Godzilla (2014)
By: Devon B. on May 28, 2014 | Comments
Godzilla (2014)
Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Ken Watanabe
Screenplay: Max Borenstein
Country: USA
The new Godzilla movie opens with Walt from Breaking Bad, evidently having survived cancer, working in Japan 15 years ago. There's a disaster that destroys the nuclear facility where he works, echoing the real life situation from a few years ago, and then he and his young son are forbidden to return. 15 years later and poor Walt's still trying to get back into the old family home to retrieve some data that he thinks will help solve the mystery of what happened on that fateful day, but his son thinks he's just a nutter. When similar conditions start to develop it becomes clear that Walt isn't a nutter and something big is about to wake up.

Godzilla firmly separates itself right away from the 1998 reimagining starring Matthew Broderick, which I will henceforth refer to as Brodzilla to avoid confusion with the new film, by not being completely imbecilic. It still has some ridiculous elements, like the explanation of what's going on, but rather than silly sight gags and terrible scripting, Godzilla has a measured pace and attempts to bring some gravitas to a story about a giant lizard smashing some buildings. Detractors of Brodzilla will be happy that Godzilla feels much more like one of the Japanese films than the last Americanised Godzilla vehicle. The downside of this is that there is more people talking about monster mayhem than there is actual monster mayhem, but there is thankfully some good payoff at the end.

Clearly a lot of research was done for Godzilla, the fun kind that involves watching lots of previous kaiju eiga, because there're lots of little nods for fans of the series, from a subtle Mothra reference to a sly joke about the origin of the Gojira name – there's even a cool reference to that other monster King. One odd thing is that despite paying tribute to the Japanese Godzilla series, this movie has downplayed the environmental awareness message that is so often integral in the Toho films. There is some lip service paid to this theme, but it's nowhere near as prevalent. The movie actually goes so far as to justify some of mankind's previous assaults on the planet, and while the film ultimately presents the idea that these actions were unnecessary it seemed disrespectful to the traditions of Godzilla. That would be a trivial matter except the original Gojira is a sombre film referencing the bombing of Japan during World War II, so its traditions are important. Godzilla is not offensive like the American remix of Gojira 1984, and toning down the ecological message means the movie is less preachy than some of the Toho ones, but it also means that Godzilla has lost a bit of its heart.

Thankfully Godzilla hasn't lost his style this time out. While there were some positives about the Brodzilla Godzilla design, like that Godzilla swam rather than tromped across the ocean floor, I think most fans were disappointed with the alterations to The King of the Monsters' look. In Godzilla he looks like "a giant avocado with a lengthy tail," as Kepi Ghoulie so eloquently put it in "Hats Off to You (Godzilla)," and that's how I want him. While Godzilla isn't on screen anywhere near enough, probably somewhere between five and 10 minutes, he looks like the mutated T-Rex we all love. The CG at times gives him a strange texture, but there were times where Godzilla looked amazing and seeing him on the big screen made me giddy. Unfortunately the 3D didn't add much to Godzilla himself for me, but I'm old school when it comes to 3D and want to see stuff fly off the screen at me. I didn't get the fire breath spraying out into the audience I wanted, however the 3D did add some nice depth to the trail of destruction left behind whenever a monster comes to town.

There is another good aspect to Godzilla, but some people might consider it a spoiler so here's fair warning I'm going to do some revealing in this paragraph. It wasn't only Toho movies researched before Godzilla got underway, because there are some 90s era Gamera elements here, too. I consider that Gamera trilogy to be the pinnacle of the kaiju eiga genre, so I think drawing influence from them is a good thing. Rather than just reintroduce Godzilla, this movie takes a cue from Gamera: Guardian of the Universe and also introduces some monsters for our hero to fight. In fact, it takes such a big cue that these other monsters are like a cross between Gyaos and Legion, with a bit of Starship Trooper bug thrown in for good measure. I would've liked to see more Godzilla and less of the bug things, but this restraint enables Godzilla to still be a somewhat unknown quantity during the big showdown, and having beasties to battle with allows for some big budget monster mashing in the film's climax.

Godzilla is a little too slow for my tastes, but whenever Godzilla did his iconic roar all the deliberate pacing was forgiven and I was just glad to have the opportunity to see The Lizard King redecorate a city again.
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