If you love the old Godzilla movies, 2014’s Godzilla will hit you with a wave of nostalgia. On the other hand, the human elements of the movie may leave you with a feeling of ‘been there, done that.’
The special effects and the monsters are phenomenal. I have to particularly note the excellent use of the setting and scenery to set up the scale, awe, and mystery of the giant monsters. Seeing a huge trail leading to the sea was somehow more ominous than actually watching a monster wade into the ocean. People walking on long-dead bones did more to express the size of the monsters than seeing humans run away from them did. These scenes of destruction, years or moments after a monster passed through, were just perfect.
The movie score was also amazing, using silence and a strange rhythm to create an eerie feeling – a feeling kind of like the first time you heard Godzilla roar as a child. Where the movie failed most was the human element. The main character, Ford Brody (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is the same white male we seem to get in every monster movie. He has to protect his family. He serves his country. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time over and over and over. And he’s utterly fearless somehow, which I think took away from his performance.
Then we have his wife, played by Elizabeth Olsen, who exists only to remind us that she and their child are the reason her husband is out there. She does nothing of note and is, of course, a nurse. The majority of her dialogue is spent reassuring her son that Daddy is probably okay.
Then we have Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, played by Ken Watanabe, who should have been the main character, but he’s an Asian hippy, so what’aya’ gonna’ do? He had his own version of useless female companion, Vivienne Graham, played by Sally Hawkins. Hawkins was especially strange because she acted her small part so well, I kept expecting her to actually have a real role in the plot!
Of course, the most intriguing character in the story is Joe Brody, played by Bryan Cranston, but even his cheesy 1970s dad lines sometimes fell flat. He and his son are both driven by the fate of their wives, which I find interesting because it seems so old-fashioned. The office and I sat around the next day and just rattled off monster/alien action movies featuring this trope and this character and we eventually just stopped because there were too many. Godzilla is a movie with a big enough name that they could have had an awesome old lady be the main character and America still would have flocked to see it. I hope they try something braver for the inevitable sequel. And because I know you’re all wondering: I liked it more than I liked Pacific Rim.
This is a B movie at its finest. Full of over-the-top action, citywide destruction, intriguing monster mysteries, cliché heroes, and badass fight scenes, this was everything I wanted in a Godzilla movie. Although it has a slow start and fairly boring human characters, the monsters and history will keep you excited until the last, glorious, death.