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Godzilla (2014)

Cover art:

reviews/godzilla-one-sheet-s.jpg

Godzilla (2014)Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe, Richard T. Jones, Sally Hawkins, Victor Rasuk, Yuki Morita, C.J. Adams

Directed by Gareth Edwards


I called it months ago: Director Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla is the definitive modern iteration of Ishiro Honda’s 1954 classic, not only capturing the raw essence of the original but imbuing it with a needed current sensibility. Some missteps aside, this is the Godzilla you’ve wanted to see, and he, all 100 meters of him, is absolutely spectacular.

I’ll keep this short and sweet in an effort to not spoil the joy you’ll find in the Big G’s 2014 re-imagining (courtesy of Warner Bros., Legendary and Monsters director Edwards) and do little to spoil the narrative. The marketing push has more than likely already done that for you, but before I dive in, here’s a quick recap.

This is not Roland Emmerich’s 1998 Godzilla.

Edwards’ Godzilla takes place in three separate time periods: the 1950’s (in which the U.S. Navy discovers the last surviving member (Godzilla) of an ancient radioactive amphibious species surviving under the waters near the Marshall Islands and metes out a failed attempt to kill it with nuclear weapons), the 1990’s (in which a nuclear disaster dispatches the mother, actress Juliette Binoche, of star Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s character, ‘Brody,’ and later his father as well, a scientist portrayed by Bryan ‘Breaking Bad’ Cranston) and in 2014 (in which the appearance of creatures known as ‘M.U.T.O’ [Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms] appear, which in turn elicits the return of Godzilla himself from the depths of the ocean).

It’s simple in metaphor for nuclear proliferation having unintended results (as the original Godzilla was for the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings). It’s relatively clean (in that it eschews many of the, let’s be honest, ‘cheesy’ narratives of many of the Godzilla films which preceded it). And while Edwards draws out audience expectation in the reveal of the character of Godzilla for nearly an hour (he holds dear to the tried and true approach of such films as Alien, Jaws, etc.), when Godzilla hits, it really hits. And it hits hard.

Does the film contain logic gaps? There are a few. Does it make questionable narrative choices? Sure. Are there occasional and questionable dialogue choices? That happens. Does it for some reason not feature the classic Godzilla score? Yes.

But what it delivers in sheer tone, scope, intensity and realization makes up for these things in spades. Godzilla has never looked this good. He is the sheer embodiment of what we have come to love and of what we have hoped he would eventually become. He’s real. He’s fire-breathing. His roar is intact. He’s dedicated to the sheer destruction of the M.U.T.O (which means unadulterated and epic kaiju brawls). He pays little to no attention to the U.S. military (he has leisurely swims while aircraft carrier battle groups stream in his wake). He creates tsunamis just by arising from the Pacific. He’s omnipotent yet organically real, and you will stand up and applaud on many, many occasions and with utter fan geekdom, for he is entirely that awe inspiring.

Oh, and yes, there’s an interesting Easter egg concerning another famed creature for the fans that need such a thing (like me).

Warner Bros. and Legendary accepted a daunting task, in that they needed to please not only fans of the cinematic character of Godzilla, but also a demographic perhaps unaware of his iconic place in cinema and, for a summer tent-pole, youthful audiences as well. This was a lot to juggle, and while without question there will always be those that would have wanted it ‘darker’ or ‘man in a suit’ or (insert whatever here), Edwards’ realization of filmdom’s most iconic monster is as spot-on as we’ve ever seen.

Get your ass into the theatre. This isn’t Pacific Rim. These are your childhood dreams come to life (or nightmares, if you happen to be a resident of San Francisco, Hawaii or Las Vegas).

Here’s hoping that Edwards tackles the eventual sequel… and to more Godzilla screen time. My only real complaint is that I wanted more.

4 out of 5

Discuss Godzilla in the comments section below!

Sean Decker

41 Comments

  1. A poorly written/acted main character is hardly gonna get in the way of me loving just about everything else in this movie. Fuckin’ A!

    I would’ve liked to see more Olsen though. Maybe have her character be like some animal expert, so that when she’s trapped in the city, she maybe finds out that the MUTO’s gonna lay eggs, where they might be nesting, etc. She could be sending info to the military, getting in harms way. THEN Ford could panic and go in to save her? I dunno. I’m not a writer…

    Anyone else notice Edwards has a bridge fetish? I swear, every action sequence centered on humans takes place on a bridge.

      • Hell no! It was maybe just those 15 minutes or so between Joe’s death and the scene in Hawaii that the main character bothered me. If anything, all the action/suspense scenes that came of his character were totally worth the “bad writing”.

