It has been a long time since audiences in America have seen a good Godzilla movie in the theater. A really long time. The good news is that Gareth Edwards (Monsters) has finally put an end to the terrible drought in the form of Godzilla.
First, let me make something clear: this movie is not going to win any academy awards for acting or screenwriting. Bryan Cranston, who has been omnipresent in almost all the trailers and TV spots leading up to the movie's release, is incredible but he only has a grand total of maybe 20 minutes screen time. Similarly, Ken Watanabe's character is basically limited to saying little one-line nuggets of wisdom here and there while looking scared and confused. Seriously he has the same facial expression throughout most of the film!
Seriously, he looks like this for most of the film.
Basically, the humans are present to move the plot along while providing a method for Edwards to engender the audience with feelings of dread and apprehension. Honestly, I don't get the sense that the writing team was to concerned with fleshing out the human characters, and I couldn't be happier with that decision.
Godzilla knows that it is a summer blockbuster film, and it does not try to be anything deeper than that. Most monster movies who go for something deeper come off as cheesy and confused. This is why Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is the perfect main character. He's simple and really static. What you see is what you get. Considering the fact that the inevitable sequels to this movie will feature different people, I feel the one-dimensional characters are a wise choice.
The second thing I want to make clear is that this movie is not trying to come off as more plausible than the original. It is every bit as implausible as the original, but like the original a keen focus on a theme of nature trying to restore balance, mingled with some tantalizing teasing during the first two acts hooks the audience into wanting to see the story play out. I can't stress how important it is that this is understood before going into the movie. This is not the Dark Knight of monster movies. It is not setting out to redefine a genre. Instead it pays beautiful homage to the genre's legacy.
It takes about an hour until the audience actually sees the titular monster. An hour of constant teasing and building tension. When Godzilla finally shows up it is glorious and, quite frankly, awe-inspiring. Opting for a more traditional (if slightly more portly) design, Legendary's Godzilla is instantly recognizable, and his roar! His theater-rattling roar is worth the price of a ticket alone. In this film Godzilla is a force of nature, hell-bent on hunting down the film's two other monster threats. I don't want to spoil anything for the reader by divulging plot-points, but let's just say that Godzilla kicks some serious monster butt.
Awwww look at Godzilla yawning...he's a tired kaiju! Warner Bros. Entertainment
In fact, Godzilla is the first film in a long time whose action actually got a cheer out of me. It's just so hard not to root for the King of All Kaiju as he dukes it out with other kaiju while causing untold amounts of collateral damage. In fact it's during the insane mayhem of the third act that Edwards shows his real talent at directing monster movies. The action is great, but the feeling of devastation that accompanies it is remarkable. Never visceral, but ever brutal the fighting gets the adrenaline pumping, and after all, would we want it any other way?
The Wrap Up
-Awesome kaiju action
-An ever abiding respect for Toho's original creation
-Characters are a little one-dimensional
-Not nearly enough Bryan Cranston or Ken Watanabe
-Could have done with a little more screen time for Godzilla
Whatever the heck this thing is....
Taken for what it is, Godzilla is one of the most fun movies I have seen in a long time. Not to be missed. Minimal swearing, one brief scene of making out (like 3 seconds brief) intense monster mayehm and destruction. I really suggest parents see this without children first to decide whether or not their child can handle this film.
I give Godzilla an 8 out of 10.
Have you seen the film? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!