Godzilla 2014 Movie Review
There aren’t many movies that I’ve anticipated more than this year's Godzilla. Our last Godzilla flick, Final Wars, was a good 10 years ago, and that’s a painfully long time to put a property on-hold. (Although he did have a befuddling cameo in a totally unrelated movie.) As a kid, I loved the cheesy heroic Godzilla of the 70’s; as a teenager, I loved the more serious Godzilla of the 90’s; and as a young adult, I loved all the different takes on Godzilla in the early 2000’s. He took a bad turn in the 1998 Ronald Emmerich film, which starred a creature that was not even remotely relatable to what I consider Godzilla to be, but here we are, with yet another American film studio taking a shot at Godzilla. Can a giant monster movie even be accepted by movie goers today?
It seems so: two monster movies, Cloverfield and Pacific Rim, seem to have some good traction among the geek community. I particularly liked Pacific Rim... it might have been light on the plot and characters, but it certainly was strong on the action and fun. In fact, I was a little nervous that it might have stolen some of Godzilla’s thunder.
But nope, as cool as Pacific Rim was, Godzilla is that much more spectacular. The most striking things about it are, of course, the visuals effects. Although I love the man-in-suitness of the Japanese movies, and Toho often did a great job meshing the man-in-suit and miniatures with the full scale environment, it’s still undeniable that Godzilla has never been as dynamic, as realistic, or as incredible as he is in this movie. The villain monster, MUTO, is similarly awesome, and kaiju fans will get a big kick out of seeing these guys duke it out on the big screen.
The creature designs are really amazing and there's a lot to love about Godzilla: the gills on his neck, the rocky shards of spikes on his back, the sauropod-esque feet, and that face… this dude just looks like he has a bad attitude. Although there have been rumblings of Japanese fans scoffing at Godzilla looking “fat” (even though he's never been the epitome of fitness), the beefy body proportions actually make him look massive and powerful. On a related note, I was reading in The Scientific American Book of Dinosaurs that the eyes of dinosaurs were inversely proportional to body size, and, conveniently enough, Godzilla’s eyes are incredibly tiny. It’s little stuff like that (so to speak) that really sell the enormity of the creature.
Oh yeah, MUTO looks awesome too. Its sharp angles and smooth textures present a cool visual contrast to Godzilla.
I really dig Gareth Edwards’ directing style here. He loves to pan the camera through a scene, letting different elements in the scene tell the story and build up suspense, until he finally reveals some sort of cool surprise at the end of the track. I don’t want to give anything away so I won’t describe any of the shots, but this style imparts a sense of awe for the monsters.
Another thing that’s great about this movie is the soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat. The theme harkens back to the style of old-school monster movie themes while anachronistically feeling fresh and current. There are some scenes in the movie that are not really all that interesting but the soundtrack is so bombastic that it keeps things moving along all by itself. I’m not a big soundtrack guy but this one is so cool that one of the first things I did after seeing the movie was buy the album.
Not everything about this movie is happy bathtubs of Big Macs, though. The plot is standard Godzilla fare, so don’t expect anything particularly deep... or scientifically reasonable, for that matter. That said, it's significantly more engaging than most Godzilla movies and the film moves along well without overstaying its welcome (it’s about 2 hours long).
The biggest problem is who they chose as the main character. Joe Brody, played by Brian Cransten, was heavily featured in the trailers and you might assume that he’s the big cheese in the movie. But nope, that honor goes to Ford Brody, Joe’s son played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson from Kick-Ass. This is a big problem because Taylor-Johnson has all the emotional range of a lobotomized Keanu Reeves.
Brian Cransten sometimes overplays his lines, but watching him overplay lines is infinitely more interesting than watching most actors perform convincingly. He’s the guy I want to follow and experience this whole Godzilla thing with. Elizabeth Olsen does surprisingly well as Ford’s wife, Elle, too. (Who knew that the Olsen twins had yet another sister?)
So! Let’s do a little rewrite. Let’s kill off Ford in one of the giant monster attacks, conveniently removing a weak link in the movie and forcing Joe in the spotlight. That would not only make Joe vengeful (Captain Ahab?) it would also make this whole giant monster attack thing more emotionally raw for Elle. Problem solved!
Whatever, Godzilla is an amazingly fun ride anyway. I haven’t been this enthusiastic about a movie since Speed Racer. Even though I’ve already seen it twice, I can’t wait to see it again. I went back and forth about whether to give this is a 4 or 5 score given the bland Ford character, but considering how insanely spectacular the monsters are, I just can’t resist giving it a 5. Hopefully this leads to many more Godzilla sequels. Maybe for the next one we mix it up a bit and have Godzilla fighting aliens… spaceships, giant alien creatures, whatever. Just give me more Godzilla!