Ror Reviews: GODZILLA (2014)
SCRReeEEEeeeeeOOooonk! The trailers for this one had us all hyped up to 11, but did Gareth Edwards' ambitious, seemingly very serious take on the King of Monsters deliver the goods? Find out what I thought after the jump.
Godzilla 2014 gets off to great start with a smashing opening credits sequence which tells us all we need to know about the military's first attempt to destroy the big fella with a nuclear strike. This brings us to a power plant disaster involving nuclear engineer Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), before jumping ahead 15 years to find him obsessed and apparently off his rocker; estranged from his now married son Ford (Aaron Taylor Johnson).
Here a terrific father/son dynamic is set up, as both men set out to discover the truth about the event that cost them so much over a decade earlier, with the possibility of a reconciliation at the end of it -- and then the movie makes a critical mistake that it almost doesn't recover from: The focus is shifted from Cranston (as brilliant as you'd expect as the manic, complex Joe) and placed on Johnson (not so brilliant as the block of wood Ford). The Kick-Ass actor is okay, it's just that his character is pretty much a blank slate. He wants to get back to his family and help save the planet from the nasty creatures and...that's pretty much all there is to him. Elizabeth Olsen is more believable and compelling in her handful of scenes as his worried wife, and actually makes you wish her character was the focus. Also wasted is the brilliant Sally Hawkins as one of the scientists who've been tracking Godzilla. Both she and her associate played by Ken Watanabe are there only to spout exposition -- Watanabe's character in particular exhibiting an almost psychic understanding of the creatures that borders on the laughable.
But hey, enough about the human characters right? You came to see Kaiju scraps and by God(zilla) do you get 'em...eventually.
You've probably already heard that the titular giant lizard's screen time is pretty limited and that's kind of an understatement. He's teased, and he's glimpsed, but the majority of monster action is actually given to his enemies, the MUTO. There are even a couple of scenes that cut away just as Godzilla and the MUTO are about to throw down, and these are sure to infuriate some. Personally I was fine with it because I knew (or at least hoped) it was all building to something special, and in that regard I was not disappointed. The final 15-20 minutes are a Kaiju lover's dream come true. I wouldn't even consider myself a massive fan of these type of monster flicks, and I was in awe of the spectacle. The special effects, the creature fight choreography (if you will), the screeching, the atomic breath..all well worth the wait. It's just a shame that our human guide on the journey to get there wasn't more interesting.
Taking a giant monster movie as seriously this Godzilla reboot does is risky business, and to his credit Edwards does infuse the story with genuine emotion and character drama -- which works just fine while we care about those characters, but drags a bit when we don't. Still, this is a welcome return to the screen for the King Of Monsters and the incredible creature fight scenes are worth the price of admission alone -- just be aware of how long you'll have to wait to see them, and in who's company.
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