|A scene from Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' epic action adventure "GODZILLA," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.|
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
© WARNER BROS ENTERTAINMENT INC. & LEGENDARY PICTURES PRODUCTIONS LLC
2014, 123 minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence
Review by Joshua Handler
Blockbusters are some of my favorite kinds of movies to see, at least when done well. There’s something supremely satisfying about seeing a well-executed movie meant to thrill. The sad thing is that it is so hard to find a great blockbuster. The last exemplary one I can remember was J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness. I almost would’ve said Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, but that was more “big-budget” than “blockbuster”, though it was excellent. What Star Trek had that others didn’t was that it seemed that Abrams was having fun while still trying to make a thrilling sci-fi action movie with characters I cared for. While Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla has no characters that I truly cared for, it is a very well-executed film, and it appeared as if Edwards was having fun while trying to make a good movie.
Godzilla has had a rocky history. While the Japanese original is now widely considered a classic, it had numerous knockoffs, and a 1998 remake by Roland Emmerich that was universally panned. While every piece of advertising for this Godzilla made it seem as if we were in for a thrilling spectacle, I was still suspicious of whether Edwards’ Godzilla would deliver. To my complete delight, it did.
Edwards knows what his fans want, first and foremost. There are numerous moments in Godzilla in when I was truly in awe. The only spoiler-free moment I can share is the one in which we are first introduced to Godzilla himself. Like Jaws and many other films after, we are teased with glimpses of Godzilla, but don't see him in full until a good portion of the film has passes. After building anticipation for what seems like an eternity, Edwards gives us a shot that first focuses on Godzilla’s body before slowly tilting up. The beast’s body gets larger and larger. We know what’s coming. Finally Edwards stops on Godzilla’s face and the beast ROARS! This is the roar Edwards knows everyone has been waiting for. And this roar is loud. And satisfying. It’s moments like this that make Godzilla the satisfying spectacle that it is. However, the other virtue of Godzilla is that there isn’t too much monster action.
Many might ask why an abundance of monster action is a negative. After all, isn’t that what we’re watching the movie for? I would ask that person to sit back for a second and think of Jaws. We don’t see the shark until a chunk of the movie has passed. What we’re imagining is terrifying and Spielberg knows that if we see the monster too early, we’ll quickly grow tired of it. If Spielberg had given us a number of shark shots early on, we would quickly tire of the shark and we would keep wanting more. The same goes for Godzilla. The more we see of him, the more quickly we want more and become bored of the creature that we came to see the movie for.
Many may be wondering why I have discussed little more than the monster aspect of the film. The reason is because the humans are simply there to balance out the monsters. Almost all of the monster action is shown from the human’s viewpoint, which allows us to only see glimpses of monster action, which keeps us wanting more. I never had any attachment to the humans, which normally would detract from my viewing experience, but in this case, it was okay because I was so entertained.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson heads up the cast and Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, David Strathairn, Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, and Sally Hawkins also star. All give fine performances (Cranston really shines – he should’ve been the lead), but again, they truly do not add or detract from the movie.
Overall, Godzilla is a loud, well-made piece of entertainment that features some very good storytelling, an exciting score from the versatile Alexandre Desplat, spectacular visual effects, and incredible sound design by Erik Aadahl and sound mixing David Alvarez. While far from perfect, this Godzilla is very satisfying. A note: do not see this film in 3D. It doesn’t need it (Seamus McGarvey, the director of photography, has spoken out against it) and it severely darkens the image. If you do see it in 3D, take off your glasses for a moment to see how much more vivid the colors are and how much brighter the picture is without the glasses.