Film Review – Godzilla (2014)
I’m not ashamed to admit that I liked Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla (1998). Certainly, I’m not going to argue that it was a good film, but I felt that it succeeded on the basic premise it was offering—widespread destruction. Now, on the 60th anniversary of the first Godzilla movie (which is amazing to think about), Gorija makes a triumphant (and very destructive) return to America in Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla (2014).
Set in 2014, after the awakening of a gigantic monster (MOTU aka Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism), humanity is sent scrambling to figure out how to stop this new and incredibly dangerous threat. Strangely, their best chance of survival might be left in the claws of an even larger monster—Godzilla.
The contrast between the two Godzilla films couldn’t be larger. Emmerich’s was built on the mystery of Godzilla with no images of the new monster design being released prior to the film coming out, and a plot full of characters who were cute but never really in danger. On the flip side, Edwards has not hidden Godzilla from the audiences, and instead embraced the creature as a method of building hype. Also, the stakes of the plot are much greater, this film would make George R. R. Martin proud because nobody is sacred. Characters are introduced who appear to be significant, only to be quickly dispatched—- Edward’s has succeeded at keeping the story more of the mystery hidden from audiences this time around.
There is probably no better person to take on the mantel of directing Godzilla than Gareth Edwards. His potential has been speculated about for quite some time, wondering what he might be able to put together if he was given a major budget. His first film, the indie movie Monsters, tackled the issue of monsters wreaking havoc, but did so on a minuscule budget. Even still, the result was a solid story with impressive visual effects that capitalized on the notion that the scariest things are those best left to our imagination. This remains true in Godzilla, sometimes to the point of being a bit frustrating, as while monsters are present and the visuals are even more spectacular, a lot of time is spent without them on screen. The scale of destruction is certainly going to be amongst the biggest of the year. The most comparable film is probably Man of Steel. Even still, Edwards wisely (though perhaps frustratingly) uses the notion of “what you can’t see is scarier than what you can” as a way to build tension. Cinematically, this works great, but for those hankering for pure monster-on-monster violence, it will leave you anxiously waiting. The fighting amongst the creatures is just a portion of what makes the film amazing, with lot of attention paid to small details throughout the action scenes. This clearly shows how meticulous of a director he is and how much of a fan he is of monster movies.
This is more of a human take on the monster phenomena than Emmerich’s Godzilla. That film spent a lot of time in crazy action sequences and dealing with the wacky mystery behind the monster. Edwards’s makes the decision to spent time with the characters, getting to their lives and addressing the personal impact this danger has on them. This certainly benefits the overall product, but it does take the film longer to get to the action than some of the comparable material (Pacific Rim, etc). The theme of “family” plays a major role in this film for both the humans and the creatures, and is an important element in driving the plot forward. Additionally, one of the most pleasant surprises was the use of humor sprinkled throughout the movie, which, while infrequent, was perfectly timed and provided a nice relief for the tense moments. This helped to give a realistic (and somewhat playful) perspective to the absurdity of what it would be like to be suddenly put into a situation where giant monsters appear.
Godzilla is a bit of a referendum on Aaron Taylor-Johnson as an action star. He certainly has show potential in films like Kick-Ass, but he finally looks like the real thing here. If there was any question about him heading into Avengers: Age of Ultron those concerns have been silenced. Sadly, Elizabeth Olsen isn’t given a lot to work with, but she proves how effortlessly charming she is and their chemistry bodes well for there relationship (albeit a sibling one vs. a romantic one, here) in Avengers: Age of Ultron as well.
While the plot definitely has more thought put into it than the Emmerich version, it does get a little bizarre at times. And some of the characters feel largely under utilized, like Ken Watanabe, who spends most of the movie appearing confused while looking off into the distance, and David Strathairn, who repeatably just keeps asking him if he has any better suggestions on how to handle the situation. It honestly makes me wonder if some of their material was cut out for time concerns. More importantly, while the science of the film has some major question marks, it is still a massive improvement over what was put forth in Pacific Rim. This and Terminator both may be science fiction, but with the advances in artificial intelligence and given the world’s frequent mis-handling of nuclear waste, it is really a competition to see which happens first—Skynet or Godzilla.
There has been a lot of build up to this movie. Between the massive of hype at ComiCon and the wave of trailers that have been released, expectations have been high. Warner Bros. wisely put the film into the capable hands of a monster connoisseur and visual effects master and the results pay huge dividends. While this isn’t a perfect movie, it is still an amazing monster movie…and one that will leave audiences demanding more. With a little bit of patience in letting things build, this is definitely the kind of summer blockbuster worth checking out, the bigger screen, the better.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIu85WQTPRc&w=560&h=315]