For anyone who still has a bad taste in their mouths from Roland Emmerich’s terrible 1998 reboot of the Godzilla franchise, rest assured. There is no Matthew Broderick, no Hank Azaria, no Puff Daddy/Led Zeppelin callabos, no Taco Bell endorsements, and most importantly nothing that resembles the blueish-grey lizard of the previous film. Gareth Edwards has FINALLY given us all the proper high-budget Godzilla film that we’ve been clamoring for after all these years of disappointment, and it was mostly worth the wait.
Gareth Edwards does a noticeably great job directing this film. It’s very obvious that it’s a film made out of love for the character, rather than the potential for marketing ploys or a huge paycheck. The only film Edwards has directed prior to this was 2010’s micro-budgeted, gorilla filmed, Monsters, a film that not only proved you can make incredible sci-fi films without a budget, as well as proving that it IS possible to humanize terrestrial creatures. It’s a fantastic love letter to monster films, that I cannot recommend any higher.
What was brought to the table for Godzilla, was essentially everything that made Monsters work on an emotional level. It manages to make Godzilla a human character that you empathize with, rather than being just a big monster who knocks over buildings. Think Andy Serkis’ performance as Kong in Peter Jackson’s King Kong. Despite the film wrongfully showing Godzilla as a savior rather than a horrible creation of mankind’s scientific mistakes, you still connect with that overgrown dinosaur more than any other character in the film.
Visually, the Godzilla franchise has never looked better thanks to Seamus McGarvey’s beautiful framing and textures. Everyone’s (hopefully) seen that infamous teaser trailer with the Halo Jump through that beautiful crimson skyline. Well, that’s only a fraction of the film’s beautiful cinematography. While Godzilla is filmed in Scope, both McGarvey and Edwards do a pretty good job of using wide shots of the Kaiju beating each other senseless that give the feeling of being presented in a much bigger format. Whereas Guillermo Del Toro spent so much time using zoomed in shots of the fight sequences in Pacific Rim, not letting the viewer truly get a good grasp of the sheer scope and size of that film’s creatures.
There are still some flaws to be found, however. The film’s screenplay could definitely have used some tightening up, and almost all of the film’s characters could ABSOLUTELY have used some kind of development. Prime examples being Elizabeth Olsen’s character, who is married to and has a child with Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who, through the entire film, pretty much only runs around the streets of San Francisco seemingly in Godzilla’s damage path; Ken Watanabe, who plays a Japanese scientist who spends the entire film staring on in confusion & horror; and last but not least, Ford’s dad (Bryan Cranston, still channeling a bit of Walter White), who worked at a Power Plant that was destroyed by a newly hatched Kaiju and is seeking to expose the Japanese government for hiding it from the public. This is hands down the most frustrating one, as Bryan Cranston’s character has the most interesting background, and ultimately became a useless character.
The second biggest problem lays within the film’s frustrating editing. Although intentional, the film often cuts away to something else anytime you start to see some action from the Kaiju. It makes sense why, as the filmmakers really want to hype up the big fight at the end, but after an hour and a half of glimpses, you find yourself internally yelling “JUST GET ON WITH IT”. Part of the problem is that most of of the fighting is all told through the human POV, rather than just letting the camera linger on Godzilla. Look, when your monster is the biggest incarnation that’s ever existed of it, just let your audience have a long tracking shot of it destroying everything. Sure there are the few wide shots I previously mentioned, and a couple of truly exciting scenes which are so fun, they deserve not to be spoiled, but by the end of the film you can’t help but wish you had gotten just a bit more of Godzilla and less of Elizabeth Olsen running around covered in rubble.
Don’t let that discourage you entirely, though. Godzilla IS the best Godzilla film in a very VERY long time. It’s still a lot of fun, and the scenes that you DO get of Godzilla fighting the Kaiju are still great. It’s just a shame that they weren’t able to really pull the story together well enough to make you care about the human aspect of the story. We can just hope that the inevitable sequel gives us a bit less buildup, and more of what we want. At the end of the day, Godzilla is still worth your time, and a hopeful glimpse of what may be to come.
I give Godzilla a 7 out of 10.
By Richard Pepper