Godzilla 2014 ReviewMay 18, 2014 at 3:14 PM | Posted in (All Posts) | Leave a comment
Tags: 1954, 2014, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth, 고질라, Female, Godzilla, Gojira, Legendary, Male, MUTO, Olsen, Review, Serizawa, Taylor
Before I dive into the review, let me take a moment to talk about what Godzilla means to me…
I have one older brother by about 6 years — and he is just the ultimate definition of a brother. I looked up to him and have always thought the world of him, and so when I was born, whatever interests my brother had immediately fell onto me. My brother loved the Ninja Turtles, which is why I am a lifelong Ninja Turtles fan. My brother loved soccer and played his entire life, which is why I did the same. My brother had a fascination with sharks — buying coloring books and watching Shark Week annually, which is why I did the same.
And my brother absolutely adored and loved Godzilla movies, so naturally — I did the same.
I’ve already complied my list of top 10 favorite Godzilla films into two posts. (Part 1 and Part 2) But to be honest, I wouldn’t say I really “hate” any Godzilla film. I definitely have my favorites and least favorites, but even films like Godzilla’s Revenge and the 1998 American film both have meaning to me. Are they movies I watch often, or want to see anytime soon? Maybe not in particular, but they are still Godzilla films, and Godzilla, to me, is much more than just a film franchise.
I have an impressive Godzilla toy collection and a number of VHS tapes that belong to both myself and my brother, and of course a number of DVDs of my favorite films. I almost have the complete series of the Dark Horse Comics Godzilla run — which are some of my favorite comics. When I was growing up, I was always drawing pictures of Godzilla — his silhouette coming out of the ocean. I can honestly say now I have seen all of the Godzilla films released, but even if I couldn’t see another Godzilla film, I would still love the character just as much as I ever have.
He’s really connected to my childhood, my growing up — it sounds ridiculous in some ways, I get it — and I’m probably being too sentimental, but honestly — I’m the kind of person who is probably too honest about how I feel about things, and Godzilla means more to me than just one movie.
So with that all being said…what did this one movie mean to me?
Director: Gareth Edwards
Release Date: May 16th, 2014 (US) / May 14 & 15 International
This is the first Godzilla film in approximately a decade, after Godzilla Final Wars was released in Japan in late 2004. And of course, this is only the second Godzilla film to NOT created at the hands of Toho — the studio that made all of the original Japanese Godzilla films. With TriStar making the first “American Godzilla” film in 1998, the film did well financially and while not breaking any records at the time of its release, it did well enough and put money back into Toho’s pockets to make more of their own films — because — the 1998 film was not received well by critics in the US and especially Godzilla’s creators back in Japan.
Jumping forward to 2014, this film has been put together by Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. — with British director Gareth Edwards taking the helm.
On a quick side note — I wonder — does that make this the first British Godzilla? English Godzilla? Surely not, right? Because Roland Emmerich (1998 Godzilla director) was born in Germany, but no one claimed that Godzilla film was a “German Godzilla.” So that means Godzilla 2014’s Godzilla is the second American Godzilla. Right? Of course, I’m right.
Anyways, I’ll try to remain largely spoiler free, but there will be some. And I’ll try to be rather loose with this review too.
I’ll just start out by saying that this was a very heavy viewing experience for me. I have only seen 3 Godzilla films in theaters now (1998, Godzilla 2000 — and now this one), so that in itself is a special thing for me. Plus, I’m quite used to watching Godzilla films either alone or with my brother or often with my best friend who is also a huge Godzilla fan. But the first time I saw this film, I was in a theater in South Korea. It was late at night and I was so nervous. The film started, showing a slideshow of images about animal history and dinosaurs — then a real of newspaper clippings — then footage of Godzilla being observed in the Pacific Ocean.
I love that image so what. Godzilla in a colorful environment, just swimming around the ocean. It’s unfortunate he was about to have a nuclear bomb dropped on him moments later.
But yeah — back to the review.
