It’s been awhile since the public has seen a Godzilla film. Granted, Toho, the production company based out of Japan who began making the Godzilla films back in the 1950’s, put a couple more Godzilla films out in the early 2000, but the famous monsters image was forever tainted after the dismal Roland Emmerich American production of Godzilla back in 1998. Not only was the film a direct rip-off of Jurassic Park at the time, it was also incredibly stupid, and above all a very un-enjoyable experience. However, I have a soft side for Puff Daddy’s awful song he produced with Jimmy Page, called “Come With Me” (click here for to listen to this “masterpiece”). But around the beginning of the decade, Legendary Pictures, who was the production company behind Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, scooped up the rights to make a new American Godzilla film, and hired English filmmaker Gareth Edwards to make the film, whose only other film credit was the critically lauded 2010 independent film Monsters. The film took several years to develop, but now, a new Godzilla has just hit theaters in the United States, and I just saw the film. Here’s my review.
The plot of this new Godzilla film revolves around the Brody family, first with a couple played by Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche, with the latter passing away in the first ten minutes in the film after nuclear fallout in Japan, with the entire town being evacuated. Cut to years later, the couple’s son, Ford, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, finds his father back in Japan still obsessing over this mystery of the quarantined area. We later learn (without revealing too much) that this all has to do with the titular monster, and so on. The monster wreaks havoc along the Pacific Ocean, and it’s up to Taylor-Johnson, a group of scientists, and the United States Navy to stop the monster from destroying Planet Earth as we know it.
The plot and premise of the film is pretty straight forward, but what the filmmakers have done is that they have made this film as serious as it can be. Usually it’s best for films like these to have a sense of humor about the whole situation and be pretty light, but this film is a very dark and gritty film, with some very intense and exciting action beats. And it actually works to the films advantage. The first iteration of Godzilla was created by the Japanese in the first place in the aftermath of the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima during World War II, and how at the time we were preparing for a possible Nuclear War during the mid-20th century. That premise is a very serious subject, and to the audience of yesteryear, it was a scary and horrifying subject matter, and it worked wonders for Toho Pictures. Since Toho was heavily involved with this reboot, many of those themes ring true in this new update of Godzilla, making it an exciting, often scary and exhilarating thrill ride from start to end.
A lot of people may be turned off by the fact that Godzilla doesn’t make a formal appearance till the second act, and doesn’t really begin fighting until the very end of the film, which may alienate some audience members due to the fact that the film isn’t balls to the wall action. But what Edwards and the rest of the creative team has done is that they have put a lot of emphasis on the characters in this universe, and all of the acting is top-notch. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is one of our best young actors, and he’s great in his role, even if his character is a little shallow (we’ll get to the script later), but he still does a great job in the role. Elizabeth Olsen, whose quickly becoming one of my favorite young actresses working today, plays Taylor-Johnson’s wife in the film (a little odd since the pair will be playing brother and sister duo Scarlett Which and Quicksilver in next summers Avengers: Age of Ultron) and she’s also really great in the film, but like Taylor-Johnson, the script restricts her character from doing a whole lot. Luckily, You’ll be seeing a lot more of Ms. Olsen in the near future, as she has the potential to become one of the best leading actresses of this generation.
Bryan Cranston is fantastic in the screen time he’s given, as well as Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins as a pair of scientists who help with the Navy to stop Godzilla. All of these actors are at the top of their game, and it’s great to see great acting like this in a summer blockbuster. Speaking of which, one of the greatest character actors, David Strathairn, plays the general in charge of the whole operation, and he’s great as always. Now, let’s talk about the script. The film only has two credits on the film, with the story having been written by David Callahan and the actual script being written by Max Borenstein, but they forgot one name that worked on what was reportedly the shooting script for the film (damn WGA!). Frank Darabont, the writer behind The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, wrote the final shooting script and his script was good enough for Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche to sign on to the film. I love Frank Darabont, as he’s one of the greatest genre screenwriters of all time (not to mention that he’s the nicest and most humble writer to meet in person), so I was a little ticked to learn that Darabont doesn’t have a credit on the film, but then again I’m not sure how much of his work on the film translated to the finished product.
The human drama in the film, mainly in the beginning, is great. It’s very effective, and the human drama for most of the film is good, but it could have been great. But the rest of the film is so well made and so damn entertaining, that it makes up for the flaws in the film. While many of you may be turned off by the fact that this new Godzilla puts story and character before the exciting stuff, for me it worked. And I think if you appreciate slow-burning disaster films like these (this film is very reminiscent of Jaws, which put its characters ahead of the spectacle), I think you’ll really enjoy this particular film. And if you complain that there isn’t enough fighting and action while watching the film, wait till the third act of this film. You’ll thank me later. Godzilla is a welcome return to form for an icon who has suffered for years through one bad film after another. The film is expected to do gangbusters at the box office this weekend, and it’s well deserved. It’s one of the best summer blockbusters I’ve seen in quite some time, and I’m pretty sure this will end up being a major highlight during this summer movie season.