America has an… interesting track record when it comes to Godzilla films. It seems like every couple of decades we take a crack at one and the results tend to speak for themselves. In the 50s, we butchered the original Gojira and added Raymond Burr (with a sequel in the 80s!). In the 90s, Matthew Broderick and the guy who voices Homer Simpson headed up what might be one of the worst movies ever made. Now in the 2010s, Monsters director Gareth Edwards takes on the King of the Monsters. Was he able to break the curse?
Godzilla (2014) takes on the Kaiju film concept from a different angle. Instead of a constant barrage of giant monster action, Edwards opts for more of a slow burn. We first see new monster MUTO in small bursts, wrecking cities before leaving just as suddenly as he arrived. Godzilla himself is used even more sparingly early on, only shown as a set of spikes breaking the water line as he swims through the ocean.
But when he’s revealed, in his full height, to battle MUTO, he’s a sight to behold, elliciting cheers from the audience.
The problem with this way of not giving the viewer spectacle fatigue is that large stretches of the film are dedicated to the human characters, specifically Lt. Ford Brody played by Kick-Ass‘s Aaron Taylor Johnson, who once again struggles to hold our attention every time he’s on screen. Thankfully, the plot (Brody must get home to his family but keeps getting caught up in military action against the monsters) is exactly is thin as it should be for a Godzilla movie. No one’s expecting (or even wants) a character study on the frailties on the human condition here, the humans are there to get us from one monster fight to another. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough of them.
The ones there are though are great though. Edwards spent $160m so that their CG Godzilla could look like the best man in a suit imaginable, and that’s amazing.
When the biggest complaint you can levy at a film is you wanted more of it, then I’d say Edwards got it mostly right. This is even more obvious when you consider the 8 year-old behind me who, as soon as it over, started begging his father, “I want to see it again! I want to see it again!” It hit that kid the same way our first Godzilla movie hit each of us and made a fan for life, and isn’t that what matters?
I give Godzilla (2014) 7.5 ATOMIC BREATH ATTACKS out of 10.
Be sure to also check out friend of the site Glenn Walker’s review over at Biff Bam Pop.