He’s coming! On May 31st we’re getting Godzilla King of the Monsters. In celebration of this momentous movie, I figured what better time than to review its 2014 predecessor simply titled Godzilla. This movie was the first film I ever saw in IMAX and that experience is one that has stayed with me for years, and I hope to see KOTM in IMAX too. So without further ado, let’s travel 5 years ago to 2014 and look at Godzilla. God damn this movie came out 5 years ago, I’m getting old.
This plot is one that isn’t exactly new to the series, but it’s one that I find somewhat unique in how it’s presented. A new threat appears to our world in the form of the MUTO’s, a pair of primordial creatures whose existence threatens our survival. Along with these colossal beasts, another appears know as Godzilla, a creature who appears to be here to restore balance to the world by killing the MUTO’s. THis plot is told from the perspective of the humans and their efforts to aid in the take down of the MUTO’s, or at the very least not be killed by them. The first quarter or so of this movie is actually really good thanks to a stellar performance from Walter White himself Mr Brian Cranston, but the second half of this film falls flat thanks to his sudden departure from the movie and being taken over by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who’s fine but he doesn’t have the same flare as Cranston. The rest of the movie serves as a hype generator for the final fight, and the buildup does pay off, albeit with slightly less than stellar lighting for the final battle but I’m getting ahead of myself. So overall the story is kinda predictable but also somewhat unique, the monsters act more like plot devices than threats or allies, but their presence as malevolent threats is certainly felt and the story is an engaging one.
- Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston): Oh hey a top character named joe, this is nice. Oh what did you say? He dies super early? Well now I’m sad. Jokes aside, Cranston delivers a raw and powerful performance here, a man driven to madness and obsession over the loss of his wife thanks to the actions of the MUTO’s. He’s just so engaging and passionate in this performance, he’s really going all out but reining it in just enough to make it believable. However the biggest sin is that despite this performance it isn’t around for long, Joe dies really early and this is a serious bummer since he’s the best character in the movie aside from Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe). SO while his time was short, his story was grand and the performance even grander.
- Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) – The other protagonist, and the one we spend more time with, Ford is a generic action hero character dripping with cliches. He’s a soldier, a family man, a strapping lad and always wanting to do the right thing for others, if this was a drinking game i’d be passed out dreaming about King of the Monsters right now. His performance is fine but the character is basic and in a lot of ways kind of just happens to pop up where he needs to be in the plot by coincidence, but that’s a slight against the writing and pacing and not the character. He’s fine, just nothing to write home about.
- Elle Brody (Elizabeth Olsen) – I feel really bad for Elizabeth Olson here, she’s just as cliche as Aaron Johnson’s character. She’s a loyal wife, a loving mother and a do gooder through and through, she’s no damsel in distress but she’s also not very impactful other than serving as one of Ford’s motivators. Her performance is also alright, but even less to write home about than Ford.
- Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) – This guy is great, I just love him. Serizawa is this Godzilla guru who sees Godzilla as the true ruler of earth (bonus points if you get that reference) and actually encourages the fight between Godzilla and the MUTO’s. His performance is really emotional as he feels a connection to Godzilla because of his nuclear roots and Serizawa’s connection to the Hiroshima disaster in WWII. So along with Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe is one of the better actors in this movie.
- Other characters: The other characters in this movie are pretty standard. The military officer played by David Strathairn is fine, he’s not your typical villain army man which I appreciate, but he’s there mainly to work off Serizawa. Speaking of Serizawa, his assistant played by Sally Hawkins always has this look for paranoid panic and barely restrained terror and doesn’t do anything other than agree with Serizawa and act scared, the character is written in a way that is slightly annoying since she does nothing for the scenes she’s in. SO overall this cast is a mixed bag, but the mixed bag has some really tasty picks in it.
This movie looks pretty good, impressive CGI that really sells you on the size of these creatures. The movie however suffers from serious lighting problems and the cinematography at times can fall flat. First off, the lighting works to conceal the mosts, which isn’t a bad thing since it builds dread, but it sometimes gets so dark you can barely see the monsters. In the cinema it’s visible, but watching it at home requires you to close all curtains, blinds and turn off all the lights, only then will you MAYBE will be able to make out what’s happening. There are a few creative shots in the movie, the skydiving scene being one of them, even though visibility is once again limited, but I will praise the creativity of that moment. The monsters are also portrayed through a combination of long distance shots and low angle shots, really selling their scale, especially since at the time this was the biggest movie godzilla out there. The monster combat was also good, it was slow and sluggish but in a good way, these are big beasts and their slow movements both die in spectacular ways, especially the female MUTO, who has a fatality style death that really has to be seen to be believed. So overall, aside from poor lighting in some of the monster scenes and otherwise generally generic shots in the human scenes, this movie’s presentation does keep you interested and adds a level of immersion when the monsters are on screen.
- MUTO’s: The first new Godzilla antagonists since 2004 with Godzilla Final Wars’ Keizer Ghidorah and Monster X, the MUTO’s are actually very good. I love their insectoid designs and their dark and gritty look, plus their abilities are actually really clever and make for effective weapons against humans and Godzilla alike. I also like that their motivation is to simply breed, which isn;t inherently evil, but does pose a threat, making them more like victims of their own evolution and not having a place in the modern world. Their presence is imposing, their designs are threatening, and their abilities are fierce, the MUTO’s are great beasts that helped usher in a new age of Godzilla antagonists.
- Godzilla Himself: Here he is, after 10 years Godzilla is back, and boy he got fat during that hiatus. Ok I actually like this Godzilla design, is is a little chunky but I think that for a creature as threatening and large as Godzilla it works. I also love his new origin, being a primordial creature awoken by nuclear radiation. His atomic breath and physical capabilities are a treat, showcasing his power and setting his precedence as the true ruler of this earth and all beneath him. This is a great incarnation of the king, and I can’t wait to see him return this month.
- Story: 3/5 – Predictable at best, this plot serves its purpose as many Godzilla movie plots do. There’s nothing too new here and the story does have more padding to stretch the runtime but the story is still engaging and one you’re invested in, having an urgent vibe as it’s a race to take out these new goliath threats.
- Characters: 3/5 – Aside from Bryan and Ken, these performances are supplementary for the most part. They aren’t bad by any means but many performances really do fall flat when stacked up against the likes of Cranston, and the characters themselves can either feel the same or cliche.
- Presentation: 4/5 – These are great effects but the lighting issues are a pain to get past when watching this movie in a room with any semblance of light. The monsters look great and the fight scenes are full of great moments and satisfying payoffs to buildups.
- Enjoyability: 4/5 – As a Godzilla fan this is a great film and was actually my gateway movie into the franchise, so I have a bit more of a softspot for it. It’s a generic monster movie and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
- (Unique Grade) Godzilla…ness: 4/5 – The king is back and he’s big. I like his design, his origins, his place in the movie, this movie did a good job of handling Godzilla, even though his screen time was limited. I’m glad we get to see more of him soon.
Final Grade: 3.5/5
As a movie it’s fine, as a Kaiju movie it’s also fine. I wouldn’t call the movie overrated or underrated, I’d say it’s right where it needs to be for a franchise like this. I’m glad this movie exists so we can have the Monsterverse, which I hope continues after Godzilla vs Kong in 2020. So well done Godzilla 2014, you brought Godzilla back and ready brawl a new generation of monsters.
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