Friday, 16 May 2014
The King of Monsters is Back - Godzilla Movie Review
It has almost been 60 years since the original Godzilla debuted in theaters in Japan, and it's been close to 10 years, as of this coming December, since the previous Godzilla film, Godzilla: Final Wars was released in Japan. Now, Godzilla has returned to cinemas all over the world in this epic reboot of the famed giant monster movie franchise.
How does it fare? Well let us take a look. I will try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but expect a couple to slip through the cracks. I will not write a synopsis for this review. I feel that I may accidentally spoil something if I do, so I'll just be writing about my thoughts on the movie overall as well as the characters and monsters themselves. Let us begin.
I watched Godzilla twice in a row last night. Both times I remained totally excited, mainly due to the fact that this is the first time I have watched a Godzilla movie in theaters. It was an incredible joy, and I'd certainly go back for a third and fourth viewing! With that said, it is obvious that I loved the film. It definitely brought the Godzilla we all know and love back to audiences. It had everything that we've come to expect: mass destruction, the distinctive blue atomic breath, epic monster battles, and more. The story was slow at the start, but it was to effectively develop the characters. We've seen this kind of development before in Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005), but what is different here is that the characters and their development are completely relevant to the story. Not once does it stray off course and act as if its a completely different film. Bryan Cranston's character, Joe Brody, is hunting for the truth behind the "accident" at Janjira 15 years ago that killed his wife. Ford reluctantly leaves his family to bring him back to the US. But it is soon discovered that despite his "craziness," Joe was right. The motivation that drives Joe and Ford in the movie is relevant to the situations that eventually unfold, which kept me interested throughout (unlike in King Kong).
The character that I found the most tragic, and felt the most for, was definitely Joe Brody. Bryan Cranston did a marvelous job bringing this character to life and quickly establishing his role in the film. He is a conspiracy theorist, but unlike most, his suspicions are correct. In the present day portion of the story, Joe is balancing between sanity and insanity in regards to his pursuit of the truth. His character is the first to draw audiences in on the fact that there is something not right about the incident at Janjira in 1999, and we follow him up to the point where we discover what caused that very incident. It's a shame that we did not see more of Joe in the movie.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson's Ford Brody is a more level-headed character. His calmness and reluctancy plays well in contrast with Joe's sense of urgency and obsession with the Janjira incident. Some have said that Johnson's acting was "wooden." I can see what they are saying at some points in the film, but one has to remember that Ford is a military man and despite the traumas or emotional crises that he faces, he has to put on a brave face despite the fact and do his duty. For that, Johnson achieves. It's believable. You do see that he has had losses that he's trying to bottle up, and a sense of urgency to return home to protect his family from the impending destruction that is heading their way. But being in the Navy, one has to remain professional in the toughest of times.
Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Elle Brody, Ford's wife, is a character that I wish had more of a part in the movie. She is a nurse and a mother, however we see her more as the latter throughout the movie. This is where I have one of my more minor complaints. Elle is supposed to be this strong character that chose to stay behind in San Francisco to help the injured who are unable to escape. That is fine and dandy, but I wish that the movie showed more of that. What we see of her during the climax of the movie is her running from Godzilla and the MUTO and then hiding out in an underground shelter until the very end. Elle seems to be more of a plot device that drives our main character, Ford, to return to San Francisco. All in all, I just wish that Elle was featured more as an active nurse amidst the chaotic Kaiju battles and doing her duty. It would've made her a more powerful character than what we saw in the movie.
Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) was a pretty decent character. He is a somber man who has a strong dedication to his research. He does not wish to see Godzilla destroyed nor the MUTO at first. One can easily see that Serizawa is a pacifist due to past events and protests the military's plan for destroying the monsters. Besides Joe Brody, I found Dr. Serizawa to be a favorite character of mine. He is not as dynamic as Joe, but it is his dedication to the pursuit of knowledge that I find really neat about this character.
