Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Written by: Max Borenstein
Rating: PG-13 (US) Running Time: 2 hr 3 min
As far as I’m concerned, there are only two really important elements to discuss when a massive monster movie like Godzilla arrives at our local theaters. Where did the film makers draw the line between all out monster action, and the human interest part of the film? Go for all out monster mayhem and the people are entertained but forget your story by the time they reach the parking lot. Focus too much on your human characters and people will start to wonder why the film is called Godzilla. It’s a tricky balancing act certainly, but possible, and the first Jurassic park movie is an example of a monster flick that strikes this balance perfectly.
After watching Godzilla, I think the writer Max Borenstein and director Gareth Edwards tried to have their human drama monster cake (yum) and eat it, because that line I mentioned made a seismic shift after the film’s first act.
During the first act, when the story is mostly focused on Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his search for answers after the nuclear plant he worked at in Japan is destroyed, the human element of this story is gripping, incredibly well acted and moving. After that opening act the focus shifts to Joe’s son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and the emotional core to Godzilla is all but removed. Which would ultimately be okay, if it were replaced with all out monster madness. But it isn’t, and I found I got frequently frustrated during the last hour of this film because just as I thought – great, here we go, Godzilla finally gets to battle M.U.T.O. (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). We leave the interesting stuff to rejoin Ford and his soldier buddies, or we catch up with Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) musing about man versus nature.
All these breaks away from the action would be acceptable if the characters we were joining were in any way interesting, but they’re not. David Strathairn as Admiral William Stenz is woefully wasted as the stereotypical ‘leader in a tough spot forced to use nukes’, and the Taylor-Johnson, Olsen coupling is nowhere near as convincing as the chemistry created by Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche.
Any complaints I have with the film though are on the smaller side. I was still entertained for the most part, and when we do finally get to see Godzilla in action, it is spectacular. Godzilla looks great too, and I’m looking forward to seeing our large monster friend return to our movies theaters soon.
This is a massive visual effects extravaganza, so expect plenty of destruction and mayhem. It’s light on the drama during the last hour of the film, but Bryan Cranston is worth the ticket price if you’re a fan of his work.
Are you kidding?! You need a HUGE screen to really get the best out of Godzilla’s visual effects, cinematography and sound. At home a HD viewing on a nice big TV is recommended.
I thought Bryan Cranston was really good in this, and I missed his character when the focus shifted to follow Aaron Taylor-Johnson. I also thought Godzilla looked great!