Godzilla (2014) Directed by Gareth Edwards. Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston. IMDB says: “The world’s most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.”
“We call him… Godzilla.”
When I was 8 years old I had a VHS cabinet. We had a Disney section, a shelf for the “Land Before Time” series, and even a shelf for our holiday films. But my favorite shelf was the top shelf and there was only one series of films allowed on the top shelf: Godzilla. I had the 5 film VHS box set and a handful of others. I spent my youth playing video games, watching power rangers on tv and at night I would watch Godzilla devastate cities while fighting the likes of Mothra, Rodan, Gigan, Mecha-Godzilla, Ghidra, Megaladon, Monster Zero, Gigan, Biollante, etc etc. When I heard the horns blare and the strings swell, I knew Godzilla was on the way. Then 1998 came around and 9 year old me lost his mind. A new Godzilla movie was coming! I remember going to see it in theatres with my parents Memorial Day Weekend. It was awesome, but something was missing and Godzilla didn’t look the same. As I grew older, I realized Roland Emmerich and Dean Delvin got it wrong (very wrong) and I began to shun the film. Last year when we first felt rumblings of a new Godzilla film, I was apprehensive. I didn’t know who Max Borenstein (Screenplay) was nor did I know David Callaham (story) or director Gareth Edwards. BUT, I saw that Toho (the original production company behind Godzilla) was involved and I became excited. I saw the teaser trailer in IMAX and the 9 year old in me lost his mind again. I tried to stay away from any information about the film going in. I avoided trailers, write-ups, reviews, early buzz, even toy designs. I didn’t want to build my hopes up for something, only to be let down. Going into this film, I only asked the movie gods for two things; and I was gloriously rewarded.
This Godzilla film feels like a true Godzilla film. It’s a slow burn that spends the first act in exposition before introducing Godzilla in the second act. From there, the film takes off running into the third act where we really see what Godzilla can do. It sticks to the Godzilla formula, but adds incredible and believable CGI and character depth. Without giving too much away, after an “accident” at a nuclear powerplant in Japan, Father and son Joe Brody (a fantastic Bryan Cranston) and Ford Brody (an equally impressive Aaron Taylor-Johnson) investigate the quarantined devastation in an attempt to find out what really happened. From there, they stumble upon a government cover up that falls by the wayside, and falls fast. Along the way we meet Ford’s wife Elle (the always gorgeous Elizabeth Olsen) and scientists Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (the perfectly cast Ken Watanabe) and his associate Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins). Eventually the military gets involved and we get to see David Strathairn in a role that should feel stock, but he brings a certain levity to it. We even get fun winks and nods to previous characters in the Godzilla universe. The film doesn’t hang on the scientific aspect of the film and force you to understand it, rather, it gives you the basics and answers questions along the way. There is even some campy dialogue in there that just makes this film that much more enjoyable. The film travels from Japan to Hawaii to San Francisco and all the devastation along the way feels right. It’s not a glutinous orgy of CGI destrution like you would see in a superhero or Transformers movie. It’s got a heaviness and purpose to it that adds a believeability to a film based around a gigantic radioactive lizard (we say he’s a lizard, but FUN FACT: Godzilla or “Gojira” as he’s known is Japanese is a combination of the words Gorira or “Gorilla” and Kujira which mean “Whale”. So technically, Godzilla is a Gorilla Whale. Fun Fact. ANYWAY)
The CGI is fantastic, the acting is solid, however, the only part of the film I felt lacked was the score. I didn’t hear a single note or nod to the themes originally done by Akira Ifukube which bummed me out a bit. It’s not that the score by Alexandre Desplat is bad, it’s just no where near as memorable as the classic Godzilla themes. At times it feels generic, but it never takes away from the film. I got the chance to see the film in RealD 3D and it’s nothing to really write home about. I have plans to see this in IMAX 3D and if there is any real difference, I’ll leave a comment below. You’re only shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t see this on the big screen. Devastation of this scale and monsters of this size deserve respect, not just a passing glance on a tablet or smart phone. If you enjoyed the old Godzilla films, you’re going to absolutely love this one. And if you didn’t, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised.