Growing up, I was infatuated with the Godzilla films. I had toys, movies, everything. The 1998 version was a big letdown to me but when I saw the first trailer for this newest iteration of the franchise, I was excited.
The gist is that the government has been covering up the existence of creatures like Godzilla. When an engineer (Bryan Cranston) loses his wife to an accident, he dedicates his life to uncovering what is really happening. His son (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) grows up to become a bomb specialist in the Navy, trying to forget the tragedy of his youth, while his father becomes a conspiracy nut. Taylor-Johnson marries Elizabeth Olsen (the other Olsen sister) and they have a child. 15 years have passed but something else has awakened in Japan and Cranston’s conspiracy theorist character may have the key to unlocking its mystery.
This movie, while you may think it’s going to a Pacific Rim-style monster movie, is really focused on the people. Bryan Cranston delivers a great performance though he’s not really the star of the movie. We follow Aaron Taylor-Johnson and his wife Elizabeth Olsen. Taylor-Johnson does the best he can with the script but he’s really just the eyes from which we see the spectacle. It’s a little too convenient that wherever he goes, the monster attacks seem to follow. We spend the first hour and a half with Taylor-Johnson exclusively almost and he manages to be likeable enough to care about and heroic enough to root for.
But that’s not what you care about. You care about monsters. Godzilla is as epic as you’d imagine, with some of the best visual effects I’ve seen in recent years making him come to life. Now, you have to exhibit some patience, because he doesn’t really appear until the final climax of the film. You do get to see a few other notable monsters (here called MUTOs, for Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms) and they are amazing to watch. For the most part, this movie is a natural disaster movie and we get plenty of destruction, at the hands (or rather claws) of these monsters.
So in the final climax… Does this patience pay off? Yes, absolutely. I see so many movies that dramatic moments don’t affect me as much as they used to. But this climax had my jaw dropped for its entirety. When Godzilla shows up, it’s everything you want. I’m not going to spoil anything, but patience is a virtue.
What doesn’t work?
With an hour and a half of just teasing Godzilla, one can question this film’s pacing. I appreciate what they tried to do (and some can say they succeeded at it) but for most casual moviegoers, you might be left with a sense of disappointment. Is one big Godzilla fight enough to justify a whole movie?
And while this a character-driven movie, the characters don’t have a lot of depth and mostly exist to move the plot forward or to give us perspective of the monsters’ attacks. If the characters are the weak spot, that’s a huge weak spot. The problem was likely in the script, so I don’t blame the talent.
And again, I enjoy the suspense and payoff, so it wasn’t a huge weak spot for me, but if I had to pinpoint a weakness, that would be it.
This was a really great movie because I appreciated the hour and a half buildup to one of the coolest monster fights in recent years. As a film, this is a gorgeous work of art. The monsters look fantastic and all the destruction looks as real as it could likely get. The humans get a lot of screen time and I didn’t have any faults in their performances. The movie belongs to the big guy though, who delivers one of the coolest climaxes we could have expected. But for some of you, one fight scene at the end between monsters isn’t worth the admission price (and the hour and a half buildup). I wholeheartedly enjoyed it though and would definitely recommend giving it a shot.