Godzilla’s Bark Is Worse Than Its Bite (Movie Review)

Godzilla 2014 Movie ReviewIf you were asked where would Hollywood be without another reboot of the famous Japanese film monster, Godzilla, how would you answer?  I guess if someone asked me that, my initial response would be probably making another attempt at Freddy Krueger.  But since things didn’t fair all too well for the slasher’s last go around, I would gladly have Godzilla back any day, that is until they reimagine Michael Myers.  However, as usual, I digress.  Strolling into this past Monday night’s press screening, despite the few negative reviews I had read, I was actually looking forward to seeing the big green guy stomping around like nobody’s business on the giant IMAX screen.  After all, American audiences haven’t had any Godzilla sightings since Roland Emmerich’s take in 1998.  Wouldn’t you say it’s kind of about time to welcome back our monstrous friend?  I think so!  I’m a big fan of the recent collaborations between Legendary Pictures (minus Jack the Giant Slayer) and Warner Bros. so why not?  Let the good times…um…smash!

So first thing first, Godzilla is directed by Gareth Edwards.  If that name sounds familiar to you, good…it should! The guy got hired basically off of an independent film he wrote and directed in 2010 called Monsters, his very first feature too.  However, what’s so special about that film is that Gareth personally created the special effects and besides the two main actors, the crew consisted of just five people.  Can you say wow?!  Now I’m not sure I would hand the keys to the kingdom over to him with Godzilla just yet, but you have to admit that’s pretty impressive.  And the fact that any guy who says Star Wars is the main reason he wanted to become a filmmaker is A-OK in my book.  However, this time out, Gareth did not pen this one.  The screenplay was written by Max Borenstein and the flick stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston and more.

I guess you can say that this reincarnation of Godzilla has been in development for a long time, but it really wasn’t until 2010 when things started to get set into motion with commissioning a first script.  And truth be told, after witnessing this one firsthand Monday night, this screenplay has a lot of ground to cover from 60 years of time to globetrotting all around the place.  I wouldn’t want to be the screenwriter here.  They have their work cut out for them.  First we go back in time to 1954 to see what all the atomic bomb hush hush is about.  Then we move forward to 1999 where we are introduced to American physicist Joe Brody (Cranston).  Let’s just say things don’t bode well for Joe and his family and then we flash forward yet again another 15 years this time.  And truth be told, despite being labeled as crazy, Cranston’s character doesn’t look like he aged a bit in this 15-year advancement, but his now older son, Ford Brody (Taylor-Johnson), sure has.  The craziness of Cranston’s character, more like obsessiveness, is what brings these two characters together and ultimately propels the story along as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Watanabe) is the only one who doesn’t think Joe is crazy and catches Ford up to speed on pretty much everything that has transpired in the past 60 years.  Brace yourself!  Yes, people.  We live in a world of monsters!

Now I know how shocking that last statement must be so let me refrain a bit from spoiling anymore of the story and cover the basics like visual effects, acting and whatnot.  So on the visual effects front I admittedly was a bit let down.  I’m not sure if it was because of the 3D version I saw so I’ll tread lightly here.  The onscreen characters definitely pop, but do you all remember that scene with Jack Sparrow at the end of Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest when the Kraken rises up out of the water and Jack is looking right at it?  Remember how God awful that looked?  It looked like Depp was standing right in front of a chroma key screen because the Kraken had no dimensionality to it whatsoever.  I saw a lot of these moments in Godzilla.  I’m kind of disappointed because I figure by this day and age we have to have these kind of special effects issues resolved by now, right?  Now Godzilla on the other hand, when we actually saw the big guy, looked outstanding despite his need for a serious diet.  Hey!  I’m just looking out for our big green friend.  I don’t want him to develop monster diabetes or anything bad like that.  Fanboys beware.  Early reviews of Godzilla’s pudginess were not exaggerated.  That being said, other than the clear shots we get of Godzilla, the rest of the special effects were just on par with any other disaster movie you may have seen in the past ten years coupled with several just average moments.  The only thing I will say is because of the 350-ft tall monster you will be prone to want to pony up the extra dollars and see this on the largest screen possible, IMAX, but in my opinion you should not.  It’s not filmed in IMAX.  It wasn’t presented in IMAX format.  It never filled up that monstrous IMAX screen I saw it on.  It’s a LIEMAX.

