Before going to see Godzilla, ask yourself this important question: how badly do you want to see giant monsters fight each other?
If the answer is “very badly,” then this is the film for you. But if what you really want is a satisfying film with a compelling narrative and emotional resonance, then you are likely to be disappointed.
The end of Godzilla is a thing of beauty. Director Gareth Edwards delivers on the carnage. Using Andy Serkis, the best motion capture guy in the business, Edwards manages to evoke the vintage “guy in a rubber suit” movements Godzilla while simultaneously updating it both in the look of the CGI and the fluidity of Serkis’ movements. It’s the best of both worlds – paying homage to the class Godzilla films while utilizing modern technology to make it look and feel very current. The way Godzilla looks when breathing fire, which surges through his entire body before shooting out of his mouth, is particularly fun to watch.
Unfortunately, everything leading up to the big climactic battle feels overwrought and dull. There is way too much exposition considering it’s all leading up to a giant lizard fighting two giants bugs in a crowded city. Grounding the final battle in a gripping story could have added emotional weight, but the storyline is so terribly dull that it doesn’t really add anything. The only character you actually care about in the film is the giant lizard, who feels much more two-dimensional and compelling than any of the human characters.
Making matters worse, Edwards’ tries to pay homage to the schlocky melodrama of the original films, but only does so sporadically, which causes the tone in the film to constantly shift. In what should be a powerful emotional scene where Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) watches helplessly as his wife is caught on the wrong side of a nuclear reactor lockdown, Cranston’s grief and the way the scene is shot are both so over-the-top that it feels more like a parody of a dramatic scene than an actual one.
Speaking of Cranston, despite being prominently featured in the trailers, he really doesn’t have much to do in Godzilla. Outside of chewing on some scenery early in the film, he mostly exists as motivation for his son Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) to go on the hunt for Godzilla.
Ford is your typical bland action movie hero. Clearly they went and found a young, attractive actor and hoped his good looks would be enough to mask the fact that the character doesn’t have a single compelling thing about him. As I write this, I’m struggling to remember a single unique characteristic about him, outside of the fact that he was “heroic.”
Godzilla, on the other hand, is incredibly developed. He’s presented as sort of a diva. He likes to fight in front of a big audience, holds on to vendettas and likes to make a flashy entrance. In short, he would have made an amazing 80s wrestler. And his finishing move, which I won’t give away for you here, is a thing of beauty.
While the human characters are all underdeveloped, the film also suffers under an overlong plot that doesn’t make much sense. Godzilla first appears in 1999, wreaking havoc on the Janjira nuclear plant. Then, for some reason, he disappears without a trace for 15 years before resurfacing to fight a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism).
The MUTO decides to head to San Francisco to hook up with a hot, female MUTO so that they can make adorable monster babies. And Godzilla, angry cockblocker that he is, decides to take them both down. Somehow military scientists are able to piece all of this together despite the fact that these are all mysterious creatures that no one has ever seen before or knows much about, and they make plans to get to San Francisco before the monsters so that they can attempt to wipe them all out at once.
The plot is convoluted and nonsensical. But it’s all window dressing to get to the big climactic battle. I couldn’t help wishing that they could have found a quicker and more compelling way to get to the end, but once they got there, the film became really fun to watch.
Speaking of fun to watch, the opening credits are wonderful. They are a montage featuring 1950s nuclear testing footage and redacted text which quickly flashes on the screen before being blacked out. All that’s left when the text is blacked through are the names of the cast and crew. It’s a clever and sharp-looking opening scene.
If only the material between that opening sequence and the climactic battle had been more interesting, this would be a truly enjoyable film. Unfortunately, as is, it’s a mediocre film with a really great final battle. But if you are jonesing for some well-shot and fun Godzilla fighting action, then this may be the film for you.