CAST: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn, Bryan Cranston
RUNNING TIME: 123 mins
BASICALLY…: Giant monsters rise from the deep and cause havoc across the world, among them the reptilian “King of the Monsters” known best as Godzilla…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
Let’s clarify the first thing you’re all anxious to hear: no, there is no Matthew Broderick standing around looking stupid and saying horrible lines like this:
But while Roland Emmerich’s 1998 version leaned towards goofy antics for the kiddies, everyone would agree that ‘Zilla (as he’s become known to angered fanatics) remains the first true American attempt at handling the Japanese property. Thankfully, we believe in second chances and for the 2014 reboot of Godzilla, director Gareth Edwards has not only returned to the slower and intimate feel of the earlier classic films but has also managed to create a satisfying standalone movie in its own right.
His biggest drawing point – and subject to divided online opinion – is the decision to focus on the human characters instead of the actual monsters. From what one understands about the original Godzilla films, especially the introductory 1954 Japanese film Gojira, they used a similar if not the exact same pattern; lengthy build-up featuring human character development, brief glimpses of the monster itself here and there, and a mish-mash of the two throughout its second half. With this in mind, it’s understandable why some would complain about the title character’s lack of screen time but it’s really no different from when he first appeared on-screen sixty years ago. As is with any modern monster movie – see Jaws or Jurassic Park as other examples – the build-up is paced well enough so that when we see them for the first time it’s all the more epic and incredible. As for Godzilla himself? We’ll get to that shortly.
But as stated, Edwards focuses on human characters for the majority of the film although it’s only really one who leaves a major impact. That’d be Bryan Cranston, in full Heisenberg mode as a crackpot theorist father investigating the mysterious collapse of a power plant that claimed the life of his Juliette Binoche-shaped wife (not a spoiler: it’s in the trailer for Pete’s sake). You can tell that Cranston is incredibly passionate with his performance, conveying every emotion he’s feeling brilliantly and even adding layers to what could have so easily been a passable stock character. It’s because of Cranston’s performance that you actually care about his character and if he makes it out of everything okay. Unfortunately, Cranston’s limited screen time means that Aaron Taylor-Johnson, as his son, is designated to leading-man status, and although the Kick-Ass star doesn’t do a bad job his character isn’t as drawn out as Cranston’s. Same goes to the rest of the main cast, with Elizabeth Olsen getting mostly sidelined as Taylor-Johnson’s wife (a role which she does the best that she can with) and Sally Hawkins almost disappearing into the background with a part that gives her nothing but expository speeches.
However, when Godzilla himself finally shows up – an hour in, taking the Batman Begins route – it’s nothing short of awesome. His first big reveal is akin to the first T-Rex scene in Jurassic Park, right down to that orgasmic roar. Whoever did the sound design on this film should be patting themselves on the back for crafting an instantly iconic sound that updates a classic one. The visual effects are also top-tier, not just on Godzilla but also on the other creatures that run amok on the world (they’re dubbed MUTOs, and again take up more screen time than the titular character). And although some may be let down by its lack of action until the third act – Godzilla’s first reveal suddenly cuts to the aftermath in a jarring transition – Godzilla reintroduces the monster in the most satisfying way possible. And is miles ahead of Emmerich’s verison. How did that line of dialogue go again?
SO, TO SUM UP…
Though some of its human characters aren’t that fleshed out and its pacing may frustrate some, Godzilla is a satisfying reboot with great effects, interesting ideas and an awe-inspiring titular character.