Godzilla 2014: My Review
If you have not seen the movie spoilers are ahead!
I have been waiting for this movie for a long long time. I first heard of this production in 2004 when it was going to be a short IMAX film. That eventually morphed into a feature film that was going to be made by Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures. The film was announced in 2010 for a 2012 release. It spent a little while in development Hell and for a while I thought it wouldn’t be made. Then in 2012 it was announced Gareth Edwards was to direct the film and it would shoot in 2013 and be released in 2014. I followed every bit of information on the filming of the movie and the design of the new Godzilla. Since I didn’t see it in the theater (I don’t care for movie theaters) I didn’t remain spoiler free. No, I knew a lot about this movie when I sat down to watch it Saturday night. Therefore I could understand both the praise and the criticism I have read about this movie. That is why I needed to sort through my feelings to see what I felt about the movie and let go of the words of others.
Before I give my review I will give a short synopsis of the plot, courtesy of Wikipedia.
In Japan the Janjira Nuclear Power Plant experiences unusual seismic activity. Supervisor Joe Brody sends his wife Sandra and a team of technicians into the reactor. While the team is inside, the reactor is breached, releasing radioactive steam. Sandra and her team are unable to escape and the plant collapses into ruin. Fifteen years later, Joe’s son Ford, a US Navy explosive ordnance disposal officer, returns from a tour of duty to his family in San Francisco but has to immediately depart for Japan after Joe is detained for trespassing in the Janjira quarantine zone. Joe, determined to reveal the disaster’s true cause, persuades Ford to accompany him to their old home within the zone to retrieve vital data. They successfully retrieve the data but are captured and taken to a secret facility within the plant’s ruins. Inside, a giant winged creature emerges from containment and escapes, destroying the facility. Joe is severely wounded and later dies. The incident is reported as an earthquake.
Serizawa, Graham and Ford join a US Navy task force led by Admiral William Stenz on the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga to search for the creature, dubbed “Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism,” (“MUTO”). To Ford, the scientists reveal how a 1954 deep sea expedition triggered the appearance of Godzilla, a prehistoric alpha predator; how early nuclear tests were really attempts to kill it; that Project Monarch was formed secretly to study Godzilla; and that the MUTO caused the Janjira destruction. Ford reveals that Joe had monitored echolocation signals that indicated the MUTO was communicating with something. The task force follows Godzilla, projecting that the monsters will meet near San Francisco. Over the scientists’ objections, Stenz approves a plan to use nuclear warheads to lure the monsters to a safe distance from the city and then detonated to destroy the monsters. Ford returns with the military to California and joins a team delivering the warheads by train. The female MUTO destroys the train and devours one of the warheads. The remaining warhead is airlifted to the city and is activated, but the MUTOs capture it and take it to a nest in the downtown area, where the female deposits her eggs.
After the military fails to stop Godzilla when it arrives at the Golden Gate Bridge, Stenz accepts Serizawa’s advice and orders the military to withdraw to allow the three monsters to fight. While they battle, soldiers, including Ford, enter the city by HALO jump to find and disarm the warhead. Unable to disarm the warhead at the nest, they put it on a boat for disposal at sea. Ford destroys the nest, causing the female to leave the battle. Godzilla then kills the male, using its tail to crush the MUTO against a building. The female finds and kills the team on the boat but Ford is saved when Godzilla kills the female by firing atomic breath down her throat and decapitating her. Godzilla then collapses from injury and exhaustion. Ford pilots the boat out to sea, and is rescued before the warhead detonates. The next day, Ford finds his family at an emergency shelter. In the city ruins, Godzilla, thought to be dead, suddenly awakens and returns to the ocean after a final roar.
