Godzilla (2014): Movie Review

Godzilla_(2014)_posterAfter the 1998 Hollywood disaster that emasculated Godzilla by presenting him as an asexual being who laid his eggs at the Madison Square Garden, executives at Tinseltown sought to redeem themselves by producing yet another movie about the world’s most loved King of Monsters. It was obvious from massive promos and marketing that they were trying to rebuild the franchise and in formulating a blockbuster, it worked. In its opening weekend alone, it has already earned more than its $160 million budget and the numbers continue to grow.

In 1999, a team from the Monarch organization headed by Japanese scientist Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) unearthed the fossil of a giant creature in the Philippines yet undiscovered by science. Here, they found two egg-shaped pods with one of the pods missing its contents and seemingly hatched on its own. At around the same time, a mysterious unexplained event causes the destruction of a nuclear power plant in Janjira, Japan, which resulted in the death of hundreds in the island including the wife of expat engineer Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), leaving him to raise their son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) alone. Fifteen years later, Ford is in the military and has a family of his own but Joe is still obsessing about the events at the plant that day, especially since detecting the emergence of an identical pattern in the seismic activity from the fateful day. Returning to the island to discover the cause of the anomaly, they come across a monstrous discovery that proves Joe’s theories were not farfetched after all.

The trouble with most movies these days is that the trailer contains most of the good parts, leaving no surprises when audiences see the films in its entirety. Such was not the case with Godzilla. The multiple trailers were so well made that it managed to hold the curiosity of audiences — heck, it only showed parts of Godzilla at a time — so when audiences finally see the entire movie, the sense of wonder remained intact. There were also fake outs used in the poster where audiences were misled into thinking that something different was happening where in fact, it was not far from what would happen in the film.

As a result, for those expecting a monster movie for example, they would be surprised to learn that not only is Gozilla 2014 a monster movie, but its actually a monster vs monsters movie, (I will not reveal the nature of the battle to keep the suspense) but for sure, the dreams for Godzilla fanboys across generations will be satiated. And while 1998 chicken-leg Godzilla was the main villain in his movie, 2014 Godzilla is depicted more as a force of nature in this movie, restoring the balance when things get out of hand. I just bet that sparked your curiosity a notch.

The story was plausible enough and made great sense especially since they were trying to connect Godzilla and other monsters to the Hiroshima bombing and such historical events. I was a bit disappointed though that Bryan Cranston was not in more of the movie as I was expecting because the parts where he was on the spotlight were definitely the strongest, scenes with the monsters included. He just has that built in intensity in his performances that make for a compelling watch.  Ken Watanabe was also sadly underutilized in this film and for the most part, he was more or less in a state of shock and bewilderment, which was odd since he was the person who had the most information about the phenomenon in the first place. He has turned up excellent portrayals in the past and it was just a downer seeing this potential go down the drain because of the limitations of his character. His fanboy faith in Godzilla was awesome though and well deserved, since the actual monster was, for lack of a better adjective–  awesome. The character design was more consistent with the original design in the 50s but it was improved a hundred-fold with the detailing and musculature that was needed to bring to life the god of monsters.

The action scenes were pretty good– the back and forth between G and the MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) was tinged with some MMA/WWE/Pacific Rim inspiration so kudos to the fight choreographers/consultants and the CGI specialists who made it happen.

Personally though, I would have wanted more of the monster vs monster action than following around Ford, who was by far, the luckiest individual in the movie. Actually, it was getting kind of ridiculous how this guy was catching the breaks he was getting considering that everywhere he went, disaster struck — from Japan, to Honolulu to San Francisco. Like I said, ridiculous, and at some points, unrealistic. While Johnson did a decent job playing Ford, I wasn’t entirely convinced about his grittiness, mostly because he looked too fresh to be a battle weary and resourceful soldier/family guy. They should have gotten a more unconventional pretty boy for such a major part.

All in all, Godzilla 2014 was an excellent monster movie (albeit long at 2 hours) because it presented a great story and presented the entire film in a visually arresting, stylish and cool fashion that leaves no doubt that the king of monsters can kick any other monsters’ butt. It also had enough respect for the original material to incorporate elements of the origins and the nature of the original Godzilla to this updated version. Great job to director Gareth Edwards who directed and wrote Monsters in 2010, for being able to revive the franchise. Highly recommended to see with buddies with a tub of popcorn.