***This review contains spoilers. Lots***
As always, when a Godzilla reboot comes around (especially U.S versions) the world goes nuts. The internet is littered with infographics that compare the beast over the years, reviews, previews and basically any form of content you can imagine. Whether you’re a fan of Goddy (My nickname for Godzilla) or not, you have to admit that the impact this beast has had on popular culture is absolutely colossal.
What they nailed
The CGi in this film was completely unbelievable. Apparently there were 800 digital artists who worked on every detail of the design of the beast for the 2014 reboot. The cinematography in the film was also amazing, oscillating at a perfect tempo between shaky-cam and in-vehicle shots; to more concrete well-framed shots of the beasts and the surrounding doom. The incandescent nature of the lighting (post-monster arrival) added a very unique feel to the film as well, something that was definitely missing from previous versions.
The Build-up to the movie
The build-up to the movie was also well-constructed. I did a post about how they used the element of unauthorised access to government/ military data on the beast to get people interested in the film. This coupled with Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe’s faces all over promotional content, made the prospect of this reboot very intriguing in the months building up to release date.
The love story without a love story
I actually like that they didn’t get too soppy with the romance stuff in this film. So little screen time was dedicated to both Joe and Sandra Brody’s tragic story; and Ford and Elle’s story of being torn apart and reunited. There were always bigger things at stake, but these factors made all the characters raw and human- it gave them all motives that were both linked to and separate from the fact that giant monsters were destroying their lives.
Great acting in a sci-fi movie
One thing about science fiction movies is that we almost expect mediocre acting- after all they make up for this in terms of mind-f***kery, visual effects and story. Sigourney Weaver broke this mentality in her 1986 performance in Aliens, for which she was nominated for an Oscar. Although I didn’t see any Oscar-worthy performances here, I think that Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a highly underrated actor who is finally getting his day in the limelight (beyond Kickass) with his involvement in Godzilla as well as the upcoming Avengers film. The kid can act, ‘nuf said. Also, do I even have to discuss Bryan Cranston’s acting ability any further, or can we just all agree that this guy can take on any role and find awards buried within?
What they didn’t nail, again.
Good vs. Evil vs. Godzilla
I was a big fan of the 1998 version of Godzilla. The CGi was decent for a pre-millennium movie, the acting- though not great- was what can be expected from a sci-fi film, and the suspense that pulsated from each step that Godzilla took provided the constant threat to human life that you expect from such an apocalyptic film. What this film did wrong was portraying Godzilla as a bad guy, but then again this is very similar to the original film of 1954 where the beast goes on a rampage through Tokyo.
The 2014 rendition of Godzilla tries very hard to humanise the beast- and maybe even gets it right. In actual fact, even though Ford Brody appeared to be the protagonist, his monster counterpart was definitely Goddy. I’m not too sure how I feel about Godzilla being an actual full on good guy (It felt that way even though that’s not what the director says he was going for). The story of this beast since appearing in film form has differed from reboot to reboot, but the consistency of the havoc Godzilla causes has always been there. I felt like the 2014 version tried to humanise the beast more than humanising the story. We needed more of an anti-hero in Godzilla than a saviour.
Here’s the thing that both recent U.S versions missed, perhaps the 1998 version more than 2014: Shogo Tomiyama (producer of a number of Godzilla films) referred to Godzilla as a Shinto, ‘God of Destruction‘ which lacks moral agency and cannot be held to human standards of good and evil.
All 3 of the biggest versions of the story on film (1954, 1998 and 2014) have various elements of the original legend of Godzilla, so you decide which one hits the mark best.
Kill your darlings (but not literally)
Let me just say that I was gravely disappointed that Bryan Cranston’s character died so early on in the movie. He literally dominated the entire intro, just to be a casualty of the first emergence of the M.U.T.O Kaiju. WTF?
I’m a big Cranston fan and was excited to see what he would do on the big screen post Breaking Bad. To see his character die even before most of the movie unfolded was disappointing (to put it mildly). Just no, okay?
No moment from Ford Brody, our hero
I feel like there were lots of little moments for Ford Brody in the film where he makes a choice, does something heroic, or has a realisation. But there wasn’t that defining moment where in your mind you’re like “OOOOH SHIIIT”. The only thing that came close was his outpouring of emotion to his dad when he finds out the old man was right about his mom’s death not being a freak accident. This happens way too early in the film to be that moment, and it was around this time that Bryan Cranston’s character died, so I was too focused on how pissed I was about that. Overall I wasn’t too happy with the development of his (Ford’s) character, as I think he didn’t change much more than having that single realisation- he was already the guy that loved his family, so his desire and journey back is not so much development as it is a manifestation of circumstance.
Overall anyone can sit and discuss for hours how the movie could have related more to the original story; and how Ford Brody was always at the centre of action (I mean, right place, all the time?); and lastly why the hell they killed off Bryan Cranston’s character so early on; but at the end of the day Godzilla (2014) was an amazing film in its own right. It nailed most characteristics from visual effects, to story, to acting. Definitely worth the wait.
Oh, and happy 60th Anniversary, Gojira.
Memorable moments: The Halo Jump. When Ford Brody and his fellow soldiers deploy into the middle of Godzilla’s battle with the winged Kaiju, the moment is perfect. The cinematography is exquisite, from the tragic feel of the red streaks across the sky (an image which dominated artwork in the build-up to the film), to the face-to-face view that we get with Godzilla from inside Brody’s mask, to the fact of knowing that it was a most pivotal moment in the film as this is where the human race and Godzilla actually join forces to take on a greater evil. It was just great.
Awesome Quotes: “The arrogance of men is thinking nature is in their control and not the other way around.” – Ichiro Serizawa
Afterthought: In this piece on Godzilla via Wired, Director Gareth Edwards explains a lot of choices about his film worth reading up on.
More blogs about Godzilla:
About the Author: Stephen is a film and lifestyle blogger who has a really big pair of black boots that makes him feel like Godzilla when he walks.