Overall, I really, really liked this movie, despite some quibbles with it. I am going to get one of the first quibbles out of the way. While I liked the story and the MUTOs looked great and were excellent monsters, I think my slight disappointment with the movie was over what could have been. The 2012 Comic-Con teaser showed us a Godzilla with a quote by Robert Oppenheimer that was reminiscent of the 1954 original and Gareth Edwards had said he was going to bring Godzilla back to his roots….but in the end he really didn’t. Now I knew that going into the film that he didn’t make a movie similar to the 1954 original, its just after seeing this movie I really would have loved to have seen a movie with a malevolent Godzilla that arises our of the ocean to wreak havoc on humanity. Instead, what we get is a Godzilla that was prevalent during the Heisei era and some of the Millennium movies: a Godzilla that is a force of nature but also the anti-hero. I like those types of movies too, its just that with all the modern CGI and special effects it would have been nice to have gotten a story in the spirit and tone of the original. I would have liked a solo Godzilla movie where he alone is the focus and the main goal of the movie would have been to try to stop this unstoppable force. In my opinion this movie should have been a sequel to that type of Godzilla film. The tone of this film is serious but it still has the air of a summer popcorn movie. It isn’t too dark and serious but it is a good old fashioned giant monster movie.
With that out of the way, one of my other concerns was over the fact that I had heard Godzilla doesn’t have a lot of screen time. That was my biggest worry. Although I love the movie Cloverfield I was disappointed in the amount of screen time that monster got and I feared the same fate was in store for Godzilla. My worst fears were not realized. While Godzilla doesn’t have the screen time he has in some of his movies it isn’t as bad as some people report. Sure, I would like to have seen him more but what we do see of him in the movie is well worth it. I also loved the design of the MUTOs. They are very reminiscent of the Colverfield monster, a design I really love. To see Godzilla and the MUTOs in life-like CGI is the best part of the movie for me. Yes, the MUTOs do have more screen time than Godzilla but that doesn’t bother me at all. The time focusing on the MUTOs was well spent.
When Godzilla and the MUTOs are on the screen both together and separately not an inch of film is wasted. They are all money shots. Meaning, they all look spectacular. Some more spectacular than others. When the male MUTO arrives in San Francisco and greets the much larger female MUTO through the clouds and smoke that is an impressive sight. Equally impressive is when Godzilla rises about the two buildings and lets out a snort. The monster battles are epic in scope and detail. This does not look like men in rubber suits! It looks like three giant animals fighting as animals do in the wild.
Before I close out this review I want to say a few words about the acting of three main characters. Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody, Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ford Brody and Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa. Many who did not like this movie loved Bryan Cranston in this role. Cranston has gained considerable popularity as the star of the award winning show Breaking Bad. Since his character is killed off early in the film many fans complained that he was the only good part of the film. I disagree. Although I think he played his part well, I didn’t exactly enjoy the character. Bryan Cranston/Joe Brody was Mr. Intensity throughout the time he was on screen with a few exceptions. Honestly, I don’t think I could have taken an entire movie filled with that much intensity.
On the opposite side of intensity it has been reported that Aaron Taylor-Johnson portrayal of Ford Brody was rather stiff and wooden. Again, this view is dependent on your overall view of the film. I liked the movie so I saw the character as a typical stoic military type. I can however empathize with those who say his performance was wooden and I wouldn’t have complained if they had had a more charismatic actor in that role. However, it really didn’t bother me as much as Cranston’s character.
The one that did bother me a bit was Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa. His critics have said that he also was a one note actor in the film and only had one expression throughout the entire film. He had a look of intense befuddlement and also it seemed like he was spaced out through the film and not really connecting with anyone. I have to agree with this assessment. His character does serve to give a lot of exposition on the film and he has a purpose in the movie, but I was waiting for him to snap out of his daze and speak like a normal individual, but that never happened. My favorite performance of the film was by David Strathairn as Rear Admiral William Stenz, USN. An Admiral in the Seventh Fleet of the United States Navy. He is the commander of the United States Navy task force in charge of tracking down the escaped MUTO. He gave the role the gravitas that it needed while also projecting a warm father-like figure.
All-in-all an enjoyable movie. I would have liked a little more focus on Godzilla but the story is engaging and this movie has the best monster battles I have ever seen in a Godzilla movie.
I give this movie a solid A.
Next week I will compare the two American Godzilla movies!
Posted on September 29, 2014, in Godzilla Movie Review and tagged Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Akira Ifukube, Bryan Cranston, David Stathairn, Gareth Edwards, Godzilla, Godzilla 2014, Ken Wantanabe. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.