Godzilla is one of the most iconic characters to ever exist in the world and his presence has certainly been influential over the last many decades. The monster spawned tons of spin-offs and monster films that drew people to the movies to watch things get blown up and destroyed. At the core of Godzilla, is a message about nuclear weapons, as the original Godzilla was created when radiation affected a lizard after the bombing in Hiroshima. While the threats of nuclear warheads and radiation still exist, gone are the days of fake suits and wire stunts. Now, we have a truly impressive beast that’s sure to establish a gigantic presence.
In 1999, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) worked at a nuclear power plant in Japan that was recording strange seismic activity. During a check at the plant one day, a large earthquake hits and the plant is completely destroyed, killing Sandra in the process. From then on, Joe spent his life raising his son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and searching for the truth about what really happened that day. Subsequently, a mining company created a disturbance in the Philippines and Monarch Co. scientist Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and his wife (Sally Hawkins) go to the site, only to discover the fossil of a large creature. They also discovered an active cocoon of some parasitic creature and the company took it to a quarantine zone to observe it for the next fifteen years.
Fifteen years later, Ford and his wife, Elle (Elizabeth Olsen), live in San Francisco with their son and Ford is just retiring from a tour overseas. When he gets a distressing call, Ford returns to Japan to seek out his father who believes he’s discovered something. The two, when checking the quarantine zone, are caught and taken to the old plant where a creature is being kept. When the creature is finished feeding on radiation, it bursts from its cocoon and flies away, creating disaster in its wake. The creature’s ability creates and electromagnetic pulse that renders any technology useless and any weapon or attempt to stop the creature fails. However, Dr. Serizawa is certain that the mystic “Godzilla”, a creature that served to restore balance in nature, can defeat this parasite before the lives of millions are lost. It’s until this “Godzilla” makes itself known, that anyone has an understanding of just how bad this situation could be.
Godzilla is going to meet and exceed a lot of people’s expectations, but it may also befuddle some people. By no means is this film bad. It’s just not. However, it may be misconstrued, as it’s a Godzilla film that resembles the original Toho Godzilla films and places them in a modern and realistic setting. The world that is created in this film is one bustling with mythology and nature and the laws of nature play a large role in it. Man can only do and control so much and that’s more than evident, as even our best weapons couldn’t kill the “King of the Monsters”.
Director Gareth Edwards landed this Godzilla gig after his suspenseful indie Sci-Fi thriller, Monsters. Edwards’ ability to build suspense and build a grand scale for his characters to exist is what keeps you invested in this film and looking forward to the next sequence. Edwards’, rather than showing you Godzilla in his full size from the get-go, teases with quick shots of Godzilla and we often only catch a glimpse of the monster that’s ravaging a city. You never get a clear idea of this creature’s monstrous size, that is until Edwards’ gives you what you want in a wide-angle shot and it makes your jaw hit the floor. All the smoke and mirror effects only heighten your anticipation of seeing the creature in action and Edwards’ certainly exceeds your standards. He also provides some of the most beautiful and picturesque shots in a film as of late and there are many awe-inspiring moments.
The world that this film takes place in is extremely reflective of some of the ideas in the original Godzilla films, dealing a lot with nuclear warheads and the radiation that is exerted from them. There are government cover-ups and our misunderstanding of nature plays a large role. Human life has come long after Dinosaurs and larger creatures roamed the Earth and to think that they would let us be is foolish. The humans in this film behave like they would during a catastrophic incident and that realistic aspect of this film creates a darker atmosphere that resonates well with the audience. Everything about this film makes a ton of sense and it’s easy to follow, despite having a complex plot. The sheer destruction that occurs in this film is unreal and the VFX are through-the-roof. The scale of this film is huge, but we see most of it through a human perspective, which only intensifies the size and capability of these skyscraper-like monsters.
The human acting in this film is really great, with Bryan Cranston bringing every ounce of awesome and emotion to his role. His character is “the crazy guy”, but his dedication to finding the truth and making people aware of what’s actually happening is touching. He sells his role completely and everyone looks better when he’s around. Ken Watanabe also excels in this film, as his understanding of Godzilla and the laws of nature create an infinite wisdom within him and that only makes you like him more. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is fine as the grunt we follow and Elizabeth Olsen is great, though she’s given the least to do. So, how about the acting on Godzilla’s part? Let’s just say that it’s almost unbelievable to watch this monster travel from sea to land and completely obliterate whatever is in its path. His size and presence are frightening and his seemingly slow movements only emphasize how far this thing can travel with one step and all the impending damage that’s coming. Godzilla and its movements are very similar to the older Godzilla’s, but this one just lays waste to the others. That roar… It’s something else…
Godzilla is a slow burn for sure. You don’t see the monster for quite some time and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, though I wish you got to see more of it when it appears. The entire film is a build-up and most of the time it succeeds, but it does get bogged down in some melodrama and in some scenes dealing with military operations. Some more focus on the monsters would have been really helpful and some exploration on their origins would have been nice too, though we get a sufficient amount already. Aaron Taylor-Johnson has to be the most unlucky/lucky person in the world, as his character is always at the epicenter of a new disaster. It’s somewhat annoying, but the monsters and suspense put that aspect of the film at the back of your mind. You can’t have a film that’s just monsters fighting for two-hours, but some more fighting was needed to take this film to the next level.
Though it’s not the official big blockbuster that’s kicking off Summer, Godzilla certainly feels like it and it’s set a bar for the rest of the films that are to come. This film greatly benefits from its story and its building of suspense. It seems impossible to believe that you’ll see a more magnificent creature this year and Godzilla’s roar and power are going to linger with you long after the film ends. Everything you would want from a Godzilla movie is present, but it may take some time to appreciate it all. The music, the effects, the images, and the atmosphere are all phenomenal in this film and I’m certain that it is going to make waves. We need more films like Godzilla, because it’s important to hold your cards and not throw everything out on the table at the beginning of a film. Also, having Godzilla wreak havoc in any film would be excellent.