Godzilla (2014) Exclusive Review

godzilla3Spoiler Review:  This movie surprised me in a number of ways and although I was satisfied by what I saw, I think a couple of things could have used some improvement. When I saw this movie, there were cheers for the first appearance of Godzilla, and when he finished off Muto, so I think it did appeal to a lot of people. The CGI was good, and the movie wasn’t gross like I thought it would be. I thought director Gareth Edwards might summon the flavor of Peter Jackson and give us some spider creatures attacking humans or some other gross stuff, a la King Kong (2005), but there wasn’t anything like that.

This movie doesn’t give you Godzilla all the time the entire movie, and I think that is a good choice. Most of the movie is portrayed from the human perspective like on Cloverfield (2009), but done better.  We’re shown how the news media might capture a monster attack.  That’s a good choice.  It gives some flavor to the movie that makes it different, like a disaster flick.  We see Las Vegas trampled on a television screen while monsters fight, but no monster steps on the Luxor, so that’s good.  Don’t wreck the pyramid, pal.

Unfortunately, this is not a Bryan Cranston movie, which is probably a big mistake. He steals the first act of the movie and overshadows all of the other actors before he’s shuffled offscreen. I don’t think his dialogue was any better, it was just the delivery that worked for me. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is poor by comparison in his performance as Cranston’s son, Ford.  Cranston just sets the bar high and nobody else comes close. Nobody.

Elizabeth Olsen is wasted in this movie and has nothing to do. She is running around half the time looking after her son and delivering the same shocked or emotional reaction each time. The performance is not bad or anything, but it’s just nothing original.

I was impressed by David Strathairn as the General. He does a good job looking authoritative. That’s all he has to do though. Only so much running time, I guess.

Ken Watanabe does a good job as the lead scientist. He seems in shock for half the movie though, gaping at what Godzilla and the other monsters are doing. If only he had someone to play his dialogue off of, because he doesn’t seem to have anybody complementary to work with through most of the movie. Nobody really questions what he says, except for the big wig military types, who push him aside for their plan.  Beyond that, there is very little conflict in the movie beyond the father-son story at the beginning, but I’m glad it had some true character drama, at least.  Not one person gives a hammy performance, which is great.

muto1The action is the highlight of this film and works both as a monster movie and disaster film. I thought the monster designs were great and worked very well in the realistic tone of the movie. They cut away from the monsters a couple times, and I was disappointed they teased the match-up and held back until the very end. When they got there, Godzilla was in trouble and needed some convenient help from Ford, so the big guy will need to do some pull-ups if he’s going to take on Mothra or Rodan any time soon.

The HALO drop that was all over the trailers was nothing to write home about. It was a minor incident compared to other scenes. However, it did look good. Most of the visuals in the movie I enjoyed very much, but I would say that those great trailers tricked me into thinking this was a Bryan Crantson movie and that the Halo jump actually meant something in this film, so I’m really irritated at the media in that way.   That doesn’t hurt the movie, just my perception and my expectations.

This movie has no hammy jokes whatsoever, which was a good thing for my sanity. Godzilla is a very hard character to pull off for American audiences, I think, and Gareth Edwards does his best to present him in a grand scale, which is the best way to do it.  Gareth Edwards needs to give Peter Jackson lessons in editing and pace, because the length of Godzilla (2014) was just right, I think.  It didn’t feel lagging in any one spot that I can think of.

I am glad Gareth Edwards lived up to Toho’s vision of Godzilla as a hero. We root for Godzilla as an audience, which I really liked. That was the best thing about the tone of the movie. He is not a rampaging monster, although I was half-expecting some city stomping after Godzilla dispatches Muto, but no such luck.

godzilla1All in all, this movie delivers a fun time.  We root for Godzilla and clap for him as he finishes off some monsters.  The visuals are great, but there just needed to be more Bryan Cranston in this movie.  I can’t get over it.  They should have just kept him in the movie or killed him at the end or something, cause they tricked me with the trailers.  Overall, I think the movie is successful on a realistic level and Gareth Edwards finally makes Godzilla work for American audiences, which is a treat.  Now all we need is more.

 

 

 

New York Times:  He  [Godzilla] seems grumpy and underslept, as well as thicker around the jowls and midriff. And though he arrives dragging the usual heavy allegorical baggage, you can detect a trace of wistful worry in his rampages, as if he had begun to doubt his own relevance.

Boston Globe:  This latest bid to Hollywoodize a uniquely Japanese icon is an uneven spectacle that can’t sustain its solid first-half character moments. But the movie can also flash a surprising, often clever sense of legacy, and is intermittently capable of thrilling us.

Reelviews:  3/4 – To the extent that summer movies are all about mayhem and destruction, Godzilla delivers everything expected of it, and perhaps a little more. At the very least, it argues that Hollywood can deliver a Godzilla movie without completely screwing up.

ArrowinTheHead: 7/10 – What the big guy needs is a stage where he can really shine, and while I know a movie featuring Godzilla as the main character would be impossibly expensive, there’s no way a repeat of the yawns GODZILLA induces early on will be acceptable. Godzilla is why we’re here; let us have him.

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