Sally Hawkins plays Dr. Grant, Dr. Serizawa's colleague. Her role in the film is mainly to back up Serizawa. It is shown that they've worked together for many years, and they definitely have a kinship with one another. However, Dr. Grant passes off as a secondary character and we know very little of her history.
Admiral Stenz, played by David Strathairn, is the stern man in charge of the military's fight between Godzilla and the MUTOs. He and Dr. Serizawa do not see eye-to-eye most of the time, but both seem to share a deep respect for one another. Admiral Stenz is a man who will do anything that is to be done to ensure the safety of their nation, even if it means sacrificing lives to achieve victory, a philosophy that Dr. Serizawa protests against.
As for the monsters, Godzilla gets his moments here and there, but he really shines in the film's climax. While we don't see much of Godzilla in the first act, he is established in the opening credits, and again during Ford's debriefing after joining Dr. Serizawa after the MUTO escapes Janjira. We don't really see Godzilla in his fullest until an hour into the movie during his now-famous Honolulu Airport scene where he confronts the much smaller MUTO. What is funny is that we don't actually see the airport battle scene in the way that you'd expect. After he bellows out that traditional Godzilla roar, we cut to the Brody household where Same watches the battle on the news as it unfolds with his mother urging him to go to bed. I don't know about most people, but Gareth Edward's use of, what he calls, "cinematic foreplay" in this scene was sheer genius and made me chuckle. A couple more times throughout the movie does he do this, and it's before we really see Godzilla and the winged MUTO really duke it out. However the intervals between them get shorter and quickly lead up to the epic final battle between Godzilla and the winged MUTO (the male) and the much larger 8-legged MUTO (the female). For those who have not yet seen the movie, and are wondering... Yes, Godzilla does have his blue atomic breath, and it is magnificent. When you see Godzilla's dorsal plates glow amidst the dust and debris up to the moment he unleashes its power, you just want to explode out of your seat and cheer the big guy on. It is that awesome, and he uses it a few times in the movie. There will be one moment in the film when he uses his atomic breath (don't worry, you'll know when you see it) when you have to just applaud... I know I, and the rest of the audience, did! Even though Godzilla is mean't to portray a force of nature, he does have character, and you really see that in his facial expressions and some of his fighting style during the climax.
Now onto the MUTOs. I was surprised how great these monsters turned out. They are not the token enemy kaiju that Godzilla has to come in and destroy. They're as dynamic as the human characters themselves. Without spoiling too much, there will be a moment in the film when you can't help but feel a tad sorry for them. They're not necessarily evil creatures. They're just animals relying on instinct, but it's their special abilities (and more) that pose a threat to humanity, and must be eradicated. They're the aspect of nature that mankind is trying to control, but to no avail. Godzilla, being their natural predator, is the only way to stop the MUTOs since conventional weaponry proves useless on them (and Godzilla). I like how they made the MUTOs diverse. The male stands around 30 meters tall and is capable of flight. The female stands around 100 meters and is terrestrial-based. The male is able to utilize EMP bursts as a weapon against human machinery, while the female has a constant EMP bubble around her, rendering all electronics in her vicinity useless. The MUTOs are surprisingly good adversaries for Godzilla and really put up a good fight to the point that one would think they'd win. The female MUTO was exceptionally terrifying in aspects of the film. Personally, they're a welcoming member of the Godzilla roster.
In conclusion, Godzilla is an amazing film that really succeeds in giving audiences a quality movie as well as returning Godzilla to his roots. It is great in all those regards, and despite my minor complaints - it does not alter my overall view of the movie. It has a certain feel to it that makes you think of Spielberg's classic films like Jaws or Jurassic Park. Even though I've already seen this movie twice in one night, I will not object seeing it again for a third or even fourth time! By the end of the movie, you will have laughed and cried, but you'll be leaving with a Godzilla-sized smile on your face. I urge people to see this movie. It is unlike any summer blockbuster movie from previous years. One would think it is an indie film, but it's not. Gareth Edwards has succeeded in bringing Godzilla back. Let us hope that this is not the end too.