Directed by Gareth Edwards
May 8, 2014 (Dolby Theatre) / May 16, 2014 (United States)
An incident at a nuclear power plant in Japan is not what it seems. Now ancient creatures that feed on radiation have awakened and Godzilla must stop them.
Bryan Cranston plays Joe Brody who was a father working at a nuclear power plant in Japan when an earthquake occurred. Years later Joe is still tormented by the death of his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) who died in the disaster believing what happened that day was no quake. If he was not right, then we would not have much of a movie. Turns out the nuclear power plant was destroyed by a kaiju looking to feed and mature and have babies. And Godzilla is the only thing that can stop it.
Bryan Cranston is a fantastic actor. He is usually good but here he is criminally under used. In the context of the film he appears to be the only eyewitness questioning the official story. But his only purpose in the movie is to get the actor that is playing his son into the center of the action. Once that happens, they killed him off. And the wife and the father are never mentioned again.
The marketing for this film indicated 75% more Bryan Cranston than what we actually got on screen. It felt like a bait and switch in that respect. His involvement in the story was built to a level that did not equate to what we saw.
Ken Watanabe is cast as Dr. Ishirō Serizawa who is a scientist working for the mysterious Project Monarch. He provides some exposition to get the audience up to speed but he most is there to look at things in a very concerned way.
Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has been dealing with his father’s obsession for years. For an action film the actor was a better choice since he has the physicality to look convincing going up against giant monsters felt disconnected from the guilt and sense of loss that kicked the movie off. He turned in a good performance and was an adequate replacement for Joe.
We even get Elizabeth Olsen as Elle Brody who is mostly just Ford’s motivation for saving the day. Should not giant monsters tromping and stomping to meet up to make babies be enough? Her character does allow us a window into how the average citizen is being affected by events. On a side note, I thought for the longest time she was one of the Olsen twins. She just happens to be their sister and she could be a third twin the resemblance is so strong. I am convinced at this point the Olsens are all part of an Orphan Black-style experiment.
Godzilla is in the end a film driven by the characters and not the monsters. The story focuses less on the monsters and more on the people trying to survive. In this aspect it is more of a disaster movie than it is a monster movie. The disaster being Godzilla and the two creatures.
Ford has to survive long enough to save his family and humanity itself. He must journey across the devastated landscape before being part of the last-ditch effort to end the conflict. And I like that. Godzilla is all about the kaiju but that does not mean we do not get a disaster film as well. The scenes of destruction and their aftermath are impressive.
The monster fights in this film do not disappoint. What you see here is more dynamic and more visually explosive than anything that was done in the old-school Godzilla films. That is not a knock against the old-school Godzilla. These are two very different animals. The old-school Godzilla films accomplished a lot with what they had. And they are still fun movies to watch. This movie in this day and age has more toys to play with and they use them all. It is a brawl between giants, and they are able to show it all. They pull you in and get the adrenaline pumping. You justifiably cheer for Godzilla as a combatant.
But you also get the benefit of seeing the devastation here. I am talking about what it looks like on the ground during and after a monster comes through. You just did not get it in the original films from what I recall. It makes for a much more dramatic movie. These monsters are not just fighting each other. They are destroying the environment around them.
I like that the kaiju here move like real animals. I am talking more about Godzilla than anything. The mass of his body sways and jiggles like a large and lumbering beast. That is a very fine detail that a guy in a suit cannot duplicate.
Godzilla does have some underlying environmental themes present, but they are not that heavy in this film. I like the retcon of the mythology that the nuclear test of the 50s were an attempt to destroy Godzilla rather than an attempt to improve nuclear technology. A cool twist to it all.
There were no sinister agendas in this movie amongst the characters which is a little refreshing in movies these days. All the human characters were good people. Even covering up what happened at the nuclear power plant was nothing bad when placed with everything else. Given the unprecedented nature of it all it is perfectly understandable. It is nice to see a film where none of the main characters have bad motives and they are all just trying to do the best they can.
This is the rare reboot that in the end actually works. It takes the basics of the concept and works them in a new but not too different way. Even though they disgracefully underused Bryan Cranston in this movie, the film itself is fantastic. It is action packed and character driven.
I enjoyed Godzilla and I have revisited it a handful of times since it first came out. It is fun and exciting and visually impressive. This is a watch it!