Review: Godzilla (2014)

Godzilla (dir. Gareth Edwards, 2014) – Humanity stands defenseless against monsters on a nuclear diet, rampaging through the city.

Verdict

Hey, remember the disaster movie back in 1998? Me neither. Gareth Edward’s reboot of 1954 Gojira succeeds in unearthly visual pandemonium, but could do with some Earth-bound connection.

3/5

Review

Monster movies – Pacific Rim, Mothra, Cloverfield – imperatively survive off scale. Director Gareth Edwards broke that very rule with his reflective debut feature Monsters and was rewarded with acclaim. His follow-up Godzilla is an entirely different beast. His take on the revered kaiju turns it up from jazz to eleven, with successive huge action sequences that involve not one but three giant monsters.

As each 300-foot nuclear behemoth rises from the ocean, their bellows of rage tremble under skin. Shredding through buildings and trampling on puny humans, every inch of damage makes an impact. The sound design is seamless and the visuals, astounding.

Godzilla
Pictured: Not the titular creature you paid to see.

As a result, Godzilla stands out on stilts from the crowd of visually-accomplished blockbusters in Hollywood today. Characterisation however, take a back seat to the aesthetic awe. An initial focus on the family tragedy veers expectations towards a more evocative and humanistic movie. Thus, disappointment ensues when it steers towards a destructive monster mash.

Key characters suffer the lack of complexity, amounting to bland archetypes from a typical disaster film. The strikingly underused cast begins with Bryan Cranston, who is less of a lead than we are led to believe. His Joe Brody is the inevitable man of science whose good intentions are mistaken for mad theories.

Bryan Cranston in Godzilla
“There is no way I’m wrong. I did the meth- MATH. I did the math.”

In their escape from the resulting mayhem, his military son Ford (Aaron Johnson) and wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) receive no better treatment as dully written archetypes with filler dialogue, the latter barely getting any screen time. Their empty personalities and trite motivations fail to skid past instinctual survival.

Therein lies no gripping story of moral decay à la Frank Darabont’s The Mist, while familial adversities are less affecting than Bong Joon-ho’s The Host. How they wish for a single line from Ken Watanabe’s dramatic passages about the revered force of nature, just so they can be remembered for a little something.

Godzilla
“Hey guys, I’m just going to stand in the foreground here. Where it’s safe.”

Devoid of jocund fun, Godzilla immerses in dark realism but lacks the depth to sustain credibility. Even against dystopian landscapes of rampant carnage, low stakes deeply frustrate, when danger only reaches as far as background characters. With a resolution that equate their actions to an exercise in futility, man’s follies seem of little consequence.

Only serving to thread the action, the sparse human plot leaves very little to invest in emotionally and hence loosens the thriller by a few knots. But there is no doubt that Godzilla would have otherwise been thoroughly intense and immensely entertaining with its visual majesty.

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13 thoughts on “Review: Godzilla (2014)

    1. Thanks for reading, Mike! So many enjoyed it more than I did; I was ready to receive some flak atop all that negativity. 😉

      I much prefer Japanese Kaiju films to 2014 Godzilla. Though they typically suffer in characterisation as well, they were always great fun. Those films never took the serious dark route that required a strong emotional connection.

      As for Cloverfield, its found footage genre would be at a disadvantage in terms of visuals. Then again, the genre is also responsible for making the film way more exciting with constant danger right before the lens.

      If The Mist counts, it stands right at the top with a rare balance between dreadful monstrosity and a compelling exploration of humanity. What’s your favourite movie from the genre?

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        1. Great choice! 🙂 I’m not sure if King Kong does, but it certainly is an interesting watch. All despite its simplicity in storytelling, which still makes for an excellent commentary on man’s arrogance against beastial nature.

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      1. Actually in many regards I’d consider the Michael Bay Transformers movies to be “monster” movies in a way. A city always ends up destroyed.

        What surprises me a bit about your review is that the human cast is underused…in the Transformers movies they’re usually overused!

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        1. Well, the Autobots may look mechanical, but they are organic and extraterrestrial enough to qualify I suppose. 😉 Monster movies or not, Transformers are a little too loud for my taste. And I’d agree with you there since the characters annoy me to no end. It’s mostly due to the awfully constructed damsel-in-distress trope.

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          1. They’re too loud for me too. I’d love if somebody with a sense of style rebooted the Transformers, more along the lines of their comic book counterparts.

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  1. I can say that despite the fact that I liked it more…I can totally understand why folks would like it less. I still do not know how some find it abysmal and give it a 0 or 1….but otherwise, I can see the flaws! At the end of the day, Joe Brody and his wife had emotion to it. When they switched the plot to his son…that is when the film lost emotion!

    So why not have Joe Brody trying to avenge his wife throughout the entire film? Missed opportunity if you ask me…

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    1. Thanks for reading! I’d have much preferred Joe Brody to lead the film as well. Bryan Cranston would have delivered a more affecting performance with his compelling story, given his cause for aggression against the monsters in spite of those potential clichés in the plot.

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