Godzilla has a long history in cinema including, most recently, in 1998 with the release of the Roland Emmerich movie by the same name. It grossed $136 million domestically; however, it was looked upon as mostly a failure due to its $130 million budget. With this new re-launch of the iconic character, Gareth Edwards was hired as director to bring his grounded take on the iconic monster. Hiring Edwards was a risky move as he has never helmed a large budget film before. His previous movie, Monsters (2010), cost $1 million to make and was praised for the special effects work. That is where the current film succeeds; unfortunately, the script is not as impressive.
The first act of this film succeeds by building on character moments with Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his son, Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). The moments between these two characters ground the film and give you a reason to care about the Brody family. The problems begin when the second act focuses solely on Ford Brody. I never felt a connection to his character individually and subsequently did not care about what he was going through. I have loved the work of Ken Watanabe (who played Dr. Ishiro Serizawa) and Elizabeth Olsen (who played Elle Brody) in previous films; however, they don’t do anything here except look on in fear and shock. It’s such a wasted opportunity to use good actors in this film and give them 10 minutes of screen time with nothing to do.
With how little I cared about the human characters in this film, it’s a good thing the special effects and sound design were outstanding. The direction and cinematography were also very well done. There are some scenes in the third act that were truly awe-inspiring. There is a moment where soldiers jump out of a plane that is one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever watched on screen. The film makes us wait for the action by giving us glimpses of Godzilla but never a full view, much like Spielberg did with the shark in Jaws. By limiting these shots, it built the suspense well and made the scenes in the third act with Godzilla more impactful.
I did like the overall theme of the film that nature is uncontrollable and people aren’t as powerful as they think. Godzilla was nature’s way of corrective action and we, as humans, are just one piece of that puzzle.
With how much I enjoyed the action and the experience of watching this movie, it’s a shame I never cared about the human characters in the film. The lack of investment in the characters was most evident when there was a scene with a dog and I cared more about the dog making it through the scene alive than Ford. There is clearly a problem when the audience doesn’t care about the main characters. I would recommend seeing the movie but don’t expect to have a story you care about. Just go and enjoy a decent popcorn flick.
Spoiler problems below:
1) Whatever happened to Ford and the kid dangling from the tram car? They just cut to them being OK.
2) What purpose did Ford have besides starting the bomb countdown, which became a huge problem?
3) How come no one freaked out when Godzilla woke up in their city?
4) During the train sequence, why did the MUTO purposely walk underneath the bridge instead of just walking through it like it did with everything else? How did the soldiers get down that giant ravine and back up so quickly? Why did they need to go down there anyways?
5) How come Godzilla caused a huge tsunami coming out of the water the first time but every subsequent time there was no problem?
6) How come not only was no one was evacuated from San Francisco but people were still working in the office buildings?
7) Wasn’t it awfully convenient that a tanker full of fuel would have landed in the ravine with all the MUTO eggs?