FEARNET Movie Review - Godzilla


The problem with "simple pleasures" is that they generally remain simple, whereas human beings grow older, learn things, expand their horizons, and grow a bit cynical as time progresses. This means that a simple pleasure like, say, a monster movie used to work well enough with a guy in a suit or some masterful stop-motion animation, but nowadays has to find an appropriate style, tone, and demeanor for a "blockbuster"-sized world audience. Audiences won't go for "a guy in a suit," which means your monster movie is suddenly a $200 million tentpole release that has to appease as many moviegoers as possible.

All of which makes Gareth Edwards' sober, sincere, and surprisingly humane rendition of Godzilla such an unexpected treat. Sure, the new version has a slow start and a few editorial missteps throughout, but if you consider what most Godzilla films look like (aside from the classic 1954 original), Godzilla 2014 gets an impressive amount of things right. (Fair warning: if you want non-stop action, stick with Pacific Rim.) The new Godzilla is virtually humor-free, almost bereft of color, and simply intent on making you look up the screen and say "whoa."

Anchored by a dad/estranged son plot construction that you've seen before, Godzilla focuses on a pair of giant arachnid-like mega-beasts who rise from the ocean, raise holy hell, and generally make humanity really angry. With help from heroic men like Aaron Taylor-Johnson (former soldier), David Strathairn (boss soldier), Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe (as scientists nobody listens to), humanity strikes back against the horrific invaders... and that's pretty much when Godzilla awakens from his ancient slumber and begins beating the snot out of anyone who bugs him.

None of this is brain surgery. Actually, a good portion of the "plot stuff" borrows rather liberally from any number of "aliens attack" movies, but screenwriters Dave Callaham and Max Borenstein manage to inject a few moments of legitimate humanity into a film constructed almost exclusively of CG landscapes. The new Godzilla movie is a modern technical marvel with an old-fashioned attitude. This is not a stark metaphor about man's cruelty (as the original film was), nor is it a kitschy piece of tongue-in-cheek pop culture silliness. 

Particular highlights include Alexandre Desplat's consistently rousing score, some special effects work that is simply staggering, and several good moments from a decent ensemble that often seems well aware that it's being upstaged by three giant monsters and more wide-scale destruction than most films even attempt. But the coolest thing about this film is its size, scale, scope, however you want to put it. As we get older, movies seem to get a little smaller. It seems pretty damn obvious that, despite a few flaws, Godzilla wants to make your jaw drop, and anyone who grew up on the films of Ray Harryhausen can back me up on this: trying to make a moviegoer's jaw drop is an admirable goal these days.