The 60th anniversary of the world’s most famous monster movie franchise, Godzilla, bringing another new blockbuster to theatres everywhere. Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn and Bryan Cranston, the newest film brings Godzilla to the modern cinema in spectacular IMAX 3D. Watch the trailer after the jump and then read my review.
The Godzilla franchise established an incredible genre of monster movies but with all the advancements in CGI technology, it has been noticeably absent. It is a delicate franchise to revisit, with some many things that could go wrong, but director Gareth Edwards has pulled it off. This version of Godzilla is an incredibly fun, thrilling and satisfying film that needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible.
Edwards has taken a movie about monsters destroying things and created a story that fits perfectly in the modern blockbuster framework. The film was made under the banner of Legendary Pictures, which release the Christopher Nolan films and is known for putting darker stories into blockbusters. Edwards doesn’t stray far from that style with the story or look of the film and he makes it work.
We don’t see the big man himself until well over an hour in, with character development and visual teases ramping up the tension instead. The film starts with a nuclear disaster in 1999 that inspires, Cranston’s Joe Brody to go crazy investigating what happened. As we move to present day, Joe’s son, Taylor-Johnson’s Ford, is in the marines and trying to keep his dad out of jail. Accidentally, quickly discover the disaster was not man made but monster made and the events of the film quickly escalate from there.
Like last years Pacific Rim, the story is not the reason to see a monster movie. While the Brody family (Olsen plays Elle, Ford’s wife with Carson Bolde as their son Sam) is interesting and gets some good character development, the rest of the cast is typecast in characters you see in every film. Strathairn plays the military commander tasked with talking to the president and making all the decisions; a great performance for a pretty standard archetype. Watanabe and Hawkins play two scientists who I think will be the through line if there are sequels (there will be). Watanabe’s character shares a name with a character from the original film and hints at having family in Hiroshima, so hopefully more of that is explored in the future.
The rest of the cast is fine. Taylor-Johnson and Olsen won’t become household names until Avengers 2 next year, but have great chemistry and energy. Cranston gives the best performance, especially early on. His character goes to some dark places emotionally and Cranston is very believable in the role.
But people don’t go to a Godzilla movie for believable characters. They want to see the monsters and there are a lot of them in this movie. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say Godzilla isn’t the only monster in this movie, meaning he gets into some spectacular fights. What Edwards does so well to raise the tension throughout is to only show the aftermath of the monsters’s arrival. We see people looking through the rubble for loved ones, people running from a giant foot and TV’s showing the monster causing havoc in the background.
This is an amazing way to introduce the modern Godzilla and when the reveal finally comes, it is well worth the wait.
The final 30-45 minutes are a spectacular battle between Godzilla and some monsters that takes full advantage of modern film technologies. I saw it in 3D but not in IMAX and it was smooth and not to dark; well worth the extra money. The physics of the monsters are also pretty cool to see. By that I mean the movement looks as real as possible with giant monsters, with the best being when Godzilla stomps on the head of another monster while another attacks him.
All of these beautiful scenes make up for some of the weak dialogue early on. I did grimace after a couple lines but I don’t remember what they are because the action left a larger impression. This is not a movie you want to watch on an airplane, it was meant to be a spectacle on the biggest screen possible.
While it isn’t perfect, it is entertaining. And that’s the key to a good Godzilla movie. Don’t expect an Oscar winning script but do expect to be awed by some incredible visual techniques that create plenty of suspense. Even if you are worn out by Godzilla movies, this one is worth watching. It raises the bar for monster movies and is a reboot that does the source material justice.