Release Date: 5/16/2014
Dir. Gareth Edwards
Starring: Bryan Cranston (Joe Brody), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Ford Brody), Elizabeth Olsen (Elle Brody), Ken Watanabe (Daisuke Serizawa), Juliette Binoche (Sandra Brody), David Strathairn (William Stenz)
I don’t know anyone under the age of 70 who doesn’t know about about Godzilla. It is a staple for many people who remember the battles of kaiju vs kaiju. Godzilla is one bad monster and when you go into a suped up modern version there are some fairly decent expectations. The number one being great battle scenes. While there weren’t quite as many big fights as I may have hoped for, there was quite a bit of destruction from the mutos rampages. Walking out of the theatre I was filled with a strong sense of how enjoyable the movie was, but there was also something that just felt missing.
A deluge of SPOILERS awaits!
15 years ago, Serizawa discovered the remains of a muto in the Philippines. At that same time, Sandra and Joe Brody were living with their son in Japan as they worked at a nuclear facility. Joe and the others workers noticed spikes in seismic activity that we coming from under than plant. Joe suspected something was up due to the activity rising rather than the random nature associated with earthquakes, but not quick enough to save his wife who he had go down to check things out with a crew. The facility collapsed and the area was evacuated as the Brodys lost Sandra.
Fast forward 15 years to the present, Ford Brody is returning home from his tour working for the military in a bomb disposal unit. No sooner than he gets to have a night home with his wife, Elle, and son, Sam, does he get a call from Japan indicating that his dad had been trespassing and someone needed to come get him. After quickly leaving, he finds his father who we learn is completely obsessed with finding the trends and discovering what really happened 15 years ago. Joe manages to convince Ford to come along with him to go to their old home, still in a quarantine zone, to get some of his old files and prove himself. When they arrive it is quickly clear that the zone isn’t actually filled with radiation. Just after getting his files the Monarch police take them into custody.
As the Brodys are being held, the seismic activity that was on the rise again peaks. This time instead of the nuclear plant collapsing, the muto is reealed. It breaks free of its cocoon and after destroying much of the location it heads out to sea. In the process, Joe was severly injured. Serizawa brings Joe and Ford along as they are taken into Navy custody to stop the muto. Joe dies shortly after landing on the ship and Ford is questioned about what he knows. That’s when Godzilla first makes his appearance as he rises up onto Honolulu to stop the muto, but they are only driven closer towards San Francisco. To make matters worse, it is discovered that there is another larger muto in Nevada and they will converge in San Francisco to mate. The navy devises a plan to lure all the monsters (the mutos by the radiation and Godzilla by the mutos) off the coast and detonate a war head. After numerous mishaps they get the bomb out there, but not over the water. In the end it was Godzilla who took out both mutos, allowing for Ford to get the bomb far enough off the coast before it exploded. In the end, Godzilla lived and Ford was reunited with his family.
/End Plot Overview
The film felt like it had two very different parts warring within itself. In the beginning, the focus was very much so on the Brody family. We saw their origins and how it left the family fragmented. In one quick moment, Sandra was lost and Joe very much felt that it was his fault. This guilt was what drove him, what made him focus on not letting her death be in vain. He wanted to learn from what was happening, but as the years went on, that clearly wore on his son who just wanted his dad to finally move on. And in a last minute attempt to appease his father, he was torn away from his own family. To add insult to injury, the very person who drew him away was taken from him as well. This moment was played lightly, both in how we were delivered the news and also Ford’s reaction. Yes, there was a much bigger problem at hand, but we don’t really see any emotion pass his face.
In fact, Ford never appears to ever be upset about anything in the film. We see him frustrated in the beginning, but he is very much a soldier. Time and time again, we see that he has a calm and level head which makes him capable of thinking rationally and doing the things he needs to do to survive. It’s hard times, but we never see the frustration in him as he is beaten to pieces. In fact, it’s almost as though he’s a husk of his former self until he reunites with his wife. While I’m glad they gave him a level head, I wished he would have felt a little bit more because the result was I didn’t care much for his family. Thus it didn’t feel important if he reunited other than knowing that it was his goal. It didn’t help that Elle generally just bumbled around feeling nervous and looking scared.
The human aspect was played up that meant that the beginning of the film felt like a much different film than the later parts. In fact, the early parts of the film felt like a mystery or political thriller as Joe was trying to uncover what was going on at the Janira plant. The moment that the muto was revealed that shifted. It shifted into the monster movie that we all expected. The world was now just a stomping ground for the kaiju as they went about their business. It gave the film a very end of the world feel, thus making it reminiscent of a disaster movie. The mutos savaged the land and Godzilla did so as well.
The one thing that bothered me the most was the entire nuclear warhead idea. The military’s idea was to use a nuclear warhead to lure the mutos out to sea and then allow it to detonate and destroy the mutos. Potentially. They were never fully sure that the blast would in fact kill the mutos, rather than the mutos absorbing all the radiation like yummy food. They took a gamble with the warhead that wasn’t going to be too far off the coast. It made me question if the creators really understood the effects of the nuclear bomb. Sure we had warnings from Serizawa who even pulled out his father’s pocketwatch that had been destroyed by Hiroshima. They even mentioned that the bombs dropped on Hiroshima were like firecrackers compared to what they had now. And still, they were going to blow it so close off the coast, that the only thing they’d be saving the people from was the blast and not all of the fallout. Fallout that should have killed everyone in the city. But it didn’t. Don’t ask me how.
The mutos were great to watch as they destroyed everything in their wake. The kaijus were especially terrifying when we saw oe move within feet from Ford as he was on the beach. San Francisco was leveled, Honolulu was flooded and destroyed, and the Vegas strip was a shadow of it’s former self after the larger muto decided to take a stroll through Ceaser’s Place.
It isn’t a Godzilla movie if it doesn’t look like he’s not going to win for a minute. And we got that moment, along with some really fun battle sequences as Godzilla fought the mutos. The mutos, while much smaller, they were no joke to be messed with as they had hooks that could dig into Godzilla. It’s a shame that we didn’t get more battle sequences between Godzilla and mutos, but when Godzilla did make his appearance it left an impression on all around. Not only was he powerful, he was well designed and seeing him rendered on the big screen left a great feeling. Godzilla looks like one damn good kaiju.
I left Godzilla feeling satisfied. And for that reason, I would definitely recommend that you go see it. Any fan of the Godzilla franchise will not be disappointed by this entry. That said, not everyone is going to love it. Despite the human element that was skillfully added in the beginning is later dropped for the action of kaiju fighting. And despite enjoying the movie, I can’t shake the feeling that something was missing that I can’t quite put my finger on. But there was a nice nod to Mothra in there.
Check out the gallery here. What did you think of the movie?