Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Review of Godzilla

Yes, this film is another Hollywood reboot of the famed Godzilla film franchise. However unlike the 1998 Roland Emmerich-directed monstrosity, where a giant lizard pretended to be The King of Monsters, this Hollywood remake is actually good.

We can all thank director Gareth Edwards for this. After gaining fame and critical acclaim for 2010 "Monsters", the British director had disappeared for a few years but Godzilla marks a great comeback for the director.

The film starts when Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) found the fossil of a giant animal in the Philippines. After some exploration, they found two egg-shaped pods, one of which had already hatched.

The action jumped to Japan where the Janjira Nuclear Plant near Tokyo suffered a meltdown. Plant supervisor Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) lost his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) due to the incident. The authorities quickly attributed the disaster to an earthquake and quarantined the Janjira area.

15 years later, Lieutenant Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) had to return to Japan to bail out his father, Joe, from prison. Joe believed that the government is covering up the incident of the meltdown and for the past few years, he has been trying to figure out exactly what happened that caused his wife’s death. He convinced his son to enter the quarantine area with him where they were quickly captured by Japanese security. 

While he and his son were prisoners of the government, a giant creature comes to life and began rampaging through ruins of the reactor. The creature flew off towards the U.S and Dr. Serizawa believes that it is flying there to meet another creature. While the two creatures, called MUTO, rushed to meet up with each other, another giant creature is rising from the deeps of the sea. What is this creature? Well, if I need to tell you that, you're watching the wrong movie.

What this film got right is that it stayed faithful to the source material. The movie retold the origins of Godzilla in contemporary times as a "terrifying force of nature" who is neither good or evil. It is just there and any damage it caused to humankind is more due to our mistakes than it's actions. You would think staying faithful to the source material is a given but we are talking about Hollywood here so...

The film also got amazing special effects and good monster fighting. The main battle at the end when Godzilla fought 2 on 1 against the two MUTO was the highlight of a series of excellent monster beat-down. I knows there had been some complains but I thought director Gareth Edwards did the smart thing by waiting before showing Godzilla in its full glory. He let the tension slowly build but when we finally saw Godzilla up close on the San Francisco bridge, it was a sight to behold. The same thing with its radioactive blast. When Godzilla finally use it, it was "Hell Yeah!".

The film is also, rather surprisingly for a monster flick, anchored by a couple of very good performance from its' actors. Ken Watanabe and Bryan Cranston gave solid performances but I thought David Strathairn as Rear Admiral William Stenz was the standout. In his brief appearance, he managed to show a man who knows he is in over his head but determined to do everything he can to save as many lives as he could.

As good as the film was, there were some bad spots.

Chief among them was lead actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Now it is amazing to see the geeky guy from Kick-Ass turned into this beefcake, but I have to agree with all the critics regarding his performance. Tried as he might, Taylor-Johnson just isn't that good as an actor. Worse, at times he seem disinterested in this film.

I also have to question why the film always switch to the humans whenever the monster fight. A MUTO and Godzilla fights and halfway through, we see the humans viewing the fight...through a TV? Come on, I understand the (useless) need to have a human perspective but do we need to have that every time they fight?

Still, Godzilla is excellent. The film is exciting, well-directed and a visual spectacle. Sure the story isn't much to shout about but it is workable and honestly, if you are watching Godzilla for the story...well, you really need to see more movies. Bring on the sequel!

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