I can’t really claim to be a “Godzilla Fan” based on the fact that the only other experience I’ve had with said monster is with the now universally trashed, 1998 Roland Emmerich version, and at that time I was just a kid, so naturally I loved it. Going into Gareth Edwards’ latest rebirth, it’s hard to know what exactly I was hoping for or expected. Large monsters and a lot of destruction would be putting it bluntly, but that would pretty much be on the right track. I wanted more than that though; I wanted to see a raw knuckle, monster bash thriller that was worthy of the name. Edwards’ ‘Godzilla’ delivers just this in grand style with a movie that lives up to not only the hype (which is an accomplishment in itself), but in my opinion manages to live up to the legend that is Godzilla.
This is most certainly Godzilla’s movie through and through, even if it’s only realized in the third act. Despite having a strong cast to back it, the human aspect to the story is very lacking, setting up only the basics that get us from A to B. B, in this case, being the most satisfying finale to any blockbuster that I’ve seen in a long, long time. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. The story sets itself up to where Godzilla already exists and is mostly acknowledged by the people in the know-how. Though, having been kept a secret for decades after an attempt to wipe him out, following a tragic meltdown at a Japanese power plant in the late 90’s, questions are raised through Bryan Cranston’s character, Joe Brody, who worked at the plant. He get’s himself arrested, trespassing on a nuclear site; cue his soldier/bomb expert son, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who comes to bail him out. Meanwhile, an agency known as “Monarch”, led by Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins, are undergoing an investigation that leads to the discovery of remnants of another large creature. Early on, this all leads to the conclusion that not only is Godzilla alive and well, but that he’s not alone (I reveal this only because the trailers have already revealed just as much, if not more already). These character’s paths eventually cross and during an investigation at the old power plant site, a monster, or Muto (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) is unleashed, with Godzilla soon to follow.
The most that can be said about the cast, really, is that everybody played their part. The story and the background isn’t necessarily new, though there are plenty of elements that keep it intriguing, and the characters are ultimately there to help build up to the introduction of our lead character, Godzilla. As I said: it’s his story. Taylor-Johnson plays the role of the story’s hero, and he does so in a way that is satisfactory, but as soon as that big fellow comes on screen, he’s the only one we end up caring about. This would honestly have to be my only major complaint of the movie: most of the human characters play to stereotypes and just feel unnecessary in some cases. They’re basically a means to an end, but frankly, it’s a fucking great end.
The wonderful thing about ‘Godzilla’ is that for a majority of the movie, you don’t really see him until much later on. In most instances where this happens in a movie like this, it’s usually a bad thing as the reveal can often be underwhelming. Here, however, you’re teased with dramatic glimpses and stories leaving Godzilla as little more than a rumor, until of course we’re rewarded with his ultimate reveal, and it is absolutely worth the wait. The best part being that the movie only gets better and better after his entrance, which is as it should be. The beast himself is simply awe-inspiring, but beyond that he actually becomes a character, as opposed to just a monster bringing havoc.
Oh, Godzilla; from his expressions, to his roar, his fat hands, and chunky feet, to the sheer size of him… it’s all breathtaking. This brings me to what I love most about this movie, which is how well they handled the enormity of the character. Some spoilers ahead here: beware. Obviously, with there being another monster means that there is most likely going to be an inevitable face-off between said Muto and Godzilla. In any other movie this would typically mean a whole bunch of visual effects being thrown in your face with misguided close-ups and shaky-cams to where nothing that is going on is distinguishable. Every summer blockbuster director should take note here as Gareth Edwards is clearly aware of what he’s dealing with and it shows in the way that the action sequences unfold. Told very uniquely from a wide, third person perspective, the action plays out with full affect and in epic scale, fully appreciating the size of these giants, and the devastation that they leave behind them. The scale of Godzilla is realized here, not only from a human perspective, but from a city perspective on the whole. He’s absolutely massive. So imagine if you can, the glorious destruction he wreaks when he clashes with the Muto. The visual effects are incredibly strong and are used to the best advantages, creating not only believable monsters and city-wide chaos, but some really stunning landscapes; the “Halo Drop” scene being the chief example. It’s beautiful to behold, depicting an appropriately eerie plunge into the heart-pumping climax.
A lot of comparisons will be made to movies such as ‘Pacific Rim’, which personally I enjoyed merely for the fact that it didn’t pretend to be anything more than what it was, which was a fun, campy monster romp. ‘Godzilla’ pretty much does the same thing (only much better and way more awesome) in that it lives up to expectations as far as what you’d expect from a monster movie, and while it falls flat on the human element, it delivers in reincarnating a movie legend with a visual feast of epic proportions. And let’s face it, what more do we look for when it comes to a character like Godzilla? The fact that something so large has been handled so well, though a tad indulgently, show’s an appreciation to the character and the genre, and it’s really gripping. When you’ve got Ken Watanabe saying, in a slow, dramatic zoom-in close-up, “Let them fight”, you know you’re in for a treat. I saw the film on IMAX, and it is certainly worth the price. Unfortunately it was in 3D which, whilst it doesn’t necessarily detract from the visuals, it definitely didn’t add anything either. So I’d say avoid the 3D if possible, but really, the bigger the better in the case of ‘Godzilla’; a solid monster flick that honestly has little substance, but delivers with such a rewarding finale with some truly iconic moments that makes for a thoroughly rewarding movie-going experience.