Godzilla (2014) Review

Posted: May 28, 2014 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

exclusive-godzilla-imax-poster-roars-in-161413-a-1398259793-470-75Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

I never would have expected Godzilla to be one of my most anticipated movies of 2014. I like the 1954 film well enough, but the rest of the series has always seemed dumb to me, and this re-imagining looked like just another in a long line of Hollywood cash-ins. Then I saw the teaser trailer with the Robert Openheimer narration and the music from 2001: A Spac Odyssey. Just like that, my outlook on the film was completely different, and the subsequent marketting campaign only heightened my interest. As it turns out, Godzilla is a very different movie than the trailers made it look, to the point that I’m throwing out a spoiler-warning now.

In 1999, seismic activities occur by a nuclear power plant in Japan. Joe Brody and his wife Sandra (Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche) are attempting to discover the cause, but the escalating situation leads to Sandra’s death. Fifteen years later, the couple’s son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has been able to move on, but Joe has become obessed with discovering what really happened that day. That answer reveals itself to be a giant monster, dubbed a MUTO, that feeds on nuclear energy. The creature has re-emerged, along with a female equivalent with the intent of mating. As Jack does his best to protect his wife (Elizabeth Olson) and son (Carson Bolde), it soon becomes clear only one thing can stop the MUTOs; the ancient creature known as Godzilla.

If I were to point to one element from the Godzilla marketting that attracted me to the material, it would be the bleak and haunting tone. Director Gareth Edwards achieves this tone through a very dark look, oppressive music, haunting silent scenes, and moments of destruction which leads toward the chaotic than fun escapism. I really dig this approach, but it is in conflict with Max Borenstein’s script, which is closer to being a fun monster bash meant for escapism. Despite some thematic goals regarding nature and mankind, the film is pretty much solely designed to allow for giant monsters to punch each other. Additionaly, despite the film being aesthetically dark, the film makes a point to show most characters surviving, and the ending is kind of silly too (in addition to being kind of stupid).

Wile a monster mash is not what I wanted from Godzilla, the film does some good things with it. Godzilla himself is really well-realized visually. His look is classic, the CGI is great, and Edwards does a great job inspiring a sense of awe when Godzilla is on screen.The Godzilla setpieces are really good, with the final fight being really badass. The MUTOs are less impressive. The CGI is just as good, but the designs are very reminescent of the monsters from Cloverfield and Super 8. A movie like Godzilla should be setting the standard, not following the pack.

One of the decisions Edwards made that gave Godzilla a dignified feel from the outset was the A-list cast he assembled. Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, Ken Wattanabe, Sally Hawkins, David Strathain; these are all top-notch, excellent actors. The roles here don’t really allow them to show off their talents, but they still do a good job, in addition to bringing a certain gravitas to the film. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olson play the film’s central couple and while both are good actors, the characters they play are really boring. I didn’t care about either of them, which is problematic given how much screentime the two have, particularly Johnson. He isn’t very compelling, nor is the story around him. I wouldn’t call these sections boring as Edwards direction is still interesting, but I was just sort of waiting for something more interesting to happen.

Another surprise about the film is how little a role nuclear weapons play into it. They’re still her eof course; the MUTOs feed on nuclear weapons and the military had attempted to use nuclear weapons on Godzilla during the 1950s, but the titular monster is no longer a creature born of nuclear technology. Instead, the film tackles a theme regarding nature and humanity’s insistance on interferrence. I admire the attempt to do something now, but it just doesn’t have the power of the original, and more importantly seems more a reason for the monsters to fight than a genuinely inspired idea.

Godzilla is not the film that was advertised, or the one I wanted for that matter. Additionally, the film it is has a lot of problems. Still, I can’t dney there are some cool scenes and Edwards brings a lot to the table. This isn’t a very well-written film, but it is a very well-directed one. As far as blockbusters go, this is pretty good, and a sign of Gareth Edwards potential.

B-

Comments
  1. Great review. I liked the film and thought the majority of the film was good, which is a nice change from the 98 version which was mostly bad.

    The visuals and tone worked really well but the characters where lifeless, except Cranston.

    Still bring on MechaGodzilla! :D

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