Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Wantanabe
Alright kids, this time around I am going toe to toe with the King of all Monsters himself, Godzilla. Now I’ll wait for that slight pause as you wonder if it’s the shiny new reboot or the Matthew Broderick iguana movie from the 90’s… if you’re still not sure then you didn’t read the year at the top of the screen before you began this journey, shame on you… Oh, I’m sorry. I just can’t stay mad at you. Now back to our movie.
This is a difficult film to review without giving away a slew of spoiler info but I’ll do my damnedest to not ruin it. Here goes, a massive accident at a Japanese nuclear power plant causes the quarantine of both the plant and the neighboring community. Joe Brody (played by verbosely well by Bryan Cranston), a supervisor at the plant, loses his wife when the reactor blows (It’s in the trailer so I’m going to call ‘no spoiler’ on this one). Obsessed with this possibly being more than a mere meltdown, he spends the next fifteen years uncovering what he can about the quarantine zone and what the government is hiding there.
After being arrested for trespassing in the quarantine zone, he is bailed out by his son Ford, a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. Fed up with his father’s quest for the truth he decides to head back home to San Francisco to be with his wife (Elizabeth Olen) and son. During a layover in Hawaii, Ford comes face to face with what his father feared most… now see, a spoiler would be great right about now but I’m not going to do it. Let’s just say the ball starts rolling and this movie introduces the Godzilla element we all remember from the rubber-suited monster flicks of yester year.
I’m going to stop there because, let’s face it, you know what happens next if you know anything about Godzilla. Now, I have to give it to the filmmaker Gareth Edwards, who made his mark with another giant monster movie, 2010’s Monsters. Creating the CGI himself on his debut film shows his skill at making an old trope seem fresh. The film looks slick and big. Well directed and put together. The back-story of the how the monster is created is original and well thought out. However, I will say the film falls into the trap of only showing you so much. I’m having trouble remembering if I every saw Godzilla filmed at night before, which is a majority of his time on screen in this one. Given that the big bad is dark green, maybe shooting the bulk of his scenes during the evening wasn’t the wisest of choices.
You get your destruction, your mayhem, your super breath complete with glowing scales, but unfortunately you get poorly written humans as well. Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass 2010) really fell short for me with his wooden mannerisms. Elizabeth Olsen was doing what she could with what little she had to do. Throw in the creepy four-year-old son, who just stares off at nothing for most of it and you have your weakest characters. Now, Bryan Cranston being way over the top is amazing. His rage moments are where he shines the most. And Ken Wantanabe gives one of the best deliveries of the name “Godzilla” that I have seen in a long time. But a good Godzilla movie this does not make.
The action is excellent, when they actually show it. The use of debris and darkness to cover up the rampaging must have saved the studio a bundle on special effects. I will give them one thing; they leave you wanting more. Even with the blatant corner cutting in the monster budget, the CGI truly was top notch (top notch? I did just say that? Ew.). But again, some more full body action shots of Godzilla in the daylight would have been nice. Next time, I hope. Now there are some big surprises that arise and bring the viewer back to what we want from a Godzilla picture, but perhaps I’ve said too much.
Overall, I enjoyed the film. It could have been a train wreck (which I believe does happen in the movie), but they did what they could with a story that has been told so many times before. In summation, it’s a 50/50. There is so much to love about the movie as well as enough to complain about. Go in with moderate expectations and I think you’ll be fine. If anything, it will wash that 90’s version of Godzilla out of your mind. Which is nice.