The Spring of Sci-Fi Review #7
We continue our look at The King of the Monsters with the 2014 American-made Godzilla, directed by Gareth Edwards. This was an enjoyable movie, but it doesn’t live up to the same quality that we see in the 1954 original. The original balanced the characters and Kaiju entertainment well, using Godzilla to tell an allegorical story about the destruction of nuclear war. This movie seems to try and follow the lead, balancing themes of human destruction with stunning spectacle, but unfortunately doesn’t live up to that promise.
The movie begins with clips showing Godzilla being sent back into the sea and the nuclear bombs that woke them. When then see two scientists, Ishiro Serizawa (played by Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (played by Sally Hawkins), who work for Monarch, which consists of scientists investigating Kaiju. The movie then moves to Japan following the character Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) an engineer who works with his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) at a nuclear power plant in Janjira. Unfortunately, Sandra is killed after a tremor causes the plant to collapse. The area is quarantined and everyone is forced to leave. We cut to 15 years later and Joe’s son Ford (Aaron Taylor Johnson) is a Navy officer returning home to his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen). Ford receives a call that his father has been arrested due to entering the quarantine zone and has to fly to Japan to get him out. After an incident at the former nuclear plant–SPOILERS AHEAD–Joe Brody is killed, and a Kaiju known as MUTO is released. From here we follow Ford as he tries to make his way back home to his wife in San Francisco.
An immediate problem with this movie is the number of characters that it tries to juggle. Like Gareth Edward’s other blockbuster, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, this balancing is unfortunately not handled very well and it leaves the characters one-dimensional and incredibly uninteresting. We spend most of our time with Ford as he bounces around the globe, but other than a few heroic acts–such as saving a child on a train so he can make it back to his parents–we don’t get to know Ford. If the movie spent less time on the characters and more time on the Kaiju action this would be less of a problem, but the movie wants the audience to see through the eyes of these bland and dull characters which make the movie’s two-hour runtime a slog sometimes. However, Gareth Edwards does pull it off in the third act creating an awesome fight between the MUTO’s and Godzilla that culminates in an amazing display of power from Godzilla. The creatures and their design are great, with CGI that is jaw-droppingly amazing.
Gareth Edward’s Godzilla is a flawed but epic monster movie. Edwards consistently creates interesting action sequences but is unable to create compelling characters that add drama to those scenes. If you are looking for some giant Kaiju fun check this movie out, but if you are looking for a more human drama mixed in with the Kaiju elements maybe just stick to watching the original. I know I had fun with this movie, but it was a chore in some parts.