It Ain’t the End of the World
Godzilla fans young and old were devastated by the 1998 Roland Emmerich remake of the classic 1954 film that made the King of Monsters a household name. Now, 16 years later, Gareth Edwards brings Godzilla back to life with the great hopes of capturing everything that 1998 film did not. This time around, the film follows the Monarch corporation as they try to cover up their findings by blaming natural disasters for the death of thousands. Their cover up is going as planned until Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) continues to research Monarch. This ultimately leads Joe to discover that the events that have taken place aren’t really natural disasters, but rather a giant cover-up of mysterious creatures that could potentially destroy the world as we know it.
I will begin this review by stating that I grew up watching the classic Godzilla monster films. I remember watching the 1954 film as well as several sequels that include King Kong vs Godzilla, Mothra vs. Godzilla, and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. Like most fans, I was totally let down by the 1998 cluster fuck of a film and was anxiously hoping that someone in Hollywood would be able to revive the King of Monsters from his early grave. The question now is, how did Edwards do with bringing Godzilla back from the dead.
I will start with the negatives before I work my way into the positives. My biggest issue with the film is without a doubt the human element of the story. Godzilla features so many notable actors including Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Juliette Binoche, and Sally Hawkins, however, none of them are able to showcase any of their talent with what little the script gives them to work with. Instead of well structured characters, we get a bunch of characters that are haphazardly placed throughout the film and lack any sort of development. The characters are barely introduced and there is hardly any chemistry created between any of them that we as audience members can root for.
Within the film’s first ten minutes, the story introduces us to several key characters including Joe (Cranston), Sandra (Binoche), Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Watanabe), and Vivienne Graham (Hawkins). At this point, you would think that we would get a lot of background and start to connect with these characters, but this never happens. What makes matters worse is that one of the biggest names involved in the film is killed off during the opening. This death scene is highly ineffective simply because we as audience members didn’t get to spend anytime with that character, so how can we feel sympathy towards the death? It ultimately comes down to the fact that the scene is simply used to progress the story forward which felt very rushed given the film’s bloated 123 minute run-time.
After this, the film quickly flash forwards to 15 years later and we are introduced to the characters that we go on this journey with. It is at this point where, we are introduced to the Brody family that consists of Ford (Johnson), Elle (Olson), and their son Sam (Carson Bolde). You would think that because you are focusing on a family that there would be an emotional attachment that we as audience members would connect to, but again, this isn’t the case at all. The film spends maybe 5 minutes at most developing the family dynamic before Ford is called away to help bail his father Joe out of jail in Tokyo. Furthermore, it is hard to believe that Ford and Elle are even married, let alone have a kid together.
During the next 60 to 90 minutes of the film, we witness a combination of your standard 90s disaster film mixed with various characters and moments that seem placed in the story just to move it forward. There is another death that occurs in the film around the 30 minute mark and that death is somehow even more anti-climatic than the one that takes place in the beginning of the film. The film even adds in some really silly moments involving dogs and children in Hawaii that really does nothing at all for the story besides make it incredibly cheesy and predictable.
What I did like about the film’s middle section is that it constantly teases the audiences with small glimpses of Godzilla and the Muto monsters to get us invested. This definitely works to the film’s advantage because we all know an epic pay off is on the horizon. It should be said at this point that there is about 15% of this film devoted to Godzilla and the other 85% is more focused on the overly simplistic story and characters that we could give two shits about. While the 1954 didn’t show Godzilla until the 50 minute mark, the run-time was only 94 minutes and the characters in that film were much stronger than the ones here. So if you do the math, Godzilla was in the 1954 version for about 35% of the actual film as opposed to 15% in this one, not including the extra 30 minutes tacked on that could have easily been edited down.
Now, when it comes to the film’s final 15 minutes, it is pure awesomeness. I can safely say that this part of the film is pure movie magic and is stunningly shot. This is the moment where every Godzilla fan will be like a kid in a candy store. These last 15 or so minutes are incredibly bad ass and the final battle between Godzilla and the Mutos definitely pays off for the die-hard fans. The film ends in a way that leaves you craving a sequel and there are a few hints within the film as to what will follow in the next entry, if you chose to pay close enough attention.
Along with the positives, I must not forget to discuss the actually scope of the film as well as the score. The entire film feels larger than life and the visuals are fantastic. I do highly recommend seeing this film in IMAX since it really adds to the experience. Director Gareth Edwards really uses the production design and visuals to sell this film and make it look and feel epic. While the disaster scenes do feel like they are straight out of a Roland Emmerich film, the design and visuals of Godzilla are downright awesome. The score by Alexandre Desplat really adds to the film and helps greatly with the overall tone.
All in all, I think most will be somewhat satisfied with Edwards’ Godzilla but think the final verdicts will differ based on their expectation level. Most fans will be happy that Godzilla is back and kicks some serious ass, however, those of us that are looking beyond that aspect will be disappointed with several elements of the film. The lack of Godzilla, the film’s poor use of characters, and the overall simplistic nature of the story will be more than likely be the complaints you will hear from most moviegoers. Don’t get wrong, I liked Godzilla but just didn’t love it as much as I wanted to.
The overall experience left me disappointed and I can only hope that the Godzilla 2 will improve on this film’s problems and focus on about 40% Godzilla and 60% on better crafted and developed characters that we can actually root for. I will say that Edwards’ Godzilla is vastly superior to the Emmerich film and even with its flaws is at least worth a matinee as long as your are a fan of the King of Monsters and not of the actors involved.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for Godzilla (2014) is a 6 out of 10.