D&D Mixed Review: Godzilla (2014)

Godzilla (2014) is distributed by Warner Bros. and Toho Company Ltd.

Godzilla (2014) is distributed by Warner Bros. and Toho Company Ltd.

Another week, another May action film. Once again myself, Derek and Denis will be looking at a new film. This week it’s the King of Monsters himself, Godzilla.

Like last time the review will be split into four parts and will end with a rating of Watch in Theatre, Wait for Rental or Pass.

First here’s the basic premise of the film;

Godzilla picks up in 1999 with two scientists Ishrio Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) investigating a quarry accident in the Philippines. When they arrive they discover the skeleton of a giant animal and two eggs, one inactive and one hollowed out.

On the other side of Asia, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) his wife (Juilette Binoche) and their son Ford are living in Japan while Joe works on a nuclear power plant. Soon the plant is hit with several earthquakes and is destroyed killing his wife and displacing the family.

In the present time Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is in the US Militaries bomb disposal unit. While on leave he hears that his father was arrested trying to break into the quarantine zone. Ford leaves his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and their son to bail his father out. While in Japan they both discover that the plant wasn’t taken out by an earthquake but by a giant monster that rose from the Philippines.

With the military powerless to fight the now two monsters rampaging across the world, Serizawa places his faith in one of the older monsters that’s just arisen; Godzilla.

Plot:

The plot of Godzilla isn’t very complicated when you break it down. Monsters have been underground for years and now they’re on the surface looking for nuclear energy and a place to bread. The military, as you’d imagine, try to stop them and are as useful as they are in most monster films. The majority of the film isn’t spent with the giant monsters fighting, but with the military and especially with Ford and his wife. At times the monsters seem like secondary features of the film with the military using the distraction of the warring creatures to run their own operations. While the film mostly works, there are still some moments where it loses focus. We move quickly from point to another with little time to breath or reflect on the action that just took place. But at the end of the day, it’s a movie about monsters fighting each other, plot generally takes a backseat.

Come on people, it’s Godzilla. Nuclear plant goes nuclear because of spore thing that feeds on nuclear power. Human drama. 15 Years later and a bit more human drama until we get the first Kaiju. He starts breaking things which adds to the human drama and then Godzilla shows up and starts fighting them on occasion. Then Godzilla does what he’s known for which is kicking ass. Then he bombs off into the ocean until the sequel. Next! 

Performances:

While the plot has it’s flaws, the biggest issue with the film is with it’s main two characters. Taylor-Johnson and Olsen have no chemistry with each other and give the audience little to make them care about either themselves or their equally boring child. On the other side, the supporting cast is solid with Ken Watanabe standing out the most. While he isn’t in the film a great deal, his scenes work well and don’t feel like he’s constantly giving exposition. Other actor’s like David Stathairn as the Admiral and Sally Hawkins as Serizawa’s assistant are fine. The one who doesn’t get a chance to shine is Bryan Cranston who is only in the film for 20-25 minutes, despite being the face of the films advertising. 

Despite the fact that the film is Godzilla, their were many quality actors that showed up to act alongside the giant monsters. This includes the Dad from Malcolm in the Middle giving a great 20 minute performance as a dad. Then we have Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch who are a couple. We care about them. Also their serviceable if not awkwardly placed for dramatic effect. But the best performance goes to the animators, who not doubt filmed themselves performing like Godzilla so they could get the movement right. Hats off fellas, hats off. And Ken Watanabe is a perfect fit.

Production:

Godzilla was a film that relied a lot on special effects. All of the monsters were CGI, and most of the larger sweeping aerial shots used some form of enhancement. While most of these effects were solid I started missing practical effects in the later half of the film. Godzilla was a franchise that was built on men in rubber suits, and I missed in this film. Despite this, you could tell that the production team all loved the franchise and the film was made better for it. Godzilla’s attacks were here and he even kills one of the monsters in one of the most awesome ways I’ve seen in film. When the actor’s are one screen, they seem to be getting solid direction but in the end some of the performances fell flat. Additionally some of the pacing of the film felt all over the place. We needed more moments to reflect on what was happening, instead of moving from one set piece to another with monster’s destruction linking the scenes together.

Since they decided to break tradition and not film the monster fight scenes in from of a cardboard set with dudes in rubber suits, they had to spend a lot of money. This made the effects very nice. Also the look of the film and how scenes were put together was pleasing and added to the tension. Especially when a big fight is about to start and we cut back to the family house and see the fight on a small TV. Also it was nice to hear the Monolith finally got to sing again during the HALO jump scene. Ya, it looked good. Also there was a few Easter eggs like a reference to Mothra when dad and kid returned to their home in Japan. Pretty solid all around.

Overall:

I might be called a hypocrite for hating Amazing Spider-man 2 but liking Godzilla. They both aren’t perfect films but Godzilla seemed like a better package overall. The plot was simple, the action was good and it gave me the feeling I had when I watched Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II for the first time on cable. Give me giant monsters over Spider-Man any day. Is it great? No. Is it good? Yes, it’s a solid film that won’t insult its audience. We wanted to see Godzilla beat up a monster or two and damn if the film didn’t deliver. Also there was no Puffy Daddy, Matthew Broderick or Roland Emmerich to be seen or heard, so bonus there. SEE IN THE THEATRE.

While I failed to maintain a throbbing erection during the film I must say that it managed to include all the things I wanted and all the things I didn’t know I wanted. It fell in line with other Godzilla movies and I would recommend it to anyone who doesn’t have a crippling fear of giant monsters, the military, or a disheveled Brian Cranston. SEE IN THEATRE.

Godzilla was produced by Legendary Pictures and Warner Brothers. The film was distributed by Warner Brothers and Toho (Japan). Godzilla is based upon characters owned by Toho Company Ltd.

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