Godzilla is back, definitely bigger than ever, but better is in the eyes of the individual moviegoer. Let me start by saying that Godzilla isn’t as terrible as some people would lead you to believe, then again it isn’t a great as some people will tell you it is. As a near lifelong fan of Godzilla movies, I was sadly left underwhelmed by this film. That’s not to say that there weren’t parts of Godzilla that were downright fun. It was the parts in-between that made this movie unbearable to sit through. SPOILERS AHEAD
First let’s begin with what didn’t work about Godzilla. The plot flowed along nicely until the death of Bryan Cranston‘s character leaving the rest of the movie to be led by Aaron Taylor-Johnson who did a less than stellar job as the so-called leading man. The setup of the film worked until we found out that the trouble-making monster wasn’t Godzilla, but some other Cloverfield rejected kaiju design. Then to find out that there’s not just one, but two and based on Ken Watanabe‘s character’s hopeful outlook that Godzilla is their only hope for survival. Really? How would you come to that conclusion? Japanese legend maybe? Well fine, but you didn’t explain that at all. I could buy that the USS Nautilus woke up Godzilla when it was first launched and that all the nuclear testing in the South Pacific were attempts to kill him; but where did he go after that, and why did he choose this particular time to show back up? So let me get back to Aaron Taylor-Johnson for a second. Not only was he thrust unbelievably into the thick of the action at every turn, he ended up being the luckiest soldier to ever live because was a the near lone survivor at nearly every monster attack in the film. Taylor-Johnson’s performance was sub-par in this film and from seeing him in several other movies not including Kick-Ass, I know he’s a better actor.
Now to the kaiju in the movie. The fact that no one in the movie ever uttered the word kaiju was disturbing to me. The one thing about them that ruined the entire premise of the film were their lack of or should I say glowing red lights for eyes. Godzilla had normal looking eyes. Why couldn’t these two non-alien, spawned from mother Earth kaiju have more realistic looking eyes? If they had been monsters from an alien world, I could have accepted the glowing red eyes. The kaiju battles in this film were few and far between and only really happened toward the end of the movie. Now I know most of the big monster battles in the classic Godzilla movies always happened at the end, but there were several set ups for battles that we never get to see beyond glimpses on televisions in the background. The airport scene where Godzilla first appears to take on the bad monsters was completely wasted because we never get to see them fight. And oh yeah, the scene of New York and the Statue of Liberty being destroyed…not in the movie. The really moving speech by David Strathairn about saving the world…not in the movie.
There are a number of other things that bothered me about Godzilla, but I have touched on the main ones and now I was to focus on what I thought worked. Godzilla worked fabulously. The scenes that he was shown fully without smoke or debris or water obstructing him were absolutely amazing. The special effects team all deserve medals for what they did with Godzilla in this film. More believable than the hokey man in a rubber suit and less comical than the 1998 Godzilla. This thing looked immense, powerful and very scary. And although this Godzilla wasn’t exactly our friend, he wasn’t exactly our enemy either. He showed up to save the day…or to “restore balance” as quoted from the movie, kind of like a kaiju Jedi. Godzilla more or less works in tandem with the military to track down and fight the menacing kaiju and utterly kick the crap out of them. And before you know it, the credits were rolling and you’re left with a feeling of disappointment. One other thing that worked tremendously well was Bryan Cranston, who unfortunately dies early on. Taylor-Johnson does have a couple of noteworthy scenes, one being an eye to eye connection with Godzilla toward the end of the film. The two lock eyes, and it was truly moving as you could see that Godzilla wasn’t just a mindless monster set on destruction and that there was a real presence there.
Godzilla could have been so much better if they would have concentrated less on the human quotient and boring subplots and concentrated more on the scope of just how devastating having three monsters loose in the continental United States would be. Elizabeth Olsen who plays Taylor-Johnson’s wife was under-used and completely unnecessary to the film except to motivate him to throw himself into the path of danger at every turn. His devotion to rescuing his wife and child are admirable and used to supply the needed drama and tension, but it failed to deliver and became more of an annoyance. Too many humans and not enough kaiju made Godzilla fall flat in my book. The saddest part of the whole movie was watching the female kaiju utterly destroy Las Vegas, now talking about making a grown man cry.
Fans of the original series of films are probably not going to enjoy Godzilla greatly, while the uninitiated may find things very confusing. Kids are going to enjoy the monster scenes without the risk of too many nightmares. Godzilla was nearly enjoyable but certainly not satisfying as a movie going experience. My hopes are for a sequel to deliver on what this film promised. If you are expecting the action and fun of Pacific Rim, you’re going to be disappointed.
Final rating 6 out of 10.
Bringing out the inner nerd in everyone!