The film’s biggest flaw is the fact that it simply doesn’t have enough Godzilla. This shouldn’t be a spoiler by now, but as you may or may not know, there are enemy kaiju in the film that combat Godzilla, and they unfortunately get much more screen time than Godzilla. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the scenes with them — I really did — but even as the first time I was watching the film, I just kept wanting to see more of Godzilla in every sense. I wanted to see more of him walking and crashing through buildings and swimming and just being Godzilla. We get to see all that, but in comparison to the MUTO kaiju (name of the other kaiju in the film — one male and one female) — it’s just not enough.
Yet of the kajiu take a backseat to the human drama, but that’s not necessarily a complaint. I can count on ONE HAND the amount of Godzilla films where I enjoyed the human characters enough to really engage in their story and care about what they were doing. This is now one of those films. As you probably know, Bryan Cranston plays a nuclear engineer living in Japan with his wife — who also works with him at a nuclear power plant — and their young son named Ford. Cranston is just fantastic, and while his character’s story quickly has a surprising element to it early on, his moments on-screen are memorable and emotional. Basically…there is an issue at the nuclear reactor that Cranston is highly suspicious of and has been investigating for some time, almost becoming obsessed. Something happens and the reactor has a meltdown of sorts. One thing leads to another, and Cranston is forced to watch as his wife is trapped inside a hallway filled with heavy radiation, obviously taking her life.
Years later, after his son Ford (now played by Aaron Taylor Johnson) has become an adult and become a bomb expert in the US Navy, Ford is called away from his own family back to Japan so he can bail his father out of jail for attempting to break back into the nuclear reactor. Cranston’s character has reason to believe that another similar incident will occur — and he’s right. This even leads to the introduction of the first MUTO — a male one with black and white coloring and large wings.
Eventually, the female MUTO is revealed — heaving been hatched from a location within the US, and the two of the creatures — who feed on radioactive material and are planning on reproducing — head towards each other to nest.
During this time, a group known as Team MONARCH has been secretly researching Godzilla for decades since his first appearance in 1954 (only known to the government). Dr. Serizawa, played by the talented Ken Watanabe, leads this group and strongly believes that Godzilla exists solely to restore balance to nature and the earth. Specifically, he believes Godzilla is coming to take care of these MUTOs.
From there, the plot involves the US military trying to create a proper plan to stop all three giant monsters. Serizawa tries to persuade them to put their faith in Godzilla and just let him kill the MUTOs. Ford is working with the US army to get back to his own wife and son back in San Francisco. And Godzilla just wants to kill the MUTOs.
So what did I like?
Wow. Where to start?
Godzilla — when he is on screen — rightfully steals the show. His presence is really massive and frightening, but also encouraging. Make no mistake about it — Godzilla is no anti-hero here. He’s not a villain in the least bit. He exists strictly to kill monsters that are trying to potentially hurt the earth. Does he inadvertently kill a few people? Undoubtedly, but the film doesn’t put too much guilt on the King of the Monsters. The MUTOs — in their quest to gobble up nuclear power — seem to go out of their way be the cause of destruction in developed areas. There’s a great sequence in Hawaii where the military stumbles upon the male MUTO literally eating missiles from a Russian nuclear sub it had brought onto the island. After it begins to fight the military, it strolls onto a runway of the Honolulu Airport and purposefully seems to attack the structures there. Godzilla shows up and we get to see our first kaiju fight — through the television screen in the form of news coverage.
And talking more of good points on Godzilla, I just love his design. There are a few different scenes in the film where Godzilla is just swimming in the ocean, hunting the MUTOs and Godzilla is literally being escorted by ships. There are these great overhead shots of Godzilla’s dorsal fins piercing through the water, and you can make out his silhouette underwater just swimming towards shore. He pays zero attention to the ships nearby — and he just looks so cool doing it. He looks so cool doing anything in the film.
