The Monster Arrives Too Late
A Film Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The 2014 Godzilla is in many ways an entire reboot of the series rather than a sequel of any sort. The legendary monster gets its own origin story and I must say, the film did beat my expectations, which in all fairness were quite low. In all fairness, it just seemed to be an unnecessary reboot from a Hollywood where lack of originality seems to be as ubiquitous as the CGI these days. The unique and daring choice this version of Godzilla makes is to save the monster until the end of the third act and build up the characters so by the time the monster hits, ewe truly feel something. And we do feel something, but only in that final act, which is so tremendously terrifying it almost makes up for the lackluster threads of the first two acts. Where the film steps short of greatness is its strange decision to focus on the most lackluster characters before the monster is unleashed.
The film begins with scientist Joe who loses his wife in a nuclear power plant and switches to Joe’s life fifteen years later, where him and son Ford share a tenuous relationship at best. It’s understandable that he would throw himself into his work after his wife’s death in an accident that could have been prevented, but that has quite logically strayed his relationship with his son. Bryan Cranston is so magnificent as Joe that I could probably just watch him for several hours but that didn’t happen, so there’s that. The film instead largely focuses on Aaron Taylor Johnson’s Ford and my God, does it suffer for that. First of all, Ford is a stupid name for a child and that just detracted me beyond any logical reasoning to be honest. Anyhow, he’s terrible in this. Johnson isn’t necessarily a terrible actor, but he’s so dull in this that if Ford had been speared by Godzilla ten minutes into the movie, I would have been okay with that. It’s possibly his worst performance and he couldn’t have delivered it on a worst time. Elizabeth Olson is cast here and she’s given almost nothing to do, a complete waste of an actor of her caliber. Sally Hawkins is here and she suffer through the same destruction. Juliette Binoche is great as Joe’s wife but she gets ONE great, harrowing scene. At least Ken Watanabe gets a ton of material, thank goodness.
For some reason, there’s no solid explanation as to why the monsters have awoken. The initial nuclear explanation sort of makes sense and then they just go haywire and after a bit you just stop trying to look for a decent explanation and settle on one being nonexistent. Anyhow, I’m not just looking for logical explanations for everything, but considering that that specific point is a crucial juncture for basically the entire plot to kick in, it’s irritating to not be clear about it. And it’s not anything that surely wouldn’t have been discussed in the writer’s room. It’s somewhat emblematic of the shaky writing and character work that dominates especially the first half.
And then we get to the destruction of San Francisco. This third act is where director Gareth Edwards shows off his full panache and every single frame throbs with a thundering, brilliant excitement. My God, the third act is so exciting you almost forget that Ford even exists in this movie, which is impressive. It is such a blast to see the entire monster destruction sequence, but done with a complete understanding of the human cost involved. I am sick and tired of big city destruction sequences where there’s a ton of destruction and then no one pays attention to the aftereffects. Here at the very least there’s legitimate terror that’s explored and it lends a realism that’s necessary. The monster destruction sequences are all shot with an incredible clarity and at no moment is it difficult to discern what is happening (I’m looking at you, Transformers). Edwards, coming off his low-budget Monsters, proves himself to be more than capable of handling a big-budget action flick. His wide shot of Godzilla walking past the bridge was astonishing. As the beginning of a planned trilogy, Godzilla is a solid beginning. The filmmakers need to just pay as much attention to the characters as they do to the monster sequences.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Gareth Edwards
Producer: Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Mary Parent, Brian Rogers
Screenplay by: Max Borenstein
Based On: Godzilla by Toho
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Bryan Cranston
Music: Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography: Seamus McGarvey
Editing: Bob Ducsay
Production Company: Legendary Pictures
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures, Toho (Japan)
Running Time: 123 minutes
Release Dates: May 8, 2014 (Dolby Theatre), May 16, 2014 (United States)
Image Courtesy: Screen Rant