GODZILLA (2014)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 3 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Destruction, Mayhem, and Creature Violence

Godzilla poster

Directed by: Gareth Edwards

Written by: Max Borenstein

Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn & Bryan Cranston

Tons of movie websites have ranked GODZILLA up high as one of their most anticipated movies of the Summer season and the entire year. The time has come! The king of monsters has arrived back on the big screen. Gareth Edwards’ 2014 incarnation of the gigantic fire-breathing monster is not without its problems, but they aren’t that noticeable in the epic playing field that the movie is focused on. This is a giant monster movie that actually builds real, palpable suspense and has some good human characters. This is everything that Roland Emmerich’s disastrous 1998 attempt should have been. In fact, throughout the whole movie I kept feeling that this would have been right at home in the 1990’s alongside JURASSIC PARK and other popular blockbusters. That’s hardly a detriment to the quality. It’s on an amazing level of fun and entertainment!

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In 1999, a disaster hit a nuclear power plant in Japan. Lives were lost and so were homes. The area surrounding the plant remains a quarantined zone. Cut to present day, Ford Brody (a young boy at the time of the disaster) has recovered from the life-changing tragedy of that day. This newly released soldier has barely returned (from a 14-month tour of duty) to his wife and son in San Francisco. Upon his first night home, he receives a phone call that his father, Joe, has been arrested for trespassing in Japan’s quarantine zone. Doing what any loving son would, Ford boards the overnight plane to Japan to help out his crackpot father. Soon enough the Ford discovers that his dad’s suspicions that the nuclear power plant didn’t collapse due to a natural disaster are dead-on accurate as a pre-prehistoric parasite emerges known as a MUTO. Only one thing can possibly put a stop to this rampaging radiation-eating monster and that’s another monster: Godzilla!

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For a movie that essentially could have boiled down to cheesy monsters fighting across the city for nearly two hours, GODZILLA maintains a remarkably serious tone and kept me in a state of awe for all of the film. The human characters in these kinds of movies aren’t usually the most interesting and this film doesn’t necessarily buck that trend. However, they are compelling enough that genuine suspense rose every time they were put in harm’s way. The talented cast does all they can with the material they’ve been given and makes it work. We all know what this movie is really about through: the monsters through and through. It absolutely delivers in that department. The look of the MUTO is interesting, but I got chills every time I saw Godzilla himself appearing on-screen. Plenty of explosive destruction follows in both beasts wake. Needless to say that not everybody makes it out alive. Buildings are leveled, plenty of casualties happen (both on and off-screen), and city blocks are reduced into literal craters. It’s a civilized world being reminded that at any point nature can level the scale. In this film, nature just happens to come in the form of the king of monsters!

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The special effects bringing these simply badass creatures to life are incredible to behold. More than once, I was reminded of my childhood experience of watching and re-watching JURASSIC PARK. Gareth Evans does take the JAWS/ALIEN approach of less-is-more for a good portion of the running time. We do get plenty of brief glimpses at GODZILLA, but the movie doesn’t really flaunt him until the epic final third that nearly had me bouncing up and down in my seat like a little kid. This is a fun, awe-inspiring, exciting movie that can easily stand the test of time and become a regular viewing experience in the same way that JAWS, E.T., JURASSIC PARK, and STAR WARS have lived on through the years. That’s no faint praise. This is the first movie in a long time that I am considering paying to see again on the big screen. There is a definite replay factor that I felt during the first time watching it and how often can someone say that?

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Where I can see some people having problems with the film (including myself) come in that Godzilla does play second-fiddle to the MUTO for most of the movie. He’s essentially a superhero coming to save the day from this vicious towering beast. That’s where it seems that most of the complaints are. Also there is some strip-teasing with the Godzilla fights in the middle. The film will cut to somewhere else just as Godzilla and the MUTO are about to get it on. This equated much frustration and some audible “Oh, come on!” comments in the theater I saw it at. Gareth Evans may have been teasing just for the final showdown, but to leave the viewer hanging on those couple of split-second moments feels a tad cheap. Finally, if I really wanted to nitpick, I’d remark on the coincidences that main characters happen to wind up nearly everywhere (even accidentally) that either Godzilla or the MUTO are. This can be quickly dismissed by the comparison of it’s like complaining that the characters keep running into the shark in JAWS, the alien in ALIEN, or the dinosaurs in JURASSIC PARK. Just would be a silly comment to begin with given the kind of movie this is.

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2014’s GODZILLA does have a tiny bit of cheesy humor. It is a movie that revolves around giant monsters fighting each other. The human characters aren’t the most complex, fleshed-out people to ever grace the screen. There are also wild coincidences and some strip-teasing with the monster fights in the middle. Does any of this matter in the end? Not really, because GODZILLA is an awesome blast to sit through. It’s silly and thoroughly entertaining. It’s exciting and had me making all sorts of different expressions at the screen. It wasn’t perfect, but I felt like giving a huge applause afterwards and cheering. This film is a ride and that’s the stuff memorable summer blockbusters are made of!

Grade: A-

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