilers. So, if you haven’t seen the movie, DO NOT read this section until after the film.
One of the best things they did for the new Godzilla reboot is bringing back the heroism in the character. Sure he is a monster, as well as destroyer, but Godzilla is famous for being a protector. Here we get to see him not as a creature who is threatening mankind– like the stupid 1998 film– but a weapon for defending the world. In the age of superhero movies, Godzilla has a fitting place among the ranks. As he does battle with the enemies of this film, we get to see all the iconic Godzilla moments we’ve waited years to see and cheer for. I don’t know about you, but when Godzilla unleashed his atomic breath, I screamed like a teenage girl at a One Direction concert. As a friend of mine described the moment… “wow… too much awesome!”
Back to our spoiler-free discussion.
As I said, despite a few plot holes, Godzilla is everything you wanted and so much more. Director Gareth Edwards, who previously only made a shoe-string budget film, has surprised us all with a stellar big-budget debut. So many filmmakers strive to have the blockbuster flare of Steven Spielberg and fail miserably. Edwards possesses that touch and that’s a truly exciting thought to process. Godzilla 2014 will be a major crowd pleaser this weekend and will win the hearts of many. He will roar, and you will cheer his name!