Movie Review: Godzilla


Ten years after a mysterious accident at a nuclear power plant in Japan, an enormous creature emerges that threatens human life on Earth.


Gareth Edwards, 2014

We start the film in flashback mode in 1999. Scientists discover a cave in the Philippines where the skeleton of a giant creature lies, along with an alarmingly empty egg pod. Not long after, something causes an accident at the Janjira Nuclear Plant in Japan, where Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) work. When Sandra investigates, the plant collapses, killing Sandra in the process and leaving Joe to raise their son Ford alone. As an adult, army bomb expert Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is forced to return to Japan to release his father from jail, leaving his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and son behind in San Francisco. His father talks him into returning to Janjira, where they uncover a plot to hide and contain something monstrous…something that won’t be contained any longer. The monster that’s unleashed threatens to kill millions of people, unless someone or something can stop it.


Godzilla is a movie for the purists, a kind of apology for the much-maligned 1998 film. Directed by Gareth Edwards, who made a splash a few years ago with the far superior microbudget alien flick Monsters, there’s a beautifully effective war movie aesthetic to this film. The action is earth-shaking. The kaiju look terrific, and there’s great use of smoke and mist to keep the monsters hidden until the last minute for bonus effect, but Godzilla looks like an updated version of the traditional Japanese monster. There’s genuine pathos given to the creatures, and the special effects are wonderful and convincing. The sound design is good too, and the movie has some great actors in it, including Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe (the only lead Asian character in a movie that takes place in Japan and Hawaii for most of its runtime) as scientists and David Strathairn as a military commander. Bryan Cranston does a fair job chewing the scenery, too. It doesn’t matter how good the cast is or how pretty the movie looks when the script is this bad, though.

This was the most disappointingly lazily written movie I’ve seen in a while. I was quite looking forward to it, because so many critics called it “surprisingly good”. Maybe they had their ears blocked the whole time and were just looking at the pretty, pretty pictures. Maybe they just liked the action sequences and went along for the ride. It doesn’t matter, because I’m pretty sure Steven Spielberg (whose movies seem to be inspiration here) could crap out a better script on his lunch break. This is by-the-numbers plotting at its weakest; I could predict every single moment before it happened, and whenever the monsters weren’t on screen I was bored to tears from about fifteen minutes in until the climax. The movie focuses heavily on the human impact of the toll the monsters take, but it’s focusing on the wrong humans. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a talented guy, but even he can’t make me like the white bread Ford, who happens to be in the right place at the right time far too often to be believable. The early fridging of Juliette Binoche’s character is about as good as it gets for women in the film, let alone non-white characters, who are almost all cannon fodder. (Seriously, I can’t get past how many white men there apparently are in Japan and Hawaii.) Elizabeth Olsen is wasted in a role where she’s limited to crying over her husband and kid. They would have been better off making the entire movie from the kaiju’s point of view, since I felt more for all of them than I did any human in the whole thing. It just goes to show that throwing a good director and a lot of money and a bad script can only go so far; the whole thing reminds me of a retread of the way Avatar was conceived. Hopefully, people will realise the flaws in this movie once the novelty wears off too.

Godzilla on IMDb


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