Chris Kavan's Movie Review of Godzilla (2014)

Rating of

Godzilla (2014)

The Godzilla Remake We Deserve
Chris Kavan - wrote on 05/18/14

I had high hopes going in to Godzilla - all the trailers hit the right notes and I was expecting this to wash the bad taste the 1998 dud had left in my memory. And while it's certainly not without its flaws, this version of Godzilla manages to evoke the spirit of the original while also stomping its own path - those who want a great "monster" film - look nor further, for Godzilla delivers.

The movie opens with a series of quick images of documents and classic newsreel type footage - culminating in the nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll - "Project Monarch" - not just a nuclear test, but an effort to destroy a giant monster. We flash forward to the Philippines where a mining operation has led to the discovery of a huge underground chamber - where there was a huge creature (now long dead) and a hole indicating something has escaped. Meanwhile, in Japan, a husband and wife team (Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche) work at nuclear power plant - thinks are hectic because a series of tremors have been increasing, putting the plant as risk. A rush of events leads to a catastrophic meltdown - and leaves a father widowed - with a son to take care of.

In present day, that young son has grown into an bomb ordnance expert and soldier (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who has just returned home to his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and his own young son (Carson Bolde). But this reunion is short-lived as he has to bail his father out of jail in Japan - who has been caught trespassing in the ruins of the nuclear disaster that claimed the life of his wife. His apartment is covered wall-to-wall with clippings, printouts and reports - and though he comes off as a bit of a crackpot, he is certain something is coming (spoiler - it is!) and his son is about fed up - though he relents and joins his father to get back to their old house where precious data still remains.

Now - this all takes place perhaps in the first half-hour - with nary a glimpse of any giant monsters. Director Gareth Edwards has said he wanted to evoke the film Jaws - a slow build-up to the monster. While it plays out pretty well, those with less patience may find this wait a bit much - and though I didn't find it tedious, others may not be so kind. Anyway, once we finally get to the monsters - things move quickly. Unfortunately even though many of the commercials and trailers would have you believe Cranston is the main character, that is not true. Is is really Taylor-Johnson's picture - and though he tries, he doesn't have quite the weight to pull things off. I understand why things happened the way they did, I only with Cranston had stuck around a bit longer.

Those who crave the destruction aspect will not be disappointed - major cities from Hawaii to Vegas to San Francisco get the monster-stomping treatment. The film does a good job of both showing the major destruction, but also does a bit of trickeration by not showing too much (but sure isn't shy about showing the aftermath). While it is a bit of a cop out - I felt the balance between the action and following the characters was done pretty well. The music was also well-suited - booming and pulse-pounding at the right times - and the sound effects were spot-on (Godzilla's roar has never been better). I wish he had breathed a bit more fire (literally - he only spits it like three times) but overall, the beast was impressive.

Edwards was a risky choice, having only directed the low-budget Monsters in 2010, but I think it turned out for the best. he knows the source material and did the original justice. Plus, he's not stranger to monsters and Godzilla isn't the only beast tromping around in the picture - in fact, the monster vs. monster aspect is just as good, if not a better, storyline that the people running around on the ground. I wish we could have seen more of Olsen - a talented actress - she needed more screen time. And while Ken Watanabe and David Strathairn added gravitas - they likewise didn't have a lot to do.

In the end, Godzilla manages to be the rare monster movie that rises above the common cliches. Given how big it opened, I wouldn't be surprised to see more of giant lizard in the future.

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