Remember how excited (and relieved) you were when “Batman Begins” was released in 2005 because it helped to give you closure after the atrocity that was “Batman and Robin”? Well we now have “Godzilla”, which should put to rest the pain that the 1998 film of the same name left more than a decade ago.
Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Olsen, this reboot is yet another American take on the classic Japanese monster. Gareth Edwards, who directed the 2010 indie film “Monsters”, directs his first Hollywood picture here.
The 1998 Godzilla film wasn’t just bad; it has become a pop culture punchline. Directed by Roland Emmerich, the man known for disaster films, the film itself was a disaster. It was stupid, loud and dumb, but above all else it did not do the title character justice. Luckily almost all is forgiven because the 2014 adaption had nowhere to go but up.
The 2014 Godzilla design itself is a return to form, and a very cool one at that. It looks more like a reptilian dinosaur, not whatever the heck the other thing was back in 1998. I don’t want to go into too much detail (I personally avoided trailers before seeing the film), but I think fans of the series and the creature will not be disappointed. They brought back the iconic Godzilla roar, and when he emerges from the ocean or through a cloud of smoke you can’t help but have shiver shoot down your spine.
Strangely enough, however, for a movie entitled “Godzilla”, the film focuses more on the human characters than Godzilla himself. Its a lot like how in “The Walking Dead” it isn’t about the zombies–sorry, walkers, its about the humans living in a world that happens to have walkers in it. If a monster movie is going to take that route then you have to be sure that you make the audience care about your characters and they are multi-dimensional. And does “Godzilla” do a good job with this? Well, yes and no.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, known for kicking ass in “Kick-Ass” (see what I did there? Yah, you get me), plays a soldier who is trying to get back to his family in San Francisco, but gets caught up in the military’s plan to destroy Godzilla. You care about Johnson as a person but you only see him with his family for one 10 minute scene, so it is hard to get an emotional attachment to them. It’s a lot like Brad Pitt in “World War Z”; you are told that he’s a family man and if he fails his mission it will be the end of the world, but in the end you only want him to succeed because he’s the main character.
The direction and cinematography of the film are both really solid, particularly when buildings are getting destroyed by Godzilla, and some of the shots that show one of the main characters locking eyes with the creature are very effective. The film’s biggest problem is pacing, which derives from an excess of subplots. The Army seems to have a few different plans to save the world but never feel obligated to share them with the audience, and then you have Bryan Cranston being a conspiracy nut and Taylor’s wife running around in the rain (seriously, about 80 percent of her screen time is running). If they had shrunk everything down and compacted it, I feel this would have been a much tighter and more enjoyable film.
“Godzilla” isn’t perfect, but it is better in every single aspect than the 1998 film, and is in fact everything I wanted “Pacific Rim” to be. The direction is creative, the acting is solid and the effects and designs are top notch. It may not be the king of the summer movie season, but “Godzilla” does get it off to a roaring good start.
Critics Rating: 7/10