Review – GODZILLA

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Directed by Gareth Edwards

Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, and David Strathairn

The final half hour of the most recent film featuring the world’s most famous kaiju is so well-done and features so many jaw-droppingly awesome moments that it’s easy to overlook the glaring narrative and performance problems that plague the majority of its first ninety minutes. This second feature from giant monster enthusiast Gareth Edwards restores Godzilla to his legendary roots and establishes an almost Spielbergian sense of gravitas in many of the more dramatic scenes, but sadly his attempts at crafting genuine human drama in the midst of the horrific monster attacks continually fall flat and fail to inspire any interest or sympathy from the viewer. This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if Edwards and screenwriter Max Borenstein weren’t so hell-bent on telling the main human protagonist’s story before finally giving the audience what they paid to see.

The main plot of Godzilla centers around a young American soldier with the improbable name of Ford Brody (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson of Kick-Ass fame) who returns to his boyhood home in Japan with his former nuclear engineer father (Bryan Cranston) to investigate some new information regarding the true cause of a tragic accident that occurred at the local power plant that evacuated the entire village and killed Ford’s mother (Juliette Binoche). Their investigation eventually brings them to a secret research facility headed by two scientists (Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins) who are analyzing a giant glowing spore that they found shortly before the accident at the plant. As if on cue, the spore hatches shortly after the Brodies’ arrival, releasing a giant winged beast whose escape destroys the facility and kills off at least one prominent character. The two scientists reveal their knowledge of these creatures to the U.S. military, who make it their mission to track down the creature (nicknamed MUTOs by the commanding officer, played by the great David Strathairn), and Ford lends his talents in combat and explosives in order to stop the creature, especially since a MUTO of the opposite gender shows up in Nevada. Eventually, Godzilla himself joins the party, having been awakened by the MUTOs activity, and the military follows him as he swims to San Francisco to intercept the MUTOs before they make sweet love and reproduce. Godzilla’s presence in this plot is explained away by Watanabe’s character who describes him as some sort of kaiju Jedi out to bring balance to nature or something. Everything comes to a head in Frisco, which coincidentally is where Ford lives with his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and five-year old son. As Ford and his fellow soldiers attempt to destroy the MUTO nest, Godzilla throws down with Mama and Papa MUTO in one of the most visually impressive monster fights ever put on film.
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The script of Godzilla is obviously fashioned after the scripts of the many Godzilla sequels in which the King of Monsters battled a number of more malicious creatures while the human actors looked on. Borenstein’s script seems to embrace the B-movie cheesiness of those older films to a fault, in that it doesn’t seem interested in making us care about any of the human characters. In fact, the one character that has the most potential to be interesting is killed off quite early in the film, leaving the infuriatingly bland Ford as the main protagonist, while great actors like Watanabe, Strathairn, Olsen, and Hawkins are given very little to do other than look scared or stoic.

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The failings of the screenplay are helped greatly by Edwards’ sure handed direction that amps up the drama and gravitas at just the right times during the monster attacks. Edwards also smartly keeps Godzilla partially hidden or only briefly seen in full until the climactic battle, whetting the viewers’ appetite for the big Kaiju throwdown. Godzilla and the two MUTOs are the most convincing CGI monsters I’ve ever seen, and they interaction with the real-world backgrounds are nearly flawless. In addition to the perfectly executed battle scenes, we are also treated to a wonderfully-filmed sequence in which Ford and his team of soldiers parachute into the heart of the battle site, with the camera showing glimpses of the creatures from the soldiers’ point of view as they drop. Unlike many past Godzilla films, this one has an excellent grasp on just how large these creatures are and constantly emphasize their enormity when compared to the human characters and the cities that the monsters invade.

While the story and characters of Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla are lacking in depth and emotion, the technical and visual aspects make the action scenes truly exciting and impressive. It’s truly a step up from Roland Emmerich’s abysmal 1998 Godzilla film that came up short in pretty much every aspect. Edwards successfully realizes the potential he showed with his low-budget 2010 debut Monsters and shows that he can do great things with a bigger budget. I just hope that for his next film, he will work with a better screenplay that doesn’t rely so much on stock characters and tired cliches so he can reach an even higher level. 3.5 out of 5 Glowing Egg Sacs.

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Ben Gilbert is an avid comic and movie fan, father of two amazing kids, and husband to one awesome chick. He resides in the hills of East Tennessee and still doesn't quite know what he wants to be when he grows up.

Comments (10)

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  1. matweller says:

    So what I’m hearing is that it’s like Armageddon with Cranston instead of Willis.

    • Ben Gilbert says:

      It’s way more watchable and entertaining than Armageddon, though perhaps the presence of Steve Buscemi in this movie would not have been totally unwelcome.

  2. D-Rock says:

    I enjoyed the movie. More facetime with the monsters would always be preferable, but like Ben said, what we got was pretty damn cool. And while the acting may not have been Shakespeare, I didn’t feel like I was sitting there for 2 hours waiting for something to happen (as opposed to the other web-slinging movie I saw that same day).

    Despite the wooden frontman, I hope the movie does well enough to warrant a sequel.

    • They greenlit a sequel before the final weekend box office figures were in.

      • D-Rock says:

        Sweet.

        *POSSIBLE SPOILERS*

        Watching it again, I just noticed that the aquarium in their old house in Japan had a sticker labeled “Mothra”. And apparently other countries received a version with an after-credits scene. It’s and army if flying MUTOs being led by, none other than, Mothra!

        • Kelly Harrass says:

          I’ve been getting really mixed reports on the post credits sequence. I’m thinking it’s not real because the website that most websites cite as the original source of the news doesn’t exist.

  3. Tito says:

    If you love old Godzilla movies you’ll love this. The point of the people is to get you to the monsters and they did that. I didn’t expect Oscar award winning actors or a tight story line. I wanted a good Godzilla movie and that’s what I saw.

  4. I enjoyed it a lot. More of the Big G would always be a good thing, of course, but I thought what the monsters might’ve lacked in screen time they made up for with presence. For instance, the scene at the airport with the domino airplane explosions that ultimately reveals Godzilla’s foot was awe-inspiring.

    There were also two things I’m glad the movie didn’t have are usually seen in such films. One is the “bureaucratic government/corporate asshole” stock character. The other was the lack of a shoehorned in love story, which was replaced by a father just wanting to reunite with his wife and son. Quickass might not be the most emotive, but he got the point across well enough.

    • Ben Gilbert says:

      I was a little bothered by his lack of chemistry with Elizabeth Olsen, but maybe that’s just because I know they’re going to appear onscreen as siblings next year. I won’t fault this movie for that, of course.

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