Directed by Gareth Edwards
Produced by Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Mary Parent, and Brian Rodgers
Written by Max Borenstein (screenplay) and David Callaham (story)
Based on Godzilla by Toho
Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, and Bryan Cranston
Released: May 16, 2014
Runtime: 2 hr, 3 min
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem, and creature violence
Well, it’s now been a solid sixteen years since Roland Emmerich crapped out his interpretation of Godzilla, almost singlehandedly destroying the kaiju genre in America in an impressive two hours and nineteen minutes. And in America, as we all know, sixteen years means the property is long overdue for a remake. That said, expectations kind of did a 180 on this movie a while back. For a while, people figured that it was going to be a shameless cash grab that only milked a franchise that hasn’t been at it’s height in America in years. Then that first teaser trailer dropped. And good sweet (expletive removed involving fornication)ing (expletive removed involving feces), was everybody and their grandmothers blown away. And since that moment, every single trailer and tidbit released about this movie has done nothing but increase expectations. This is Godzilla like he hasn’t been seen in a dang long time. Dark, intense, frickin’ scary. In the span of a couple months, expectations for this movie went to astronomical levels. Now that the movie is finally out, does it hold up? (deep breath) Abso-frickin’-lutely not.
Now, let’s be honest: you didn’t go to this movie looking for plot or character development or anything that would be necessary for most any other kind of movie. No, you went to this movie looking to see two or three monsters beating the living tar out of each other on the big screen, possibly in 3D if you are so economically inclined. We’ll get to that in a minute, but I do have to pay attention to that other stuff that makes a good movie because, well, that’s what I do. I’ll try to be quick.
The acting isn’t necessarily bad at any points, neither is the writing really; most of the problems in this area come from the character development. Bryan Cranston gives probably the best performance, on account of having the best-written character and, well, him being Bryan “Eff Yeah” Cranston. The odds are perpetually against him giving a bad performance. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen play two halves of a happily married couple; you can tell they are a happily married couple because within twenty seconds of them first appearing on-screen together, they are about to have sex on a couch. They also serve to supply the human drama that this movie needs and then some. Finally, Ken Watanabe’s job is to stare into the middle distance and spew exposition and pseudo-philosophical lines for the trailers. There are other characters that are listed as starring, but none of them are that memorable and don’t really do much.
With the boring crap that nobody went to see the movie for out of the way, let’s get to the stuff people actually wanted to see: some serious monster-on-monster major mayhem. This movie surprised a lot of people with a campaign that held off on showing that much of its titular monster, with the trailers only showing him briefly towards the beginning and slowly increasing how much of him was showed as the movie neared its release date. Heck, it avoided showing the monster he would be fighting as well as the fights at all. Compare that to marketing campaigns like, say, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, where you can put together the entire plot of the movie, including the big twist, from the trailers alone. This type of minimalist marketing happens all too rarely with movies these days, with the filmmakers usually opting to show as much of the plot as possible, usually resulting in spoiling some of the movie’s big moments.
That said, once we get into the theater, we want to see stuff go down. Go crazy! And this is where the biggest problem of the movie comes into play. Most of the action in the movie is the other monsters (called MUTOs) destroying cities, soldiers shooting at them with what amount to peashooters and firecrackers, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson looking shocked at it. We’ll then see Godzilla start to fight the other monsters, usually in the background or out of focus, and then we cut to the crap that we couldn’t give two craps about. It isn’t until the third act, the climax of the movie, that we finally see these monsters throw down, and it still focuses more on the human characters than on the monsters! Godzilla is literally underwater swimming after the MUTOs for half the frickin’ movie.
Now, I’m not arguing against human characters in movies like this. They are necessary to give the movie the drama that it needs to be compelling. But for the love of all that’s good and holy, there is a time for human drama, and there is a time for the over-the-top, up-the-wall, pants crappingly insane monster battles that we paid the admission price for! There needs to be a balance, and in Godzilla the scale is tipped far too much to one side. I feel like the lack of monster fights in the trailers wasn’t so much a creative choice so much as it was because there wasn’t enough in the movie to actually show in the trailers.
That all isn’t to say that there aren’t any cool moments. One scene that stands out is when Taylor-Johnson’s character, Ford, must hide from one of the MUTOs while on a bridge. The scene is incredibly tense and has a terrific pay-off. And, when they finally do come to blows in the middle of San Francisco, the fight between Godzilla and the MUTOs is pretty frickin’ cool. There are two or three moments during the final battle that had my entire theater, myself included, fist pumping in the air and cheering. On top of that, Godzilla is a very good-looking movie. The cinematography and effects that were shown off in the trailers do not disappoint, with the cinematography adding to the more tense scenes and the effects making sure that everything looks terrific. From the monsters to the devastated city landscapes, everything just looks awesome.
In monster movies like Godzilla, there needs to be a balance between the human drama to make it compelling and the showdowns between monsters like Godzilla and the MUTOs that we came to see. Unfortunately, the balance in this particular movie tilts a bit too far in favor of the human characters that aren’t really that interesting to begin with. Godzilla is barely in the second act, and the stuff we came to see isn’t shown in full until the climax, at which point the movie does actually get cool. Still, despite some impressive visuals, the movie is a bit of a letdown in terms of what we should have gotten from a movie like this and what we actually got. It may be a step up from the Roland Emmerich movie, but there’s not much else that can be said for it.
Rating: ✮✮✰✰(2 / 4 stars)
Various Stuff and Such:
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-One cool thing I didn’t touch on in the actual review was the opening credits sequence, which was one of the better ones I’ve seen in a while. They did a lot of shooting with a camera from the ‘60s to make the “old footage” of Godzilla look more authentic, then did some fancy technical stuff to make it look pretty.
Wannabe Movie Critic