“We call him… Godzilla.”
(This review contains spoilers.)
In the buildup to Godzilla, I was worried about three things. Three things that tend to plague most giant monster/Kaiju/robot flicks of recent memory. I was only subtlety worried about the first one – the Cloverfield ‘feel’. I was worried we’d only get short glimpses of the monster, with shaky camera footage. Didn’t happen, but that was expected. The second thing I worried about finding in the film were action scenes or fight sequences with so much going on at once (ie. Transformers) it becomes muddled, blurry, and hard to see who’s who and what’s what. You won’t have this issue with the film in the slightest. When they want you to see the monsters, you will see the monsters. And the third thing, the issue I most had with last year’s Pacific Rim, was that the human characters just wouldn’t be compelling enough to carry emotional interest. Godzilla, by Gareth Edwards, excels and overcomes each of these three issues I had with movies past – movies that helped paved the way for this film.
And yet, the biggest thing critics tend to gripe about was the fact that they didn’t show Godzilla enough, that they built up the characters so well they left little room for the monster. I disagree entirely. Godzilla films in the past have almost always been more about the struggle of the individual humans who’s lives are directly affected than the titular Kaiju himself. Staying true to the formula norm, he didn’t actually show up until halfway through the film. Which was completely fine by me. I thought the characters they built up were strong and compelling, and able to carry their share of the weight of the movie. Bryan Cranston’s character (however necessary as a background to Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s ‘Ford’) was ultimately a waste of time in the eyes of many critics. I disagree though, because it helped set the entire stage to the film.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson did an excellent job bringing the film down a scale with his tumultuous journey to get back to his family in San Francisco from Japan. He’s married to Elizabeth Olsen, which is very strange as they are set to be brother and sister in Avengers: Age of Ultron next year. I really liked the use of geography, and how they could chart the path of the Kaiju from Japan, to Hawaii, and across the Pacific into California. [And it made sense.]
The MUTOs (pronounced mootos), or massive unidentified terrestrial objects, were an excellent first villain for Godzilla. I say first, because there’s most certainly an unconfirmed sequel in the works (we just don’t officially know it yet, but we all want to believe it). They were just alien enough to be absolutely terrifying, yet animal-like enough in behavior so that we could understand their drive to feed and procreate. I don’t quite understand how their race feeds off nuclear waste. I might be an idiot, but I’m pretty sure that’s a really dumb thing to feed off of. Anyway. It made killing the MUTOs a living hell. There was really only one way to defeat them.
Yep. Godzilla saved the world. Not only does he pull out some of his best moves against the MUTOs, but he even pulled out his signature atomic breath. If the audience in the theatre clapped for anything it was the beautiful scenes of him and his blue laser beam breath blasting the Kaiju to little bits. Watching the scales on his back light up one by one was truly spectacularly done, and something most fans were eagerly waiting for. By the end of the movie he so rightly earns himself the title “King of the Monsters”.
One of the best filmic qualities Godzilla has to offer is, oddly, minimalism. Minimalism in the sense that, naturally, if everything in the city is turning to rubble, the smoke would be blinding. And throughout the carnage, it’s the brief, beautiful, silhouette-esque glimpses we catch of the monsters that take our breath away most often. That through-the-fog look set this film apart from the everywhere and anywhere look of Transformers. As this is the first film Gareth Edwards has ever directed, I have to give the guy credit. He pulled this off wonderfully.
The reason Godzilla of 1998 fell so flatly with Godzilla fans is that it just wasn’t “Godzilla”. It was a completely different monster altogether. This film forgets everything there was to forget about that much maligned Matthew Broderick-injected attempt, and takes it back to the TOHO source material. Fans will appreciate this movie to bits. There’s even a scene where they show an empty fishtank in an abandoned home with label tape on its side that reads “Mothra”. Yeah. A fan can dream. Overall this was an excellent film. This gets my stamp of approval, as both a critic and as a fan.