Godzilla Directed by: Gareth Edwards Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn Running Time: 2 hrs 2 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: May 16, 2014
PLOT: Monsters invade the world. Humans try to save the day, but they may need the help of a giant lizard named Godzilla.
WHO'S IT FOR? Those who like a slow build up, big screen excitement, and can overlook some ordinary humans since there is an extraordinary reptile.
Godzilla reminds us that we like to be teased. That is something most blockbusters have forgotten. I'm not saying one is always better than the other, but there is something pretty spectacular about sitting through Godzilla and wondering, worrying, and hoping that we'll finally get the Godzilla action we paid for. Of course, this film only works because it delivers in the end.
Here's the set up — before humans, before all mammals, and before most dinosaurs (I think), there were giant creatures who ate radiation. Guess what? Humans brought back radiation with their power plants and now the beasts are coming out of hibernation. Yup, I'm happy with this world-building explanation. Now bring me the giants! No? Not yet? OK, what do we pass the time with?
Bryan Cranston stars as Joe, a man who suspects something bad is about to happen. Of course he's the only one who notices, and it leads to tragedy. Time passes, but his obsession to find the truth doesn't. This strains his relationship with his son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Cranston's big-screen power shows through in this limited role. He's able to quickly draw emotion out of us involving a scene with a race against time (and radiation). I can't say the same for Taylor-Johnson's Ford. The weakest part of the film is the vanilla hero that is Ford. He's always doing something heroic, volunteering for something heroic, accidentally in the right place at the right time, or explains he is the only one who can save the day. He's our main character that we are following, Godzilla just happens to be near. In fact, there is a great deal of wasted characters in this world. Sally Hawkins as a scientific sidekick and Elizabeth Olsen as a wife and nurse are almost completely wasted except in one regard. The way we see most of the action in this film is through the experience of these characters. In other words, if a character closes a door to get away from Godzilla and a M.U.T.O. (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) we don't get to see the destruction that follows. That's the tease, until the end, of course.
Ken Watanabe's Dr. Ichiro Serizawa believes Godzilla is like Luke Skywalker, and can bring balance to the force, or in this case, Earth. That's the joy within this film. The big misstep of Godzilla (1998) is that it was us against him. This time around, we're hoping Godzilla is on our side, even if that means a couple of people get lost in the wreckage. The action that takes place in Honolulu reminded me of a fictitious The Impossible, the action that follows is full of clichés, which I don't mind, and are breathless to watch.
The third act is signaled by an ordinary moment of soldiers jumping out of a plane. Thanks to CGI, cinematography, and a great musical score, I got goose bumps. I was nervous before this moment. Nervous the whole film would be a missed opportunity. Nervous they bungled some awesome fight sequences. Nervous we wasted the presence of David Strathairn, Watanabe, and Cranston with nothing good to show for it. After the soldiers jump, I wasn't nervous anymore. I had faith, and that faith was rewarded with Godzilla doing everything you would want him to, and looking exactly how you wanted. You could see the remnants of a man in a rubber lizard suit, and this is a compliment.
With franchises, I realize now the main hope I have when entering the theater is, "I'd like to leave here being willing to sit through a sequel." After all, one of the reasons I thought The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was incredibly average is because I know I have to sit through The Amazing Spider-Man 3. With Godzilla, I actually left the theater wanting more, and that's partly because they spend such a large portion of the film teasing what is to come.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10