So next up let’s chat for a few about the acting.  Here’s where I get all baffled in this one as again while I try to remain spoiler-free it seems the human element, at least to me, is what trips things up a bit here.  But more on that a paragraph later.  For now let’s focus on the acting chops of the veterans involved here.  First up, how about Bryan Cranston?  In my opinion, this guy has to try really hard to do anything really bad or derogatory in his performances.  Like the Cranston we are used to, he shows up here unlike Bruce Willis in his films.  There’s nothing truly spectacular about his performance, but there’s nothing irrepressibly bad either.  Then there’s Ken Watanabe.  While the guy had little dialog at times he just perfectly fits the part as does the charming Elizabeth Olsen who plays Ford Brody’s young wife (I’m looking forward to seeing her in the next Avengers flick).  And last but not least, that little segue brings me to Ford Brody, portrayed by Aaron Taylor-Johnson.  I really like the kid.  I really do!  I loved him in both Kick-Ass films as well as seeing him in something different all together with his role in Savages, but for some reason his role in Godzilla here seems almost stupefied.  Where’s the emotion, Aaron?  Honest to God, I felt like I was watching the Kick-Ass character, Dave Lizewski, the whole time, just with shorter hair (#disappointment).

And finally, let’s talk about the feel of the movie itself.  I think back to how much I loved 2007’s The Transformers.  Now don’t get me wrong.  The two sequels were flaming turds, but that first one was filled with many iconic scenes and moments, in my opinion (complete with flaws).  I feel it was all due to that human element infused that just worked so well for me.  And in all honesty, I feel that’s how they were billing this Godzilla film within the trailers.  It looked to be more grounded from a human perspective (monsters in a Nolan world), but I think that’s why it ultimately felt so unravelled to me because the human performances and iron clad story just wasn’t there for me.  Put it this way.  Going into last year’s Pacific Rim you know what you were getting.  Big monsters and robots first and humans second.  I was okay with that and ultimately had a blast with it.  Going into Godzilla you also know that you are getting a monster movie, whether or not it was a throwback to the old school ones remained to be seen, but you know what you are signing up for.  However, the trailers really want you to believe this retelling is more humane and focuses on the humanity of it all, namely following the plight of Ford Brody, whom I am not sure really changed at all throughout.  It was just sad.

To me the movie was ridden with some bad dialogue, awful performances, some shabby special effects (again it could just be the 3D presentation I saw of it) and some really ridiculous moments.  But on the flip side…it’s a monster movie!  How well does the humane approach with the okay I will go ahead and say it throwback to the old monster movies way of doing things go together?  In my opinion, not that great here.  Although I will say this.  The fighting of Godzilla is very stiff due to the belief that the filmmakers wanted his actions to be more animal-like, which they say they studied up on, but that did not stop them from producing one hell of a end all, kill scene.  I applauded what happened there.  That was the best thing in it for me!  The final act!  Who cares about the first two-thrids of the film?  But in the end, nothing that transpired other than the lunacy of it all was really that memorable to me and it truly felt like nothing more than a set up for an eventual sequel should people flock to see this one and conjure up high earnings for it.  So for me…this one is a slightly above average meh.  I will give it a second chance on Blu-ray, but it’s not getting my dollars at the box office.  Enter at you own risk.  This one is not for everyone.

Godzilla 2014 Theatrical Poster


Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

1 Response to “Godzilla’s Bark Is Worse Than Its Bite (Movie Review)”

  1. Craig Kandiko

    I couldn’t agree more.