Was hoping to enjoy it more on this go after having been disappointed from a theatrical viewing, but on a revisit my opinion nevertheless remained the same. Gareth Edwards, a director only known at the time for a small scale science fiction film, Monsters, started off Legendary Pictures’s MonsterVerse on a more middling note than anything. Being the first American Godzilla film after the atrocity that is Roland Emmerich’s film, Edwards seems to have a grasp on what made a great monster film as a whole at least by remaining within the spirit of the original Japanese films – and yet it’s still somewhat lacking. As a star for the MonsterVerse it was intriguing to see what would have come out as a result from Godzilla but the most it evokes is that it’s just desperate to start up an entire series of films rather than standing out on its own: which I suppose I can get behind with what more it teases.
Set 15 years after an incident at a nuclear power plant in Japan, this new take on Godzilla stars Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Ken Watanabe: all as people who are trying to find out what has come behind such an extraordinary circumstance. In the tradition of the original Godzilla films, we do have an allegory laced within the story in regards to the nuclear scare and its effect upon Japan. There was promise laced through what it was that Gareth Edwards had intended to present in Godzilla but there’s only so much that his relentless teasing could leave behind and among many moods that come by, just a general sense of frustration arises amidst something that should be far more enjoyable as a whole especially with the notion that the whole world is revolving around the phenomenon that is Godzilla and what’s happening as he wreaks havoc upon cities coming in its path.
I’ll admit that the film’s own mannerisms with teasing is something that actually keeps me interested with where Gareth Edwards wants to take Godzilla, because in spite of a clear lack of experience there’s competence that can be felt within how he directs suspense from one scene to another. Unfortunately it comes from this method of building up tension where Godzilla also becomes a frustrating watch: because there’s so little even coming about within the film’s two hour length. Among the most common complaints that are expressed towards Godzilla come from just how Godzilla’s actual time on the screen is extremely limited and I hate being one to add to such complaints, but considering how much of his appearance is only teased the experience only becomes even more tedious just waiting for something to happen that places Godzilla at the center of the screen.
Ishiro Honda’s original Godzilla film wasn’t also a film completely about Godzilla, yet another aspect of Gareth Edwards’s effort that actually felt pleasing to see in some extent. He knew that the original films weren’t always going to be about the monster (something that Roland Emmerich’s film had failed completely at getting a grasp on), but the way that these characters are written tells a whole other story. It isn’t so much Gareth Edwards’s fault that Godzilla isn’t holding our interest enough during these smaller moments, but it’s moreso a problem that came as a result of Max Borenstein’s script, not even feeling campy or just by distinctly lacking personality all throughout. Even the most talented of its leading actors can’t breathe life into Godzilla, whether it be Bryan Cranston or Sally Hawkins, but it’s especially unforgivable when we see an actress like Juliette Binoche is given so little material to work with given how quickly she is killed off.
At its most successful however, the moments where we see Godzilla in all of its glory are easily the most exciting parts of the film. Coming around to see Godzilla in action, whether it be destroying buildings in its path or fighting off other monsters – these moments are technically the most flawless moments in Godzilla. But the most pleasing thing to feel about these appearances is the fact that Gareth Edwards isn’t so much invested with the spectacle he could have turned something of such a large budget into, but within the mystery of the monster itself. They’re beautifully shot and the visuals are breathtaking just as one would ever have wanted for a Godzilla movie, but in the climax it’s nice to see how everything delivers just as one would ever want out of such in the most satisfying sense. If anything at least made Godzilla a worthwhile watch in theaters, it was just the joy of seeing Godzilla in full glory whenever it came out for once: it’s a shame the rest of the film says otherwise.
Godzilla is better than Roland Emmerich’s atrocity by a good lot, although that goes without saying. What Gareth Edwards managed to set up with his own lack of experience at least shows potential for what could be more because of how he constructs a blockbuster of this sort especially in the sense that it’s starting up a universe. It feels like a Godzilla film from the olden days because it wasn’t about Godzilla itself, but unfortunately this is also what ends up making the film far less distinctive the way it stands. One’s own enjoyment of Gareth Edwards’s film depends on what it is they expect themselves to see out of a Godzilla film in general, but the most it has always been is a beautiful, if frustrating experience as a whole. For what little we have of Godzilla coming out in full glory, there comes stale human drama which only makes for an occasionally monotonous ride. But because this was only the start of a universe in itself, it would only be more interesting to see what comes forth.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Warner Bros.
Directed by Gareth Edwards
Screenplay by David Bohrenstein, from Godzilla by Toho
Produced by Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Mary Parent, Brian Rogers
Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, Elizabeth Olsen, David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins
Release Year: 2014
Running Time: 123 minutes