(Scored out of ten; below 5 = not worth seeing, 6 = ok, 7 = good, 8 = great, 9 = fantastic, 10 = next to perfect)
The beginning of the summer season was chock full of superhero blockbuster fare, so I was glad to see at least a tiny bit of variety in the form of the Godzilla reboot (by director Gareth Edwards). I was expecting an intense, suspenseful and all out monster brawler but I was sorely disappointed. With flat, boring human characters and minimal use of the gargantuan creatures, this giant monster movie is nothing but a massive mess.
The plot of Godzilla is very straightforward and needlessly lengthened in an attempt to justify the price of a movie ticket. The film opens to a large construction site in the middle of a jungle where archaeologists have discovered the remains of a humungous prehistoric creature. Dr. Ishiro Serazawa (Ken Watanabe) is called in to try and identify the find and to help shed some light on this mystery. We are then transported to Tokyo, Japan, where the Ford family is getting ready for their day. After some mundane dialogue about earth tremors, Joe and Sandra Brody (Bryan Cranston & Juliet Binoche) make it to work to see their entire world get torn asunder. Something happens at the power plant they work at, causing a number of employees to sacrifice themselves in order to keep the radiation maintained. Sandra Brody happened to be one of them. Than we get to see an older Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor Johnson) interact with his family for a few minutes before shipping off to Japan to bail out his crazy dad (because he lost his wife). The rest of the movie revolves around Johnson’s Ford Brody moving from place to place in an attempt to reunite with his family while giant monsters smash things and the military makes ridiculous decisions… and then there’s a monster fight at the end of it all.
Every single human character was completely one-dimensional, making about 95% of the film a chore to get through. Aaron Taylor Johnson was the reckless and brave soldier, Elisabeth Olsen was the frightened housewife, and Ken Watanabe was the token scientist and the source of all exposition. Watanabe did deliver some cool dialogue but it was all meaningless. The sole purpose of including the human characters was to keep the CGI budget from exploding, which would have resulted in a better film considering the only redeemable element of this film was Godzilla and the MUTO’s. I can go on but in an effort to make this review a tad bit more enjoyable than the film I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination.
The two characters that showed the tiniest bit of personality were unfortunately the first, and only, to die. Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody was very colorful but managed to convey more emotion in his 10 minutes of screen time than all of the other actors put together. His performance may have been a little overboard but when put beside everyone else it was straight up Oscar worthy. Juliet Binoche was also a pleasure to watch but she was on screen less than Cranston.
Aside from the lackluster performances, the storytelling decisions made zero sense. When the MUTO’s (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) first arise Ken goes into exposition mode and explains that the monsters feed off of radiation and nuclear energy… so the military immediately decides that the best way to kill them is to shoot them with nukes. In what universe does that make any sense? Even after the MUTO’s literally eat a number of their missiles, the humans continue to believe in this plan. On their giant monster hunt the military has done nothing but feed and power up the monsters, and they never get a clue. Ken Watanabe’s character is the only one with any sense but his sole reasoning behind not wanting to nuke the monsters is because he wants to see Godzilla kick their asses (which is what audiences paid for). We get an hour and a half of this (transport the missile to X location. Oh no, the monster that lives on radiation ate our plan. Move to Y location. Oh no, the monster ate it again…) until Godzilla decides to do anything.
Which leads us to another massive disappointment, for a film titled Godzilla, he only shows up in any meaningful capacity for the finale. Before this point, any time Godzilla does anything cool Gareth Edwards decides to cut to the boring and inept humans. For example, Godzilla faces down the flying MUTO and is about to eat its face… cut to Aaron Taylor Johnson not doing anything.
With all that being said, there were a few good qualities to this (literal) disaster movie. Gareth Edwards did a beautiful job on the monsters themselves. The visual effects and sound design are some of the best I’ve ever seen, it’s a shame that they were so under utilized. The level of devastation was truly impressive, if a bit repetitive. The first time MUTO or Godzilla walked through a building it was cool; the tenth time was a little less so. However, the final showdown between these heavy weights was without a doubt the best thing Godzilla has going for it. The first hour and forty-five minutes are wholly irrelevant, the only enjoyment to come out of this film is found during this sequence. Godzilla was completely badass and demolished MUTO in one of the most satisfying finishers I have seen on the big screen. It almost made the long wait worth it.
When it comes down to it, Godzilla is a terrible film that makes mindless decisions until its ending moments. These final minutes are visually stunning and entirely satisfying but it is far too late to make the rest worthwhile. What looked like a reboot worthy of the king of monsters fell flat on its face in its attempt to bring the big guy back into the spotlight. If you absolutely have to watch this film, I suggest napping until you hear at least 3 Godzilla roars in quick succession, that’s when the good stuff happens. Otherwise, just Youtube the final fight and you’ll have a better time.
Overall I give Godzilla 4/10 (the last 25 minutes or so get a 10/10).