Published on May 15th, 2014 | by Allan Brown5
Godzilla 2014 Review
Movie Review: Godzilla (2014)
Running Time: 123 mins
Director: Gareth Edwards
Writers: Max Borenstein (screenplay), Dave Callaham (story)
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn
More than a decade and a half later and still the bitter taste of Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla remains. A film that despite proving financially successful, was at best, tragically underwhelming. So now 16 years on and with a budget of $160 million, Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures ready themselves to reboot the franchise. At the helm of the Kaiju sized project is Gareth Edwards, a director with a single feature film under his belt, 2010s micro budget hit, Monsters. A truly inspired but risky feat to say the least. However, Edwards’ showed considerable talent and focus on his debut, turning a low budget sci-fi monster movie, into something quite personal and sincere. Now handling a budget 150 times larger than his last film, does Edwards manage to keep control and focus of such a huge and technically challenging project?
The film centres on an incident at a Japanese nuclear power plant that results in not only on the mass evacuation of a local town, but also a heart-rending family tragedy to physicist Joe Brody (Cranston). What evolves is a painful 15 year hunt/obsession to seek the truth of what really happened that day. Just as Brody and his estranged son Ford (Taylor-Johnson) begin to expose the truth of a cover-up, the devastating, global threatening reality begins to reveal its presence.
From the opening title sequence of stock footage of post war nuclear tests in the pacific, to the intense nuclear power plant disaster, it is clear that Edwards has chose to play this one as stern and as real as possible, perhaps in a bid to avoid the B-movie clichés associated with the genre.
A more refined realism, opens him up to a world were character intentions, decisions and reactions will be scrutinised on screen throughout, in this REAL WORLD scenario
Whilst this film-making ethos has proven successful in the past with films such as The Dark Knight Trilogy and Cloverfield , it does as a result open itself up for more scrutiny than a typical genre picture would. Movies such as Independence Day and Pacific Rim for example, had an added tongue in cheek element to them which allows for more flexibility and leniency in a film with lack of plot or character development.
Here, Edwards’ choice (although not a bad one) to go with a more refined realism, opens him up to a world were character intentions, decisions and reactions will be scrutinised on screen throughout, in this REAL WORLD scenario.
It is clear from the get go that Spielberg is an obvious influence here with many nods and homage’s along the way to watch out for, and while the film aspires to be a cross between King Kong, Jaws and Jurassic Park – films that allowed you access to the larger spectacle through well drawn, engaging characters. Here, Edwards sadly doesn’t quite have the same majesty or grasp as his muse (Steven Spielberg) for these finer elements just yet.
Despite the films shortfalls, cliques and narrative abandonment, when the creatures are on screen this is truly when the magic happens
Bryan Cranston’s performance and story is perhaps the most compelling and heartfelt of all, even with his brief screen time. The rest of the cast that include Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins are all shamefully underused in a script that regresses them into nothing more than background noise, hollow caricatures that spout for the most part, throw away clichéd dialogue as we follow them from location to location as they pursue the threat. Streamlining the story and narrowing the focus on fewer characters may have improved the chaotic structure and soulless human element of the film.
With that said, Godzilla is what it is and everyone who goes to see it on the big screen is there collectively for one reason and one reasons only, to see the big fella wreck havoc…and oh boy, doesn’t he just.
Despite the films shortfalls, cliques and narrative abandonment, when the creatures are on screen this is truly when the magic happens. The CGI is sharp with detail that is unquestionably breathtaking, with rarely a pixel out of place . Although these sequences are few and far between, we are both drip fed glimpses throughout and just when a battle or a big set-piece looks as though it’s about to initialize – the doors close on our view, or we switch to seeing news footage in the background of a shot. This is a frustrating yet altogether inspired technique, once again taking its lead from Spielberg’s, Jaws. This slow build up to the big reveal makes the last act of the film not only more satisfying, but possibly one of the most epic finales in recent memory.
Summary: Despite initial efforts to evolve an engaging human drama, its characters are sadly reduced from the boil as soon as the main attraction appears. However, Edwards shows tremendous competence and restraint in the director’s chair, in a film that could have easily overwhelmed the new film maker. In short, while it excels in some areas and underwhelms in others, by the time its spectacular final act begins, you will have forgiven its shortcomings.