Remember back to the day of men in rubber monster suits fighting in a plastic city filled with fake planes and toy tanks? Yeah me too, but despite this cheesy picture, an empire was built on the monster known as Godzilla. Over the years the green lizard has fought countless beasts, robots, and even the human race in rage filled, loud roaring, goodness that many have grown to love. So after fifteen years off the silver screen, the king of the monsters has emerged from the depths of the movie ocean in what looks to be a blend of horror and survival thrills.
The trailers painted a darker twist to the franchise, often showing shots of the thunder lizard hidden in a fog of debris and haze. Ear splitting roars mixed with a downtrodden symphony score and military firing into the haze of the unknown had me excited that the beast was back with a monstrous bite. Yet I was surprised tonight, somewhat, when the actual movie started. Godzilla starts off much like the trailers laying a backstory that lays out a bit of the trouble humanity has had over the last fifty years. Bryan Cranston’s character gets tangled up in the mess and suffers a major blow that spans over fifteen years to when a beast gets unleashed. This is where the surprise hits, as the monster I thought to awaken wasn’t the green man himself, but instead was a creature I had long forgotten.
This monster, as well as all the monsters that show up, are beautifully designed, with the director doing a great job working with his designers to bring the epic beasts to life. Godzilla himself is gorgeous, from the shading and ruggedness of his scales, to the realistic throbbing of his throat as he roars. Fans of the rubber suit and cheesy cartoons will applaud as the design favors more of the classical look, while those expecting a modernized goliath will not be as impressed. As for the other creatures, they look okay, but they lack the attention the king of the monsters got, but that’s to be expected right? Yet despite the CGI work, the monsters remained off screen for a large part of the movie, often making brief appearances before the camera cuts to a different scene or shot of their backs as they swim or stomp across the world. Sure at the end we got a bit more of the creatures, including some grandiose, albeit slow, fights that helped the movie finish strong
So then what fills the screen most of the time if not the monsters? Well the main focus is on Aaron Taylor-Johnson the British actor now turned into an American GI. His character, ironically named Ford, was in a majority of the shots often staring into the distance with some sort of scowl, or running from an animated obstacle. Ford’s story is not really unique, nor does he really develop that many relationships, as he seems to jump from one situation to the next as if the movie were a video game. The lack of personal development made his character a bit flat for me, though his acting was superb in just about anything they made him do. As for the other characters, they take a huge step back in this role, often in only a few shots to act as a placeholder to reassure the audience that his motivation remains. Even the legendary Cranston takes a back seat in this movie. The only other actor I can say makes a major contribution to this movie is Ken Watanabe, whose character filled in the gaps left behind in the beginning to keep the audience in the “story”. It seems Watanabe was the spokesperson for Godzilla, pretty much trying to tell everyone how amazing and powerful Big G was, when everyone else just wanted to blow his head off.
Lack of actors aside, the action promised in this movie really only occurs at the end. A few times, the director led up to what was sure to be an epic clash, only to drop the action and place it in the background, i.e. a quick news clip or explosions in the distance. I get it, he wanted to show the perspective (reality to some) of the humans in a monster pandemic and how powerless we really are, but dangling the carrot got a bit old for me. The special effects tried to keep the suspense going, but for this reviewer, as well as some other fans, more action was needed then just running, screaming, and occasionally firing a bullet. Luckily the director saved the big guns for last, unleashing their power in special effects extravaganza. I won’t say too much more, but trust me in the fact that some classic Godzilla action does come your way, if you can be patient.
The latest reboot of the thunder lizard’s career is beautifully crafted, but I expected a little more sustenance to the movie. While Taylor-Johnson certainly plays his part well, his flat relationships and lack of other characters took away from the suspense and left an emotionally stunted ending. Overall Godzilla has taken a step back to the classic monster movie, it just needed a bit more action for this reviewer. There is a lot of slow buildup, and you may get mad that monster king kind of takes a back seat for most of the film. Yet amidst the plethora of destroyed town sequences, and EMP induced crashes, lies a decent movie that will hopefully spark another movie in the future, one with a little more emphasis on the Big G himself.
Overall my scores are:
Movie Overall: 6.0-6.5