It’s here. The start of Summer 2014 has started with one of the most anticipated blockbusters, Godzilla. When Godzilla scored director Gareth Edwards, who only previously directed Monsters, I knew that Legendary made the right move. Legendary also has had a pretty good track record in my eyes. Last year, they released Pacific Rim. While it didn’t do gangbusters in the domestic box office, I hear it has done well for itself overall. However, is that response going to be translated to this new interpretation of Godzilla?
After a disaster in Japan rips apart the Brody family, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) stays behind to investigate what really caused the disaster. Fifteen years later we meet Joe’s estranged son, Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), as returns home to San Francisco to his family played by Elizabeth Olsen and Carson Bolde. On the evening he returns home, he receives a phone call to bail out Joe from a Japanese jail. Joe insists that something else caused the disaster that haunts him and claims he has the evidence to prove it. Joe’s persistence drags Ford into his investigation. To go on any more would spoil some of the twists and turns that Godzilla has in store for you.
Let me address the elephant in the room here and say that the script is a mess. Honestly, I’d be a little hard pressed to really call it a script as it is more a sense of ideas. I saw that the story was credited to Dave Callaham with a screenplay by Max Borenstein. While watching the film, my inner celluoid gypsy psychic sensed more than one writer on this script. According to Wikipedia (which could be valid or invalid), I was correct. Typically when you have a blockbuster film on this scale, there is more than one screenwriter contributing to the shooting script, they just don’t get credited. Sadly, this is the weakest link in the revival of Godzilla. The trailers painted a grim, serious picture. This film, while not as disastrous as the 1998 Emmerich film, still has echoes of what was wrong with that film. There are action set pieces that are only in the film to pad the running time and/or move some of the characters along. These pieces – mainly the nuclear warhead train escort scene – lack logic. The film starts off promising and while I admire some of the decisions they made to make the film feel fresh, they still rely on stale action archetypes. I still debate if this was done on purpose as sort of a commentary of the previous kaiju films or if this was just an oversight. There is a story and there are great ideas, the cohesion just isn’t there. The human characters start developing and then are cut off by either another character’s development or a set piece.
The highlight of the film is Gareth Edwards. He takes a Spielbergian approach to the film. One scene in particular will remind you of the opening of Jurassic Park. There are bright flood lights, cranes and wires that contain a creature’s cocoon that may or may not house a living creature. While it may be a bit of a tribute, it definitely didn’t feel like Edwards was ripping off Spielberg. He is thinking like Spielberg throughout the whole film. He could show you some of the fights that Godzilla has with the M.U.T.O. but instead, he holds back. The first time he does it is spot on perfection as he smash cuts to Ford Brody’s son watching the two battle it out on television. That scene is pure brilliance. Granted, there will be some audience members who will frown on the fact that Edwards introduces and sets up for a fight and then takes you away from it. It is all set up for what is possibly the best 45 minutes of any monster film. It is almost as if Edwards saw the film wasn’t going the way it should and took the reigns. The 45 minutes I speak of practically washes away all the bad taste you have in your mouth from the proceeding hour. I sat in the movie theater and literally became a kid again, more so than I did in Pacific Rim (and I dug the shit out of that film). I cheered when G-Man was doing what he does best. When he does one of his signature moves, you will probably scream with excitement. No matter how old you are, you will be a kid. Gareth Edwards really shows you his heart, love and admiration for this icon known as Godzilla. He wants to give you the goods and aims for everyone – the people who want shit to be stomped on or blown up, the genuine Godzilla fans and even people who just want to feel excited again. For a movie to do that to anyone, that is an amazing feat and should be applauded (I applauded, twice). It’s just a shame that the majority of people who are excited about the film will always mention that first hour or so being a huge hindrance on what could have been an amazing return. After you leave the theater, you will look back on what you just saw and think they could have done things better if they would have focused more on the human element and some of the characters that become throwaway characters. However, there will be the majority of you that will make you want to watch that last 45 minutes again and again.