Starring Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-John, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins and David Strathairn
Directed by Gareth Edwards
From Warner Bros. Pictures
Review by Monte Yazzie
The most iconic of monsters returns to the big screen in Gareth Edwards’ larger than life “Godzilla”. Edwards, director of the unexpected though satisfying “Monsters”, pays proper homage to the legendary Gojira, once he finally makes an appearance. Focusing more than past incarnations have on character development, Edwards’ rendition may not be consistently packed with action, but once the “king of the monsters” tramples front and center, it’s something impressive to behold.
Godzilla is a secret to the world, hidden in history under nuclear testing done by the U.S. in the Pacific Ocean that was actually an attack on the monster. The film introduces two scientists, Dr. Seriwaza (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins), who are investigating a massive mine in the Philippines where two large insect-like pods have been discovered. In Tokyo, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) are working in a nuclear plant that sustains deadly damage during what is said to have been an earthquake. Fast forward a few years and Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), the son of Joe and Sandra, is on military leave with his family in San Francisco when his father is arrested for trespassing in Tokyo. Ford picks up his father and they soon find themselves detained in a research facility that is investigating strange anomalies reminiscent of a past secret.
The Godzilla mythology, originally presented as a global warning against nuclear production after the destruction in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was born in 1954 by director Ishirô Honda. The original film wasn’t overlooked but instead familiar elements were utilized that allowed for a great setup that introduced the film. While Edwards delicately handled the lore, his film was much different than most of the titles in the long running series, focusing extensively on narrative and character developments in this version. The story was interesting at first mostly due to Bryan Cranston’s turn as the vigilant Brody, providing a sincere and strong performance even though he was only given minimal screen time.
Whatever incarnation of Godzilla you appreciate most, it’s the monster that you want to see. It was near 60 minutes before the title character made a full appearance on screen. Most of what was seen initially was glimpses of a massive tail being dragged through wreckage or spines peeking through water, it helped in building excitement but those looking for carnage will need patience. Once Godzilla made his impressive visual appearance, accompanied by that iconic roar, it was easy to justify the wait.
Unfortunately the story began to drag after the first full scale encounter as routine plot devices took over as scientists and soldiers who planned for the protection of population and shaped the nuclear strategy aimed at stopping the colliding monsters. Additionally, the story of Ford returning to San Francisco to save his family felt forced, though Elizabeth Olsen was given a few moments to shine. When the final battle commenced in San Francisco, the imposing visual aspect took hold. Whether it was the parachuting soldiers against the massively scaled Godzilla or the destruction heavy battle finale, the film came together to give the audience what they came for.
While this Godzilla may feel more like a supporting character than the leading star, director Gareth Edwards’ utilized an exceptional visual presence and attempted to add some interesting character and narrative attributes which made “Godzilla” a worthy entry into the monster genre.
3.50 out of 5.00