Movie Review: 'Godzilla' (2014)

Gareth Edwards' grand successor to his indie “Monsters”, follows-up on his earlier film’s ambitious maneuvering. In Edwards' vision of Godzilla there are threads of “The Impossible” and “Independence Day”, neatly interwoven throughout. At the core of the reasoning for this script is the notion that nature has a balance and the way it demonstrates this is highly relevant.

Fighting fire with fire is an age-old battle method and in the storyline of “Godzilla” there is an epic demonstration of the truth that nature can only be fought with nature. The magnitude of weaponry’s insufficiency to harm the giant creatures is an illustration of man’s powerlessness at the hands of raw nature, a truly scary thought. This is also the angle that makes “Godzilla” with all of its larger than life special effects, a frighteningly plausible enough story to get lost in.

Similar to most films in the disaster genre there are characters through whom viewers watch the spectacle unfold. In the case of “Godzilla” it is the journey of returning Navy Lieutenant Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). We are introduced to him in the opening minutes of the film, when he was a child, where a life-altering Godzilla-related event transpires.

"Godzilla" then flashes forward 15 years to his brief homecoming, which is thwarted when he must leave for Japan to resolve a crisis concerning his father (Bryan Cranston). Shortly after, all hell breaks loose. The parallels between a tragic past soon collide with an uncertain future.

Why it was necessary to start the story in 1999 and the bearing it has on the events transpiring in the present, is left curiously unresolved. The opening sequence’s impact is short-lived, and the story it generates gives viewers no real insight into Godzilla. Or the opposing creatures he must face off against.

The unresolved fates of nameless characters in contained vignettes can be frustrating. Although it allows a change-up to the main storyline, haunting with its lack of resolution.

When Godzilla finally makes his debut it is worth the wait, as are his fights. There is an initial irritation that sets in with the lack of Godzilla’s screen time and in this sense, the film leaves viewers wanting.

The unsettling sequence of a Godzilla-induced tsunami is an expertly delivered adrenaline pumper which makes up for it a bit. There is a gentility and overall emotional resonance about this Godzilla. He is more dignified and restrained this time around.

Of course, the film needles you with anticipating his appearance as viewers must sit through watching his Alien-esque rivals for longer than is necessary. Also overplayed is the continued (if realistic) exhaustion of the main human protagonist.

The performances are all well-done. Taylor-Johnson supports the film with an appropriate mix of compassion and brave intensity. It’s a role that doesn’t demand the range he is capable of but does remind audiences why he’s been heralded as a rising star for the past few years.

Ken Watanabe gives a gripping turn with what he’s given which, unfortunately is far less than he deserves. He and his character beg for so much more exploration, hopefully the sequel gives it to them. 

It’s what the film manages to not show that continually stirs the excitement and it doesn’t visually fatigue as a result. It has a great deal going for it; the rendering of Godzilla, the decent human storylines.

It also answers the question of why a creature, such as Godzilla would be necessary in the first place. How the world could survive the theoretical threat of a giant dinosaur in modern times is given an answer that elevates the film past a just-for-kicks destruction revelry. 

For Godzilla to be portrayed as a restorer of balance; humanity’s salvation, instead of its doom is an alluring spin on the story. “Godzilla” is a proper disaster film that carves out a unique angle to its leading attraction, leaving a stamp on the legacy of cinema’s most notorious movie monster by absolving him of being one in the first place. Rating 7.1/10