May 17, 2014

Godzilla: Movie Review

With its hand deep in visual effects, Godzilla handles better than its 1998, American predecessor, but if you're coming to watch an action film where the King of Monsters kicks ass and takes names, you might want to rethink the film you're watching.

Godzilla follows the story of  Lieutenant Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), as he ventures from Tokyo, Japan, to San Francisco, California, to be with his wife (Elizabeth Olsen), in the midst of a monster invasion. Yes, Godzilla is not about, well, Godzilla. The titular monster is held back for an hour. The wait is worth it, but disappears quickly as director Gareth Edwards focuses on the humans and their monotonous, point-by-point stories.

The first half of the film focuses on Lieutenant Ford and his father, nuclear physicist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), who search for the truth after a Japanese nuclear facility suffers from a meltdown. Each character brought to the screen has a cookie cutter representation with a certain unemotional objective to accomplish. Ford's main goal is to get home to be with his family, which goal dwindles as he becomes a pawn in a military assignment to rid the Earth of Godzilla and his enemies. Conveniences sweep Ford away at last minute so he can be where the action is. The second half finally gives the audience a massive Godzilla and enormous set pieces that are visually breathtaking.

Unfortunately, the destruction occurring throughout the film often times feels underwhelming. Edwards teases Godzilla to the point of absurdity, but never fulfills the true desire to have Godzilla wreck havoc and brawl. The first shot of Godzilla is astonishing, then leaves as fast as it came. Edwards keeps the camera shots where a bystander would be watching the chaos unfold, so there are no Michael Bay-esque shots. This would be okay, but Edwards develops a knack for cutting the action to where the audience only sees bits and pieces. The first fight between Godzilla and his enemy starts off astonishing, and right when the first punch comes, the action is cut to a small television screen in a living room where everything is grainy. Even in the finale, Edwards only shows the money shots of Godzilla, while the in-between battle sequences become blurred as Edwards focuses on Brody and his journey through monster invested San Francisco.

Edwards's intentions are good and his shooting style unique, but it is never enough to fully satisfy. The characters are only in the film to watch the destruction and follow the monsters. Godzilla brings the thunder, if only for a few quality minutes of screen time. The special effects and the hope of seeing Godzilla in all his glory is what keeps this film going, but when you look back you'll be wishing you saw more of the action.

Good Qualities: Godzilla looks amazing. The money shots and the grandeur of the destruction.
Bad Qualities: The camera angles and human point of view damper the sweeping visuals and epic monster battles. The first half of the film leads nowhere emotionally for the main character and only serves as a dull plot point to give the character something to do.

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