Review: Godzilla (2014)

Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Based on: Gojira by Toho Studios
Genre: Action / Science Fiction / Monster
Released: 15 May 2014 (UK) 16 May 2014 (USA) by Warner Bros. Pictures
Running time: 123 mins (2 hr, 3 mins)
Rated: 12 (UK) PG-13 (USA)
Rating: ★★★★★
The King of the Monsters is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, will threaten humanity’s very existence.
Up from the depths, thirty storeys high, breathing fire, his head in the sky GODZILLA! GODZILLA! And some new moooonsteeeeers… For quite a few years I’ve expressed an interest in the Godzilla franchise but I haven’t seen any of the original Japanese films, or any of their American dubs, possibly due to them being before my time and not aired on TV when I was a kid (Japan does share a region code with the UK, but they’re still a bitch to find with English subtitles on them). Before going to see this film the only Godzilla film I’d seen is Tri-Star’s 1998 film Godzilla, which we just don’t talk about (the creature in that film is now considered a completely different monster). Once this film was first teased, I was totally on board and I’ve stalked this film for about a year now. And while I still have yet to see the original Godzilla film, I did a lot of reading and watching of fans’ top ten lists so I feel like I know the lore enough to know whether things have been done right or not.  We all know how hyped up this film is, and while I’m usually sceptical of hyped up things, I put a lot of faith into Gareth Edwards because he seemed to know what he was doing, and man, he really did know what he was doing.
I’ve seen that people weren’t too pleased with Godzilla‘s plot, but I honestly didn’t mind it. In fact, I liked it. The film’s opening scenes takes place in 1999, with Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (played by Ken Watanabe) being called to a mining site in the Philippines where something peculiar has been found; then we move on to a few days later and see Joe Brody (played by Bryan Cranston) go through what I can only describe without spoilers as being the most heartbreaking day of work in the history of fictional characters going to work. Then we skip 15 years forward and the main body of the film commences. On the whole, I did enjoy the film’s plot line but I had a few issues that stopped Godzilla from getting top marks from me. First of all, the time jumps at the beginning felt a little too abrupt and I initially had a little trouble keeping up. Thankfully, that problem was solved. My second issue is that I don’t think Godzilla got enough screen time. I realise that this film focuses more on the human side of things but a character whose name is the title of the film should really have a lot of screen time, which he didn’t. And my last issue is the end of the film. It just stops. I had expected that once all the fighting had finished that we’d see humanity go back to normal and rebuild itself, but nope. It just ends and the credits roll. But despite those issues, I really enjoyed the plot line. It managed to keep me on edge pretty much most of the time and even though this is a film about giant monsters, I liked seeing the human characters. And yes, there’s a couple of cliched shots in there, such as the child and the dog being the first ones to notice that there’s a giant monster coming and the person the camera’s focused on won’t stop looking behind them while they’re running away, but I really didn’t mind that at all. Sometimes I love a good old cliche.
Unfortunately, the characters is another area that lead to Godzilla losing out on top marks. The two best characters in the film (that aren’t monsters) are Joe Brody and Dr. Serizawa. Bryan Cranston gives yet another amazing performance as Brody, and I don’t think he’s in the film enough at all. Why? You’ll have to see for yourself because I’m not telling. Pretty much everybody thought that he was the main character and he’s not. But in his short screen time, he gives a phenomenally emotional performance that doesn’t feel forced or cliched at all. You always get you “mad scientist” type character in monster movies, but Cranston has done it very differently because Joe Brody is sane because he’s right about everything. As for Dr. Serizawa, I really liked Ken Watanabe’s performance as him and out of the main characters, I remembered him the most. I thought the rest of the cast were good, but obviously their characters could have been better. The rest of the Brody family felt a bit generic with the army dad, nurse mum, and the little boy (children in monster movies all tend to be the same anyway). I think that if their characters had been fleshed out a lot more in the writing stage, I would have remembered them a lot more. Oh, and there’s Godzilla himself. He’s awesome as always. You won’t lose him in the middle of a city (take that, Roland Emmerich).
