May 16, 2014
I know about Godzilla, but I am not by any means a die-hard fan of this Japanese nuclear monster. I did not even get to watch the much-maligned 1998 Hollywood Godzilla film with Matthew Broderick. But definitely the pulse-pounding and very intriguing trailer made really want to catch this present-day homage to the classic film monster.
From vintage-style scenes showing nuclear experiments in the 1950s, the story jumps to 1999 in the Philippines, where a big earthquake unearths evidence of a giant fossilized monster. Following this, another massive but unnatural tremor occurs in Japan causing the destruction of a nuclear facility where Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) loses his wife and destroying the once good life he lived.
The story jumps 15 years to the future when Joe's son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) returns home after years his military service. An emergency call brings him back to Tokyo to help his dad who seemed to have never moved on since the tragedy of 1999. Unusual seismic activity similar to 1999 are happening again, but this time it unleashes three destructive monsters, two huge flying mantis-like creatures, and one gigantic dinosaur-like beast, whom they called Godzilla. They wreak havoc not only in Japan, but across the globe, reaching a climactic battle-royale in San Francisco.
Bryan Cranston is really a very sensitive actor. I know him because of his award-winning performances on the TV show "Breaking Bad", though I have not really watched that show beyond the first episode. He is the true human heart of this film.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson has really evolved from the nerdy pseudo-hero Kick- Ass to how he looks in this film. I did not recognize him. Oddly, he feels generic here, little star presence, giving a serviceable but ultimately forgettable lead performance.
Ken Watanabe is really the go-to Japanese lead actor. In this film he plays the Japanese scientist who was studying these monsters. Mr. Watanabe was very good in conveying distress with his intense face. However, I felt he sounded very garbled when he talked. His performance lost a lot of dramatic impact because of his unclear pronunciation of words.
The female characters were token at best. They under-used Oscar-caliber actresses Juliet Binoche and Sally Hawkins in very short roles. Ford's wife Elle was played by Avenger-to-be Elizabeth Olsen.
Technically, the sound was so massively outstanding. It reverberated through the whole theater causing us to shake. The computer-generated visual effects were similarly top-notch, especially the monsters and the destruction they were causing. We watched this in 3D. For me while the depth was nice to see, did not really add much to the enjoyment of the film. The film had a rather dark and muddy color palette, I believe the 3D may have made it even more murky-looking.
I felt the build up to the last hour when Godzilla was finally being revealed was very slow. It was only Bryan Cranston's presence that kept these scenes from being boring. The story-telling felt turgid, and repetitive. However in the final hour, whenever the titular character Godzilla was on screen, up to his very last scene, it was truly awesome indeed. The final battle in San Francisco was epic and emotional, the best parts of the film as a whole. That moment in particular when Godzilla first unleashes his nuclear laser-like breath is truly unforgettable.
Director Gareth Edwards, in his desire to remain faithful to the story's Japanese roots, took a very slow burn approach indeed to tell the story. But hang on, and the film culminates in one glorious explosion of action and heart toward the end. 7/10.