REVIEW: ‘Godzilla’

Gareth Edwards
Cast: PG-13
Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Ken Watanabe
Bryan Cranston
David Strathairn
Rated: PG-13

Yes this movie needed more Godzilla. Scenes with fins sticking out of the water don’t count.

The second American take on “Godzilla” starts with the character Joe Brody (Cranston), a worker at a nuclear power plant in Japan. On what seems like just another average day, the power plant is devastated by an unknown force, and in the destruction Brody’s wife, who also works at the factory, is killed. This sets off Brody into a truth finding search for answers which ends up leading to a strained relationship with his son Ford (Taylor-Johnson).

Fast forward 15 years into the future and Brody’s quest for the truth leads him, along with Ford, to uncover a powerful creature which pose a massive threat to humanity. Things get more interesting as the military gets involved to stop the creature that has awoken and meanwhile, the King of the Monsters starts to make his presence known.

The movie is called “Godzilla,” so I will start with my thoughts on the kaiju’s screen time and how he is utilized in the plot. To put it simply, I wasn’t the biggest fan of it. First and foremost, there were multiple times, at least three, where it seems like there will be an epic scene with Godzilla, and the movie just cuts away. From what I understand, Director Gareth Edwards was inspired by “Jaws,” so he wanted to tease the monster. The problem is that unlike “Jaws,” Godzilla isn’t the main monster in the focal point.

Instead, the focus was all on the enemy monsters, Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism, or MUTOs. The MUTOs are what kicks things off, the MUTOs are the monsters that are the threat, the MUTOs is what everyone, including Godzilla is reacting, too. That’s where a problem is, the fact that instead of setting everything off in the plot, Godzilla seems to just respond to what’s going on. It’s not a fatal flaw, but it takes attention away from the big guy, which I wasn’t a fan of.

Another issue with not having as much Godzilla is that the human element that fills the rest of the run time isn’t strong enough to make the movie really enjoyable. The characters are all fairly simple and go through the sort of in the wrong place at the wrong time disaster movie path. It starts off somewhat strong, however, after the death of one of the characters, things begin to fall apart.

Moving on to the performances, like the characters, none of them have that “wow” factor. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who I really enjoyed in Kick-Ass, came off as rather bland here. He didn’t exactly have the best dialogue written to begin with, but he does nothing to try and elevate it and bring it to a higher level. The role could have used more charisma to give a little more life.

Veteran actors Ken Watanabe and David Strathairn deliver with what they have to work with, but once again, the material just isn’t too strong and doesn’t provide a lot of depth. None of the acting from the cast is actually bad, though, it’s just unmemorable. Another example is Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Ford’s wife. Olsen is a great actress but she just doesn’t have much to do and there isn’t anything very exciting about her character.

The one shining spot in terms of acting in the film is Bryan Cranston who delivers the most emotion and energy by far. His delivery shows the plight and pain that his character is going through. He was by far the best part of the movie in terms of acting.

Besides the acting, save Cranston’s performance, another flaw to the film is that everything is taken so seriously. It’s understandable that the situation the characters are in is dire, and time is running out. But there really needed to be a couple points to lighten the mood and add just a small bit of humor. One can simply watch “The Avengers” and see that even when there’s tons of destruction going on, adding a bit of humor can go a long way.

I’m not asking for a stand-up comedy show, but there should have been a moment or two where a movie about giant monsters could lighten up just a bit. For example, there’s a part where Ken Watanabe’s character says “we call him… ‘Godzilla.'” That could have been a good point for a bit of humor.

The movie does get the look of Godzilla right, though, mainly through the use of fantastic special effects. The usage of CGI really brings the giant monsters to life by making everything very detailed and clear. The monster battles are intense and the movie captures Godzilla’s abilities very well. The monster’s atomic breath, for example is on full display.

The only issue with the special effects that went into the great battle is that at times it was difficult to see. Many times it’s dark and there’s a lot of debris and smoke. On top of that, there are times when the camera is made to look like it’s filming the battle through a window. I take it that it was to show what it would be like to be in the city at that time, but it was a little blurry when those shots would happen and it would have been better to have seen all of the action.

Despite having what looks like a list of flaws, “Godzilla” is still a pretty good summer blockbuster. The performances are OK, none of them are really poor, they just could have used some better writing and more energy. The story does make sense, isn’t filled with plot holes, and despite having some slow moments because of the lackluster human element, moves along fast enough.

The spectacle alone is worth a ticket, the special effects are great and some of the battle moments are really good. There are problems with “Godzilla,” and it does drag down the rating. I was hoping for something more, but this still is an alright summer pic that earns a solid 3 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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