The MUTOs are enjoyable when they are on screen too. I will admit — from a design standpoint — I would have loved to see something more risky. While the CGI and visuals for their appearance look realistic and rather disturbing, I feel like they are a little uninspired. The walk in a very similar fashion to the monster from Cloverfield, and they seem to have too many jaws just for the sake of it. They are supposed to be an ancient parasitic race — and these last two are the last of their kind. They certainly do look the part — but I just think their design could have used some alteration. Again — they look good — but their design just feels very safe to me.
I didn’t have a single problem with any of the human characters. Ford is the main human protagonist and I really applaud him for being so tolerable. It felt like his character was placed in every situation BECAUSE of Godzilla or the MUTOs. In other words, I really felt like his story was always a reaction to the kaiju — where as in some kaiju films — the humans feel like the story is being pulled in their direction far more than the monsters. Ford gets very involved with both Godzilla and the MUTOs, but he never plays the stereotypical Yippe-Ki-Yay hero shouting one liners at the monsters. His purpose is first and foremost to get home to his family, but also to do his job as a member of the US military — and his job is very involved with the situation at hand — so he’s being pulled in both directions.
Serizawa may be my favorite human character in the film, however. He is a man of few words — that is no exaggeration. He takes up a decent amount of screen time, but he is so expressive — it’s really quite fascinating how he leaves such an impression without saying much at all. Every scene he acts in, especially later on in the film after measurements are set in motion to take out all 3 monsters, really displays how compassionate and concerned he is. He reveals to one of officers for the military that his father was a victim of the Hiroshima, and he carries his father’s stopwatch (which had stopped working at the exact time the bomb had dropped) with him. He pleads with the admiral to not use a nuclear weapon as a way of drawing the monsters out — or even as a means to eliminate the monsters — just because of the potential risk for mankind and all that could go wrong.
One scene in particular (taken from the picture above) is when Godzilla first reappears to fight the MUTO in Hawaii, and Serizawa just believes there is a strong possibility Godzilla will come. He rushes to the deck of the massive ship looking out to the sea — giving no other reason for his actions than, “I have to see this.” You can tell he is a man who respects nature and especially respects (and adores) Godzilla, because of the role Godzilla has taken. He truly believes Godzilla exists to “balance” the world out in an event such as this — and having a character like himself tell other characters in the film really helps the viewer feel how important Godzilla is.
Getting back to Ford for a moment — I really have to compliment Aaron Taylor Johnson on his role. He — like Serizawa — doesn’t really steal the show with a lot of unnecessary dialogue. Ford is a young man who has a wife and child, and he has taken up a lot of responsibility considering his age. We find out early on in the film he has been away from his family for over a year while on duty for the navy. His wife (named Elle — played by Elizabeth Olsen) is a full time nurse and the two of them have a young son named Sam who, while he clearly idolizes him, has barely seen his father.
Ford is someone who went through a major tragedy when he was a boy, and has tried his hardest to recover and move beyond that. He serves in the military — and at such a high rank with such a prestigious position — being a bomb expert, and clearly having expertise in a number of areas. He adapts. He has a militaristic mind that is all about survival, because he tries to stay grounded. He doesn’t get along with his father very well because he knows opening up an old wound will only make him vulnerable, so he is also a man who is no-nonsense — a man of few words. And like Watanabe portraying Serizawa, Ford comes across as a great side-by-side protagonist to Godzilla.
In conclusion, I think Gareth Edward and Legendary’s Godzilla is fantastic. It admittedly was not what I expected or was something I originally thought I would want, but it turned out to really create an identity for itself. It has parallels to the original 1954 film in a very non-obvious way, and it pays tribute to the legend of Godzilla.
Are there mistakes? Are there things I would have liked to see more of and some less of? Of course. But the film — as a total package — is incredible, and I have more faith in now in this creative team than I ever thought I could. I have already seen it twice in just a matter of days, and I cannot wait to see it again — and eventually own it.
I love this new Godzilla. I love this new film. For me — as a lifelong fan — this really was something special.