In commemoration of the upcoming sequel, GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (2019), I’m taking a trip down memory lane to revisit one that’s starting this new franchise. In addition, because the crossover is in the works, click the following link for: KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2017).
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson (THE WALL , NOCTURNAL ANIMALS , and AVENGERS: ULTRON ), Elizabeth Olsen (Avengers ULTRON, INFINITY WAR , and ENDGAME , INGRID GOES WEST , and I SAW THE LIGHT ), Ken Watanabe (DET. PIKACHU , ISLE OF DOGS , and TRANFOMERS 5 ), David Strathairn (AMERICAN PASTORAL , and the upcoming THE DEVIL HAS A NAME ), and Richard T. Jones (QUESTION/FAITH  and CONCUSSION )
Director: Gareth Edwards (STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE )
Writer: Max Borenstein (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of)
Composer: Alexandre Desplat (SISTERS BROTHERS , SHAPE/WATER , FLORENCE JENKINS , DANISH GIRL , UNBROKEN , and the upcoming THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2 )
Cinematographer: Seamus McGarvey (EL ROYALE , LIFE , ACCOUNTANT , and AVENGERS )
Editor: Bob Ducsay (RAMPAGE , STAR WARS EPISODE VIII , TMNT 2 , and SAN ANDREAS )
This is my honest opinion of: GODZILLA
Fifteen years ago, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) was a scientist at a nuclear plant in Japan when a freak meltdown happened and killed his wife, Sandra (Juliete Binoche). In the present day, Joe’s son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is a career U.S. Navy man for the bomb squad with a family of his own, married to Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and their son, Sam (Carson Bolde). However, the events of the past still haunt him and his father today as Joe and ford discover that the company Joe used to work for, Monarch, had been lying all this time and the meltdown wasn’t nuclear like the world was led to believe, but rather covering up an incredible discovery: a giant dormant life form, affectionately called a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). To make matters worse, it wakes up and the people of the world know soon learn about it, and the only force that can possibly kill it is a prehistoric alpha predator known by Monarch as, Godzilla.
Damn, this movie didn’t quite hold up. I mean, it’s by no means bad, but… yeah, let’s get into it.
The opening is quite promising. It doesn’t really bother to really hide Godzilla during the old-timey footage, but honestly… after that, the movie is boring. If you haven’t guessed, this is the primary problem with the flick. I understand the idea behind it. Build up the appearance of Godzilla and make it an awesome entrance. To be fair, they do a good job. That first roar is too awesome. Here’s the problem, he appears about forty-five minutes in. Yeah, it takes that long for him to show up. This wouldn’t be the worst thing if that forty-five minute wait was filled with good characters to carry us to that moment, but that’s the other problem. While Cranston is undeniably amazing in his character as the “desperate for answers” man, and certainly gives it his all, Cranston isn’t in the movie long. The film is then carried by Johnson, and sadly, Ford is a very bland and boring character. Where’s his personality? What is his personality? I know next to nothing about him, other than… he’s a good guy, is a good husband, and a good father. Oh… gee wiz, this just works on so many levels, guys! Sarcasm aside, what hurts the most about this role is that Johnson isn’t very good. He doesn’t emote very well and is pretty monotoned and doesn’t always seem that invested in what’s going on. I mostly blame the writing and directing because I’ve seen Johnson act the shit out of a movie before (I’m looking at you, NOCTURNAL ANIMALS), but he almost looks like he doesn’t give a shit that he’s in this movie. And because we mostly follow him throughout the movie, it runs the risk of being boring for some audiences.
Even when Godzilla shows up, it doesn’t amount to much as we don’t actually see him fighting the male MUTO, unless it’s on a TV screen. Which… yeah, that’s not as exciting as this movie thinks. We want to see the hard-hitting action, we want to see the mayhem and destruction. Hell, we don’t even get to see how the fight ends. It just… does. No explanation either. We just see him swimming, or the MUTOs breaking shit without any real intention, eating nuclear missiles, yet very rarely do we see anything all that exciting.
In retrospect, the only human-centric scenes that hold up the movie are when the story isn’t focusing on Ford. Olsen does a great job at her role, and definitely Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Sarizawa holds up the flick as arguably the most interesting character outside of Cranston. Sadly, that’s about it. Hawkins is wallpaper, and I totally forgot that she was even in the movie despite my recent love for her thanks in large part to the Paddington movies and SHAPE OF WATER, but she’s wholly useless in this movie. What a waste of tremendous talent.
The only saving grace of the movie is very much the reason why JURASSIC WORLD was saved for a lot of people, the climax. From the moment that we actually get to see Godzilla and the MUTOs fight is when the movie is at its best. The size, the scale, the destruction, it’s great. There’s even a wonderful and even unique style to how the action is presented. A whole lot of dust in the air, so a lot of the time you see only the shadows of the monsters, or they fade into the clouds of dust, it’s actually really cool. And who can forget that HALO jump, putting us right in the action, just the breathing of the jumper, up close and personal to the monsters, and that epic choir score. Dude… I wish the rest of the movie was this bad-ass.
What’s strange is that this movie has a pretty easy way of maneuvering around the problems with the characters. If this movie wanted to go the MAD MAX: FURY ROAD route and purposely make Ford boring and serve strictly as an observer, then take out the backstory with his father. Take out his family entirely. Don’t even really give him any dialog and a nothing character. Just react how the audience would be reacting to the events unfolding around him. There’s a way to make it work, provided you have a talented enough set of filmmakers behind the project. What’s presented in the climax is the only show of great filmmaking. Beforehand, it’s dull.
I can’t say that I really enjoyed the movie. At least, not until the climax. While the inevitable franchise certainly has potential, and I’ve very much looking forward to the sequel, which looks to be far more action-packed, the launching point wasn’t up to snuff and likely won’t even be necessary for the overall experience come the crossover between Godzilla and King Kong in 2020.
My honest rating for GODZILLA: 3/5