Movie Name: Godzilla
Studio: Legendary Pictures
Release Date(s): May 16, 2014
MPAA Rating: PG-13
In 1999 something awakens under an island in the Philippines and promptly causes a nuclear meltdown on Japan through a series of electromagnetic pulses. Now, fifteen years later, the plant manager Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is trying to determine what caused the meltdown which killed his wife (Juliette Binoche). When Joe is caught trespassing, his son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is called to bail him out. Joe and Ford are about to discover what really occurred fifteen years ago as a new monster is released which is threatening the world’s population. Fortunately, a creature discovered in the ’50s called Godzilla has also resurfaced…and it could be the world’s only hope!
Directed by Gareth Edwards, Godzilla relaunches the popular franchise in a big screen event sixty years after the original Gojira. The last Godzilla film, Godzilla: Final Wars was released in 2004 as part of what is known as the Millennium series, but this new film doesn’t have any connection to any of the previously released films. The movie was met with mixed reviews but positive numbers.
I grew up on Godzilla and it seemed like Godzilla movies were always on the weekends. I was really pumped for the 1998 big screen version of Godzilla…and was extremely burned. I was excited but hesitant toward the new relaunch after 1998…the movie was better than the other movie but still falls into some of the classic Godzilla pitfalls.
A Godzilla movie is a Godzilla movie. I like them but they are pretty formulaic if you watched a lot of them. Generally a big monster (or kaiju as they are typically called) hatches and Godzilla fights them in the last twenty or thirty minutes of the film while the humans have their own ongoing plot throughout the movie. The new Godzilla follows this format which is a blessing or a curse for the movie.
The movie gives a legitimate reason for the Godzilla fight. The kaijus (who never get a proper named…they are generally referred to as MUTO aka Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) eat radiation and Godzilla is nature’s answer to a balance to destroy the kaijus. The problem is that it isn’t enough of a story and you have to add humans to the mix…and the human story just isn’t developed enough.
The actors are a bit wasted in this movie. Aaron Taylor-Johnson just doesn’t have much of an impact as the lead Ford who keeps finding himself in problems. Both Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche could almost be considered cameos which is too bad because they are great actors. Elizabeth Olsen just finds herself cowering and or crying much of the movie and Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins really add nothing to the story except some Godzilla backstory. David Strathaim also is a much better actor than just the stereotypical general. There were plans for the original Godzilla actor Akira Takarada but his role didn’t make the final cut and it also seemed like a little nod to classic Godzilla movies by having the typical kid in red shirt and a blue baseball cap which always seemed to be in the movies (here saved by Taylor-Johnson).
There was a lot of criticism of the “fat” Godzilla who is much more pear shaped than his predecessors (aka the fat American Godzilla). Regardless, the film looks much better than the previous films. The rival kaijus look a lot like the Cloverfield creature to me, but it is a good throwdown battle at the end.
Godzilla does remind me of being a kid, but as a kid, I probably would have been bored by this film. It is too human heavy for most kids and at two hours, the movie is pretty long. For adults, it might be some nostalgia but it is pretty light plot-wise and predictable (and also feels long as an adult). This film became the first entry in the MonsterVerse of Legendary Films and was followed by Kong: Skull Island in 2017 with plans for Godzilla: King of the Monsters to be released in 2019.