Sunday, May 18, 2014

FILM REVIEW: Godzilla (2014)


This is not the Godzilla  film that we've all been waiting to see. But, it is pretty goddamn close!

I'm not a particularly huge fan of Godzilla. Although, I've been watching these films since I was a small child, I've never really felt the sort of kinship with Big G that many people have so deeply felt since the very first time the big guy has emerged from the ocean. I dunno, I guess big monster movies in general aren't really my thing. Especially when you come to that heart-breaking revelation at some point in your young life that he's always been some sweaty Asian guy in a big rubber suit. So, when I first heard of Hollywood revisiting the property, I just sort of felt indifferent to the notion of another hugely budgeted remake/reboot of any kind. Especially after the events of 1998's infamous Emmerich film. Because no matter how you feel about this new Godzilla  film, there is no escaping how much the 1998 Godzilla  never feels like Gojira at all. Love it or hate it (I personally hate it) the American 'zilla film with Mathew Broderick prancing around in it should have never been called Godzilla. But, I digress.

Gareth Edwards and company do meticulous work of making sure this one is, indeed, steeped in the world of our favorite Destroyer of Worlds. So, in terms of sheer Godzilla  lore...this is as good as it gets. It is a film that, not only respects the grand traditions of our favorite Japanese lizard...but, it is completely in love with all of it. And much like Edwards' 2010 film, Monsters, it is beautiful and rich enough to bask in its atmospheric wonder. From the eerily gorgeous shots of a deserted Japanese city to the scale of the all-out monster battles that take place later on in the film, Gareth Edwards proves his expertise in creating intimacy in such a mammoth-budgeted affair.


The film opens in 1999 Philippines during an archaeological excavation, in which the skeletal remains of a massive prehistoric animal is discovered, along with some huge egg sac thingy's.  The always reliable Ken Watanabe arrives onsite to take a look at this egg sac thingy. He notices that one of the egg sac thingy's has hatched and we see that whatever it is...has found its way to the ocean. Edwards makes it a point to shroud everything in secrecy (right down to the opening credits). It's a cool way to build an impending tension that sets up for much bigger reveals...when the time is right. 

Anyway, during the same calendar year, we are also introduced to Joe Brody (played tenderly by Bryan Cranston, who, incidentally, knows how to spell his first name), who works with his wife (the always capable Juliette Binoche) at a Japanese nuclear plant. And, if you know anything about these films, you'll comprehend that working in a Japanese nuclear plant can never be any kind of good. The Brody family ends up learning that the hard way. It's interesting to note that the emotional peak of the human element is felt most in this first part of the film. Especially considering the family angle. It happens to be Joe Brody's birthday...but, he's too involved in his professional life to realize all the hard work that his son and wife have put into planning his birthday surprise. It's really good stuff...but, unfortunately, the human component pretty much goes south from there.

So, fast forward 15 years later and the Brody kid, Ford, is all grown up in the form of Aaron Taylor-Johnson (a cleaner Kick-Ass) complete with child and lovely wife, played by the always outstanding Elizabeth Olsen. Unfortunately, Olsen isn't asked to do much more than provide tears throughout the entire film. Which she does quite well...but, it's just a crying shame that she isn't asked to do more because she is such a wonderful actress in her own right and if they just gave her enough script to work with as a mother hellbent on the safety of her child it really could have provided that emotional human depth that this film so desperately needed. Having said that...


Godzilla's creature design looks fucking amazing. By the time that they finally get to the big guy that we all came to see, he does not disappoint one bit. Especially when you hear his trademark "skreeeoonnnkg" in stunning IMAX. It is the very reason theaters like these exist. To see Big G finally represented in such grand fashion really is astounding. I won't spoil much...but, when you see the tippy tip of his tail begin to light up...fucking goosebumps, man. He really is worth the price of admission in the best of ways. And the monster battles really take your breath away. So much so that you want more. And since Edwards is the master at teasing such huge spectacle, most of that particular action feels a tad cut short. But, I do like the military thing and the way the humans realize that sometimes you just have to allow nature to take its course. It's just that...when you here Watanabe say..."Let them fight!"...you hunger for something much more than what is ultimately shown.

Gojira truly feels like the co-star in his own film. I appreciate the tease and the human point of view and stuff like that...but, when the people stuff feels so overwrought and tedious...you're pretty much left there craving more of the big stuff. Aaron Tayor-Johnson wasn't the greatest decision for a film of this magnitude. The film is basically given to his character and he just doesn't have those emotional cues to really drive something as huge as Godzilla  on his own. That's why we feel so short-changed when someone as talented as Elizabeth Olsen doesn't do much. I'm not advocating an entire film of kaiju-fighting madness...but, a little balance goes a long way and this film just doesn't feel balanced.

The MUTO's are decent enough for a re-introduction of our favorite Japanese lizard. But, I do wish that he was given a more iconic villain to go up against. I'm sure that kind of stuff will be saved for later entries, especially since this film will, no doubt, be setting box office records and such. But, it would have been cool to see a bigger threat in the film.

As mentioned above, this is not the Godzilla  film that we've been always waiting to see. That may come at a later point. But, it is a sure contender for a top 10 list. And while some of it feels a little tedious and sometimes unnecessarily long, by the time we do get to see this Americanized Godzilla on the big screen, everything feels genuinely respectful and immense. For that reason alone, there's so much to love about this film. It is cinematic spectacle at its best...but, most importantly...the Godzilla  that we all grew up with is back and shooting his trademark atomic breath into the mouth of that Emmerich film! Also...keep an eye out for Easter Eggs hidden throughout the entire film. Sadly, there's no after-credits stinger.





Thanks for reading,

bryan.




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