Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche with David Strathairn and Bryan Cranston
Plot: Joe Brody (Cranston) loses everything, setting him on a hunt to find out what really happened with his old power plant, unaware that it is connected to the myth of Godzilla.
Godzilla opens as a conspiracy movie. We follow a distraught Bryan Cranston has he tries to figure out what caused his old nuclear reactor to suddenly rupture, wiping out a whole town. The slow introduction to this movie is absolutely fine, because, in the capable hands of Bryan Cranston, we are comfortable, letting the human element to this story work its magic on us. He delivers a terrific monologue, that we caught snippets of in the trailer, but the whole, interrupted thing is marvellous and gives us a handful more reasons why Cranston is turning into one of the most exciting actors around right now. However, while the slow introduction to the movie works, the movie starts to fall downhill, when, even after the big reveal of the monster, the film continues at this slow, thoughtful pace. I appreciate the crescendo on display here, but there is a slow build-up and then there is just plain dull. This movie began to really frustrate me, as it kept teasing for this big climax, but kept cutting away. Edwards probably assumed he was being suspenseful, when he was actually being irritating.
Gareth Edwards is all about spectacle, which we could argue is the biggest problem here. Sure, Godzilla is full of frames that we can just lean back and admire. Godzilla’s scaly back breaking the water surface, Aaron Taylor-Johnson on a bridge, hiding from something in the darkness. These scenes look breath-taking and show how a Godzilla movie with a budget of this size can really work. However, we could also turn around and say that the trailer was full of those shots, so did we really need an entire movie, where the special effects team showed off? While we liked the individual shots, there was a need for a stronger story connecting them all. Joe Brody’s story and the characters were really good, until the monsters showed up, at which point they did little more than drift from set-piece to set-piece, looking lifeless and uninteresting. The story kept jumping from San Francisco to Hawaii, trying to create a larger picture, but it made the story seem unfocused and harder to just sit back and appreciate, outside of pretty-looking shots.
What about Godzilla himself? When he hit the halfway mark, we finally see him in all of his glory and it was a magnificent sight. He is the largest imagining of the iconic creature yet and while I felt that Edwards occasionally put too much faith in size over substance, you couldn’t deny the sheer awe of the monster. We shared the amazement of the human characters, as they hung back, mouths agape, staring at this city-destroying creature. This Godzilla isn’t the brightest dino in the box, however, falling for the same ‘attack from behind’ trick twice in the same fight. He also has a bit of a belly on him, which probably happens when you are dormant for such a long time. However, despite his short-comings, he still is an awe-inspiring spectacle, commanding respect from everyone in the vicinity. The mythology of the creature was a little shaky. I wasn’t too convinced in the idea that there is this creature lurking in the ocean, until it is needed to take care of a natural disaster, restoring balance to nature. That was one strand of the story that was too vague and unrealistic, seeming out of place in the grounded reality that Edwards was doing so well in setting up.
I guess that when Edwards stopped teasing and finally gets to that climax that he has been dancing around for an entire movie, he delivers. The monster fight is exactly what we would have expected from the original all of those years ago. Edwards, despite forgetting he is meant to be having fun making this movie for an hour and a half, finally gets swept away by the excitement of making a movie about Godzilla, and we share that excitement. The fight is a trip through the Godzilla legend, harkening back to all of those little traits you might have forgotten about. The long wait for this fight makes the battle feel far more appreciated than anything Pacific Rim came out with. While it does come about an hour too late, when it finally gets around to it, no one is disappointed.
Final Verdict: Godzilla is visually impressive and true to the original, but suffers from a terrible flaw. It is a little dull.