On a minor note this review will contain minor spoilers for the film.
The 2014 reboot of Godzilla has been much anticipated by Godzilla, kaiju, and action movie fans since it the announcement came out, I know I certainly was. Here's the thing, I love Godzilla, and giant monster films, and I loved the 1998 Godzilla film and despite what many felt I think it was a good monster flick. There were reasons that I actually think the 1998 film topped this one. It will take some time to explain but let me just start with the cast.
Starring in this feature are a few big names, first comes the actor who was shown over and over in the trailers, Bryan Cranston, the star of Breaking Bad and a wonderful actor to boot. From the trailers you would believe he is being paired with Ken Watanabe as a science/conspiracy tag team bent on unraveling the mystery of Godzilla and why he's come to earth. Unfortunately the real story is much less compelling.
It starts off well with Wantanabe's character (and the mysterious group Monarch) discovering a cavern which held a giant monster of some kind. It then cuts to the Janjira nuclear plant where a mysterious disaster takes place where Cranston's character loses his wife. Then there is a time jump 15 years later (to 2014) which sees Cranston's grown up son going after his father who has snuk into the Quarantine Zone around Janjira. From here though the story goes to focus on the son (Ford) played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Unfortunately Cranston steals every scene from Johnson, he just has more presence and personality while Johnson has little to work with save for one emotional scene where they discuss the death of his mother.
Sadly following a bit of an underwhelming scene where they sneak into the quarantine zone there is some mildly interesting dialogue where we just miss out on Wantanabe and Cranston sharing the scene but are treated to a spectacular visual of the emergence of the films opponent creature, the MUTO. Then though (spoilers) Cranston's character dies in the ensuing chaos, and despite a set up where Wantanabe and Cranston could be working together he is killed off, and instead we have to follow Johnson's character, Lt. Ford, who just doesn't have the same screen presence, nor a very compelling story to follow.
|Here's an image of a MUTO toy|
Having not seen Kick Ass I can't comment on any of his previous starring roles, but here in Godzilla he's just flat. To be fair he isn't given much to work with save for bouncing from plot device to plot device, and some of his scenes are so badly done that I just had to groan at their execution. For instance, in one scene which is supposed to be suspenseful he becomes a glorified babysitter for a while. Honestly it was almost painful to watch as he was shunted from one scene to another with almost no direction other than "get back to wife and kids". It was shallow, predictable, and pretty boring to watch while we waited for the monsters to show up.
Oh yes I suppose I ought to mention that for a Godzilla movie there isn't much Godzilla. We don't see the title monster until well over an hour into the film (unless you count the distinctive back scales). Then when we do see him in his full glory for the first time it's briefly before cutting away to watching a kid watch a news report about two monsters fighting.
Now wrap your head around what I just said, there is massive set up for Godzilla to appear on screen, and some set up for the MUTO and it's action, but the first time we see them together the film cuts away to a kid watching a news report about them. I was shocked and nearly enraged when I realized that a character in the film I'm watching is watching a better film than I am. The first big monster fight is barely glimpsed through a secondary source on screen and then we cut away to after the monster fight with Johnson's character trying to again reunite a random kid with his parents.
Well I didn't pay to see a kid get reunited with his family, I paid to see giant monsters fight. Here's the problem with this film though, it teases the monsters, especially Godzilla. We get flashes of him, brief scenes of monster fights, and random cuts of him tearing around. It's almost like the movie was afraid to show the monsters extensively on screen. I don't know why, they look amazing, they move well, are animated well, and all around look fantastic. The one scene where we get a clear shot of the fight it is amazing! Hell I almost cried when I saw Godzilla breathe his traditional fire in glorious modern animation!
The fact that it looks so wonderful makes the lack of monster's on screen even more baffling. It's almost as though the film runners are trying to make it a horror film.
Let me just say that this film is brilliantly visualized, the production values are amazing, it looks wonderful and when the two monsters clash like forces of nature it's as though you're seeing a hurricane in a slap down with a tornado. It is beautifully destructive!
It doesn't answer the question of why the film doesn't show the monsters more though. To me it seems as though they are working from a script which was only half finished, or had been cobbled together from various ideas. It doesn't seem like a complete story was set down, and it almost seems as though it was just put together from other ideas and added up for convenience. To be honest I'm not even sure they knew where the plot wanted to go.
All in all the few minutes of film with monster fights are beautiful, however, they are dragged down by an aimless plot and flat characters which aren't even bad enough to be vehicles for giant monster fights, in fact the giant monster fights are just vehicles for the flat characters and aimless plot!
Though the film is sometimes boring and a little dull, it makes up for it with the occasional monster action and simply gorgeous visuals (the HALO jump scene is phenomenal) I would say it is alright. I don't think it's the cult classic that it could have been, but overall its worth seeing once, at least for the monster fight.