Score: 9 out of 10
Godzilla is the coolest movie monster ever. I’m not sure exactly why a giant lizard is more awesome than say, a giant ape or giant marshmallow man, but he just is. There’s something about him that stands up above all the rest. It might be his hunched over gait, the building-crushing tail, the jagged spikes on his back, or his deafening roar, but whatever the reason, Godzilla is the best monster ever and that’s not a matter of opinion it’s just a fact. Unfortunately, America hasn’t had a lot of luck with the big guy. After several failed attempts in the 1980s to make a stop-motion Godzilla, Hollywood was finally able to import the lizard from Japan with an abysmally stupid remake in 1998 that makes Michael Bay movies look like fine cinema. Thankfully, the new Godzilla gets it right.
This new Americanized Godzilla comes at us from British director Gareth Edwards (not to be confused with The Raid 2 director Gareth Evans), whose only other feature film is the critically-acclaimed 2010 indie flick Monsters. Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures took a gamble handing over their $160 million behemoth to such an inexperienced filmmaker, but it turned out to be a brilliant move. Like Monsters, Edwards’ Godzilla balances the pulse-pounding action with a more serious tone, harkening back to the very first Godzilla movie from 1954. That film was a commentary about the atomic age and Japan’s exposure to it in particular, and this new incarnation offers a similar commentary about mankind’s relationship to nature and the environment. It’s not too heavy handed, and this little bit of intellectual stimulation allows the film to tower over contemporary shit like Transformers or The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Edwards took a page from Spielberg films like Jaws and Jurassic Park in that we don’t get to see the creature right away. We instead get a glimpse at bits and pieces of him that build up to his ultimate reveal, which makes it that much more satisfying and spectacular when it comes. The first half of the film is devoted almost entirely to character development. Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays Ford Brody, an explosives expert in the U.S. army who gets caught up in the monstrous happenings, with other actors like Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, and Elizabeth Olsen joining in. Despite the film’s emphasis on human drama, the supporting cast actually gets a surprisingly small amount of screentime. Oscar-nominee Sally Hawkins has only a handful of lines, and Olsen doesn’t get to do much more than stare at bad things that are happening offscreen. This is because by the end of the film, Godzilla has completely taken over. The filmmakers wanted to deliver on the promise of city-stomping Kaiju action, and they totally and completely deliver, but unfortunately this means the humans have to take a backseat to the monsters.
The big and muscular American (British) leading man is mostly useless in the last act of the film, with Godzilla doing what he does regardless of any military interference. This is probably a reference to the 1955 film Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the dubbed American version of Japan’s first Godzilla movie. It featured scenes with American actor Raymond Burr observing the destruction, but unable to prevent it because he was being spliced into a film that was already finished. Replicating this plays nicely with the new film’s theme of mankind being helpless against the ultimate power of nature, and the more we try to interfere, the worse things get. This message is not quite as eloquent as ‘Stop the Bomb’, but at least you’ll have something to think about once the dust has settled.
-Review written by Blake Siefken, follow me on Twitter!
9/10? wow, I have it at a 4.