Synopsis: The world’s most revered monster is reborn as Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures unleash the epic action adventure Godzilla. From visionary new director Gareth Edwards (Monsters) comes a powerful story of human courage and reconciliation in the face of titanic forces of nature, when the awe-inspiring Godzilla rises to restore balance as humanity stands defenseless.
Release Date: May 16, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Horror, Science Fiction
When speaking of movie franchises, it’s hard to think of a character that has been serialized or re-imagined as many times as Godzilla; the King of the Monsters has starred in more than 30 films in his 60 years of existence. To put that into perspective, there are only 25 James Bond films. Godzilla has gone from atomic menace to defender of mankind. He has been the star of his own cartoon show and has been satirized in a Pee-wee Herman movie. Now, director Gareth Edwards (Monsters) is giving the giant lizard a 21st century makeover in a new reboot, simply called Godzilla.
Godzilla begins in 1999 with the destruction of a nuclear power plant in Janjira, Japan. A technician who was responsible for the safety of the plant, a man named Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston from “Breaking Bad”), becomes obsessed with the disaster and spends fifteen years trying to learn the cause of the failure. With the help of his son, a Navy Lieutenant named Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson from Kick-Ass), Joe learns that it was no regular meltdown. Joe and Ford meet Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Inception‘s Ken Watanabe), a scientist who reveals to them that the power plant’s collapse was due to a monstrous creature known as a Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism, MUTO for short, who feeds on radiation. Dr. Serizawa tells the men that the MUTO has escaped and is heading towards America, where another MUTO is housed. Fearing that the MUTOs will mate and make lots of MUTOS, the American military comes up with a plan to destroy the monsters that involves detonating an atomic bomb near them, but Dr. Serizawa has another idea; remembering a similar massive reptile from the 1950s, he intends to let Godzilla take care of the MUTOs.
After Roland Emmerich’s 1998 fiasco, it’s a wonder that Toho Pictures granted a license for an American company to make another Godzilla movie. Thankfully, they did, and Gareth Edwards steps up to the plate in a big way. He is aided by an intelligent script by Max Borenstein (Swordswallowers and Thin Men), but the vision is undeniably his. Godzilla is not a remake at all; it’s essentially a sequel, but it’s also an updating. The biggest thing that the film does right is that it follows the formula of classic Godzilla-as-Hero movies – this Godzilla could be called Godzilla vs. The MUTOs. Although he is misunderstood and feared at first, Godzilla is absolutely the protagonist of the film. Godzilla the monster is a highly charismatic presence, and Godzilla the movie is a cheer-out-loud good time.
To be fair, Godzilla is much more than a monster movie. The Big Guy doesn’t even show up until almost halfway through the movie, but that’s okay; it gives the film time to introduces the characters, provide some backstory, and establish the MUTOs as threats. When a movie has a cast that includes guys like Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe, it’s good to give them something to do besides look at the sky and gasp. There is an action-packed subplot that deals with the military’s atomic bomb plot, as well as a human story about Ford trying to get home to San Francisco, where he can be reunited with his wife (played by Oldboy‘s Elizabeth Olsen) and family. The actors do much more than just watch the monsters fight. That being said, the monsters are the main draw. Once Godzilla does make an appearance at the party, it’s his show, and no one’s going to take it away from him.
The first thing that is very clear, right from the first sighting of the monsters, is that this is not your grandfather’s Godzilla movie. While the old Toho productions and their rubber-suited actors have an undeniable charm, Godzilla brings the franchise into the 21st century. The effects are all computer generated and motion captured, and the modern Godzilla looks great. He’s much more muscular and reptilian than previous incarnations of the monster. The MUTOs are new creations, and have a very modern feel – they are very much like the creature in Cloverfield, both in appearance and behavior. The CG effects are very slick and smooth, and as a result, the monster fights look awesome. And, to those who thought that the climax of Man of Steel was destructive, Godzilla raises those stakes; over the course of the movie, the monsters flatten Honolulu, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. Not damage, but flatten. Roland Emmerich would be jealous of the devastation caused by this Godzilla.
One knock on the visual effects in Godzilla is the disappointing use of 3D. Or, to be more accurate, the disappointing lack of use of 3D. To its credit, Godzilla doesn’t have any of the gimmicky 3D staples, like planes flying into the camera or a monster tail seemingly smacking the viewer in the face. However, the 3D is used so subtly that, after a while, it’s hardly even noticeable. With all of those CG monsters, the 3D could have been really cool. As it is, it’s a bit of a waste.
With monsters the size of the ones in Godzilla, the sound effects should not so much be heard as they should be felt in the viewer’s gut. And they are. Sound designers Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn (who are both accustomed to loud noises – the team worked on Michael Bay’s Transformers movies) make sure that every stomp, crash, and roar vibrates and echoes throughout the 7.1 theater sound setup in a way that makes the viewer feel as if they are right in the middle of the carnage. One of the finest moments in the film comes from a sound effect; at the end of Godzilla’s first confrontation with one of the MUTOs, the MUTO lets out an angry yell. In response, Godzilla pauses for a second, and then rips off one of his signature screams, making the MUTO look weak in comparison. And it’s perfect. The visual team can do what they want with Godzilla’s look, but that scream is one of the most recognizable sounds in movie history. Aadahl and Van der Ryn (along with their team of audio professionals) respect that fact, and they nail it. And they nail it loudly.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Gareth Edwards
- Screenwriter(s): Max Borenstein
- Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Ford Brody)Ken Watanabe (Dr. Ichiro Serizawa)Bryan Cranston (Joe Brody) Elizabeth Olsen (Elle Brody)Carson Bolde (Sam Brody)Sally Hawkins (Vivienne Graham)Juliette Binoche (Sandra Brody)
- Editor(s): Bob Ducsay
- Cinematographer: Seamus McGarvey
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Alexandre Desplat
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA