I hate to say this, but I’ve never seen a Godzilla movie. I was really young when the 1999 reboot came out, and the little interest I’ve shown in the film has been shut down almost immediately. Despite my love for a good monster movie, I’ve never before seen a movie starring the King of Monsters; until now, of course.
While I may not have anything to compare it to outside of more recent monster movies like Cloverfield and Pacific Rim, which I both enjoyed, I can truthfully say that the 2014 reboot Godzilla is a very, very good movie. It may suffer from a weak plot and an underdeveloped cast of characters, but it understands and respects its title character so much that even with the movie’s missteps it still ends up being an absolute blast to watch.
Godzilla, directed by Gareth Edwards, is a tense and destructive action movie that had me legitimately terrified and on the edge of my seat for most of the film’s two-hour running time. The monsters aren’t glamorized, and for a good portion of the movie we’re only treated to tantalizing glimpses of what end up being truly remarkable creatures.
This might be one of the film’s best qualities, as it really does take its time in building up to the fateful introduction of the movie’s iconic monsters. While the first thirty minutes or so consist primarily of exposition and build-up, it pays off in a big way and when you finally get to see these monsters destroy everything in their path, the result is a thrilling adrenaline rush that doesn’t really let up until after the credits roll.
The plot is simple, but effective, and starts off in the late 1990′s, where we’re introduced to scientist Joe Brody and his wife Sandra and son Ford, who all currently living in Japan. Joe is a dedicated nuclear physicist, who, after picking up some strange seismic readings, tries to dig deeper into their causes but ends up getting involved in something far bigger than he could’ve possibly imagined.
After a radioactive breach at the nuclear plant ends the life of his wife, Joe dedicates himself to finding out exactly what caused the sudden and deadly breach that tore his family apart. Fast forward fifteen years, and that’s still what Joe’s doing, even going so far as almost ostracizing his son, who’s now a father and husband himself, in the name of his mission.
Joe and Ford are the two characters the audience is expected to connect with, but unfortunately, that never quite happens the way it should’ve. Bryan Cranston gives a phenomenal performances as Joe, and he nails every single line he’s given, but he’s far from the star of the movie the trailers made us think he was. Instead, it’s his son Ford that takes up the spotlight for the entirety of the movie.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a fully capable actor here, but his role is so limited that it’s hard to ever really connect with him on anything other than a superficial level. He’s a typical soldier-type who wants to get home to his family, and while the cliched motivation does the job, it also feels like a missed opportunity, as there are some really great seeds that are planted in the first half-hour that are never really given the chance to grow.
The same can be said for the entire cast, which is a shame, because there’s a great bunch of actors here. Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Ford’s wife, is a really talented actress, but she’s unfortunately stuck with the ‘concerned wife’ role and is given little else to do outside of that. Even Ken Watanabe’s character feels like a missed opportunity, as he exists primarily to spout off exposition.
However, this is a monster movie above all else, and even though the plot and characters were one-dimensional, the monsters themselves were so well done that the movie still ended up being a success for me. Director Gareth Edwards shows a keen respect and understanding for Godzilla, and every aspect of his directing imbued the film with an energizing tone that easily held my interest all the way through.
Edwards’ directing seriously blew me away, and he demonstrated consistently brilliant control over each and every scene of the film. Whether it’s a simple character shot, an extended look at a city in shambles, or even a thrilling paratrooper scene that left me breathless, Edwards never fails to give you something exciting to look at and the visuals alone are more than worth the price of admission.
Even though I lacked a connection with the characters, Godzilla never once lost my interest, as the ever building suspense and tension made sure that I remained on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. The special effects were spectacular, and there wasn’t a single shot that looked out of place. The creature designs were flawless, and there’s a real weight behind every movement they make that never failed to send a shiver up my spine.
Godzilla himself has never looked better, and thanks to Edwards careful camera direction, I never felt like the iconic king of monsters was being milked or overused. Every time he makes an appearance the movie is at its best, and the sheer power he exhibits with every step he takes is simply breathtaking.
You can say whatever you want about Godzilla’s human characters, but the very fact that the audience feels actual sympathy for Godzilla is a testament to just how successful the movie is as a return to form for the infamous monster. I really can’t applaud Edwards enough for what he pulled off here, and his impeccable directing, which seems to be inspired by the likes of Steven Spielberg, more than made up for the shortcomings of the script.
Godzilla is not a perfect movie, and it has more than enough issues with its plot and characters that could warrant a lower score, but yet, I still loved almost every minute of it. It was exciting, intense, and absolutely thrilling all the way through; which is exactly what a summer blockbuster should be, and I look forward to seeing where Godzilla might go from here.