I definitely think that this film is a good way for people who are new to the Godzilla franchise to get into the Japanese series because it does give Godzilla and the MUTOs origins, which isn’t entirely complicated at all. Although I do love how Ken Watanabe’s pronunciation of Gojira becomes GAHDZILLA when said by the American characters. Just beautiful. I also liked how much sense the monsters’ origins made (for a film that’s totally fictional, it made sense). If I’m going to compare it to Tri-Star’s Godzilla, which is just all wrong even for a monster movie, the origins are more true to the original movie Gojira, but unlike Tri-Star’s movie, we’re given a more realistic time line. Here, Godzilla and the MUTOs are prehistoric beasts that have irradiated over a huge amount of time, compared to Zilla who was a marine iguana in French Polynesia where marine iguanas aren’t even indigenous and had a bomb dropped on him by the French in 1968 (I didn’t even know the French did nuclear tests). I think I know which one would be more believable. Okay, no more talking about Zilla. Anyway, the origin of Godzilla here is more true to the Toho series because Godzilla is a dinosaur, and it would have taken an incredibly long time for him to evolve to the size that he is. And the A-bomb attacks on Japan will have helped with that too (in the real world, Godzilla wouldn’t have been created if Japan hadn’t been bombed). Although the origin story isn’t completely condensed, it’s very easy to understand for people new to Godzilla, like myself (although I had read up on it before).
The special effects and cinematography of Godzilla are just amazing. I mean, holy crap, just look at Godzilla! Look at him! He’s freaking huge! Well, Godzilla’s freaking huge anyway, but here’s even freaking huge-er (bigger than in any other movie, at 106.68 metres, and I don’t know how many feet that is but I’m going to assume that it’s a lot). The design is definitely true to Toho’s Godzilla, which is that he is a freaking huge-ass dinosaur, but not exactly the kind that you would see in Jurassic Park. And while we’re on the subject of monster designs, the MUTOs look damn spooky. There are two MUTOs, one is a male and one is a female. The male MUTO is the smaller one and can fly, whereas the female is about as big as Godzilla is and resembles a spider of some sorts. They look pretty scary and in the film’s darker scenes they really amp up the fear factor by just appearing as red slits for eyes. Spooky. As for the 3D, I didn’t go see Godzilla in 3D but now I really wish I did. I definitely want to get the full experience to see what it’s like.
I have a theory about films released by Warner Bros: if you don’t hear As Time Goes By when the logo appears, shit’s about to go down. As soon as the opening credits roll we’re treated to the film’s amazing score which is one of the reasons as to why I was on edge throughout a lot of the film. Sound is definitely a prominent element of Godzilla because this film is loud. If you thought Man of Steel was a loud film, you haven’t seen Godzilla yet. I was sitting at the very back of the screen in front of the VIP box, and I could hear the glass vibrating. This is the kind of loud that you can feel. I could feel the sound in my chest and my ears, and every time one of the monsters roared, my heart thudded for about two minutes afterwards. Not because I was scared (I was on edge, but not scared) but because those roars sound incredible. Especially Godzilla’s, which has gone from this to this terrifying roar (turn your volume down!), which pays homage to the original classic roar. The MUTOs roars on the other hand, are incredibly interesting. To me, the growls sound like creaking wood, and I can’t really explain the actual roar so have a listen for yourself. Many of the classic Toho kaiju villains have incredible loud roars like Godzilla, but the MUTOs have much creepier roars which made them pretty scary.
Holy crap. I don’t think I can get enough of this film. As soon as it was over, me and a bunch of other guys sat and waited until the credits were over to see if there were any mid-credits or after-credits scenes. There aren’t any, but I’m glad that I stayed the full running time because I was in total awe of what I’d just seen. Yes, there are a couple of things that have knocked it off top marks but I still loved this film, and it’s definitely one of the best that I’ve seen this year. And let me tell you this: if you see any bad reviews or people telling you to not see this film (guy on my Twitter feed did that. I unfollowed him.), you should ignore them. My opinion’s more important than their’s and I say you should definitely go see Godzilla. Just kidding! But seriously, go see this film (and plus, a sequel’s already been announced! I’ve already got a monster that I want to see in mind).

IMPORTANT: If you’re planning on seeing Godzilla in the cinema and are sensitive to loud noises or flashing images, I would advise you to be careful as this film is very loud and has infrequent scenes that use strobe lights. And if you’re thinking of taking young children, make sure you read the content advisory on IMDb.

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