Here is my review of the 2014 version of Godzilla. I warn you ahead of time that this post will have spoilers, so please do not read until after you’ve seen the movie. You’ve been warned.
Isn’t it Gojira? This last weekend, I had the chance to watch the new Godzilla film, and I have to say, I was pretty excited about it. My history with the King of Monsters is pretty well documented, and I hoped that this film would make up for the 1998 abomination.
I’m approaching this review not from a stand-alone movie but as a representative for a franchise. The movie wasn’t exactly a reboot, as it recognizes the fact that Godzilla existed since at least the 1940s, but it does include characters from the original version, like Dr. Serizawa. I feel like the 2014 version made some interesting choices that I did not expect.
Admit it. You miss the rubber suit. Visually, this movie was stunning. I am typically not a fan of lots of computer graphics, but in the case of Godzilla movies … I’m not sure how else it can be done well. I loved the use of smoke and dirt and fog to obscure the creatures. That helped, I think. And keeping so much of it from a human perspective helped as well in keeping the monster somewhat real-feeling. Visuals have always been the weakest part of the Godzilla franchise, so it’s pretty easy to score well here. Still, I love that they kept more consistent to the original monster, with the spikes and the vertical gait.
Thematically, I also thought they treated the original Godzilla story with respect. Godzilla, Godzilla 1985, and Godzilla 2014 are all political movies. The original Godzilla is one big metaphor for a nuclear bomb in an increasingly Westernized Japan. Godzilla 1985 deals with the tensions of the Cold War. In this version of Godzilla, it seems to use the Fukushima nuclear disaster as inspiration. In this sense, I think the filmmakers did an excellent job of maintaining the thematic quality of Godzilla while modernizing it.
I was a bit surprised, and a little disappointed, in their choice to use the sort of “Godzilla protecting man from other monsters” version of the big guy. In my opinion, the best Godzilla movies are ones where he is wrecking Tokyo and other cities like a force of nature. I thought it was odd when that same Godzilla would come in to save Japan from various monsters. And this movie tried to explain it by having Godzilla act as a super-predator to the Mutos (Mothra? Muto? Get it?), but when he killed the giant creatures, he didn’t eat them. He just walked away. I could be wrong, but shouldn’t a predator be looking to eat its prey? Was it sport hunting?
My biggest issue with the movie was the human story. I thought Bryan Cranston’s Joe Brody was great, but they killed him off quick and left Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Who? Exactly.) to carry the movie. What a lame plot they left for the human drama. It was essentially the exact same thing as Will Smith in Independence Day. Pretty character is invested in helping save the city that is being destroyed, because, dammit, his family’s in there! I feel like I can hear Harrison Ford shouting, “Bring me back my family!” The human drama, which made up most of the movie, was lame. Very lame.
Holy Crap! Finish already! Okay, okay. So, this version of Godzilla, while a huge improvement of the 1998 version, is pretty flawed. The monster is treated with respect, but the super-predator plot line didn’t hold up. And the human story … well … sucked. But despite all that, here is my rating:
Theatre One: Yes, I know that’s my highest rating. And no, it doesn’t deserve that, but this is a movie that is worth seeing in the theater. The sound is huge and the visuals are crazy. Watch it in the theater, but know that it’s not going to be a fantastic movie. It’s a fun movie. It’s a summer movie. Let me know what you think.