Godzilla – 2014
Director Gareth Edwards
Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Bryan Cranston
Screenplay Max Borenstein based on Godzilla by Toho
The world’s been destroyed so many times in so many worthless films that when watching the previews of Godzilla, there is a fair amount of exhaustion at the prospect of having to go through more decimation. No matter what they do to justify the existence of these monsters and how likely it is that all this destruction could happen, be hidden and then happen again, it’s going to be labored through once again. The willing suspension of disbelief to the Nth degree.
One of the big surprises for me was they roped Bryan Cranston into the mix. After spending years doing great work on Breaking Bad, it’s amazing to think that the would place all of his earned capital into Godzilla. It’s like blowing your life savings on pull tabs. Thankfully, his screen time is limited, so the amount of damage to his career is minimized until he does a superhero film.
The story: 15 years after a disaster at a nuclear plant claimed his wife, Joe Brody (Cranston) calls his son (Taylor-Johnson) back to Japan to prove his contention that the events were not accidental. He proves this concept, but not without a cost. A MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) is released and starts to make itself across the ocean. This beast is NOT Godzilla. It is, however, something that Godzilla hunts. Therefore, in another part of the Pacific Ocean, Godzilla starts tracking the monster. From here, government types do their best to trap one then both beasts, and of course they do not succeed. The last half of the film sees a third giant. The purpose of all 3 makes sense in the plot. The actions of the humans, for the most part, do not.
Taylor- Johnson and Olsen exist primarily to be where the monsters will show up. Indeed, each of their jobs seem specifically configured to make them necessary. It’s an old trick, and not all that fun once you realize every disaster film will have to have someone who works at the hospital but never calls in sick when they are missing a loved one.
For those who looked forward to having a genuine Japanese actor in a Godzilla film, we have Watanabe, who plays a scientist who is generally along to be the one saying the things that make sense and are therefore ignored. He looks very concerned, and has some good guesses when the lead military guy (Strathairn, looking clueless), asks questions.
Ultimately, though, this is not a movie for us to watch people trying to stop beasts. So big are these monsters, there is seemingly nothing we should be able to do. The wisest choice the makers of Godzilla do is to get out-of-the-way and let the animated MOTU fight it out. The result is very cool to watch, even if it is somewhat depressing to imagine the amount of humanity expiring with every missed tail or landed stream of fire. The only difference between this and the Man of Steel is that one would not expect Superman to kill people with his collateral damage.
If you did not care for Godzilla (and who could if you only have seen the films of the last 20 years), this film will not likely bring you to a great appreciation. If you enjoyed the tradition of monster films from the 50’s until about 10 minutes before the Devlin / Emmerich turd was released, this will give you at least some of the fascination.
Stuck somewhere between, I have never been a huge fan. It’s easy to appreciate the way they went about it this time, but it’s really hard to figure how they could justify another one. That won’t stop them from making one though.
(***1/2 out of *****)