        Honestly, this film was a little bit like watching Jurassic Park for the first time. Edwards inspired exactly the right kind of awe.

        • Like Jurassic Park? Really? Man I’ll tell you, I just can’t see the good in this movie. I wonder if watching all the Godzilla movies before seeing this was a hinderance to my enjoyment. All the old ones were fun. There was no fun here. By the time the monster action happened I was exhausted.

          • There was plenty of fun! Just in a different style. It wasn’t all big monster brawls, but the slow suspense scenes were awesome. Scenes like the MUTO attack on the bridge were incredibly gripping and kept me totally satisfied for the time being. And then the final fight kicks in, and boy is it the icing on the cake. It was fucking epic… and I never use that word.

            I can’t believe so many Godzilla fans didn’t buy into the whole anticipation route that this movie took. It made perfect sense to me that if Godzilla’s been absent from films for about a decade you bring him back in a way that makes even non-Godzilla enthusiasts crave him.

            Anyways, I’m off to go see it for the third time now.

  2. I liked it. I am thinking I’m going to appreciate it a lot more on a second viewing though. Like Sleepy Hollow, which I initially was disappointed by because it wasn’t the movie I wanted it to be. Once I got over that and watched it for what it was I enjoyed much more.

    Having said that…

    Since credibility was so incredibly strained with Solider Kid always being present for most of the action pieces why not go all the way? One thing that could have helped was have him be part of a small team. As Conundrum mentions all the other soldiers he hooks up with get killed but you really don’t care much. Still go through basically the same sequence but at least then there would have been some stakes and suspense on what happens to them since you knew Soldier Kid was going to make it.

    Although I would rather they skipped Soldier kid completely. Have each sequence be cast with independent characters in the overall story. Some doomed missions doomed, others not. Like the Longest Day of monster movies.

    • This is exactly what I told my wife. It needed an ensemble cast of GOOD actors (I had to look up Soldier Kid. Kick Ass? Really?). Off the top of my head I think of The Swarm. Some missions failed, others succeeded, and it was fun to flip back and forth to see what the characters were up to. Disaster movies that fixate on one individual or group rarely work. The focus seems funneled and there’s so much we’re not seeing. Not to mention it kills the pacing.

      Soldier Kid being part of a group is a great idea. Even starting with a big group and ending with only him would have made WAY more sense. Good call, man.

  3. “He gets up, crushes more people on this way back to the ocean, is still a hero”. LOL, man I was so checked out by then I didn’t even think of that. Stupid ass movie.

    I don’t want to compared it to Pacific Rim as they are two tonally different movies, but anyone who says they didn’t like PC because of the lame characters but liked this is a liar.

    • Spoiler Alert below for you fiends who haven’t seen yet just go see it and get your own opinion.

      Big G probably killed more peeps with the tsunami that he created than the Mutos combined! I highly doubt he would not have been air striked we’re not that forgiving! I find this to be like a one night stand sure it was a good lay at the time but the next morning you realize she was fugly with a bad personality . A flawed film but still the best American adaptation we’ve gotten, but it should have been so much more.

  4. I’ll be that guy (again). Fuck this movie. SpOiLeRs, whatever.

    The first half hour I was on board. Crazy scientist who no one will listen to. Unoriginal, cliched characters you see in ever disaster movie. Fine, whatever, show me the monsters.

    The second thirty minutes my interest started to wane. Following the adventures of G.I. Jackass who, by an enormous amount of good luck and bad writing, manages to be everywhere he needs to be. It’s like World War Godzilla. Got a cocktease of a fight that we saw on a television. Fine, whatever, get to the monsters.

    The next thirty minutes started to piss me off. They decide to throw cute little girls and dogs into the mix for no reason whatsoever. ok, now you’re just wasting my time. The monsters hit San Francisco and here comes the action. Nope, the door closes before we can see anything. THAT’S the moment I got up and went to the lobby. Fuck you, movie. There’s a difference between slow build and wasting everyone’s time. Fine whatever, show me the fucking monsters already.

    Finally, after 90 minutes of staring at Sam Worthington’s stupid brother and pointless filler, we see some action. It looked great. Fantastic visuals that would make a great poster, screensaver or trailer shots. I couldn’t care less. By that time I just wanted the credits to roll so I could go home and watch paint dry.

    It was a clever move, save every bit of memorable content till the very end so kids with goldfish memories could run out of the theater saying how cool it was. 2/5 is generous.

    • I’m always that guy.

      I agree 100%. All I wanted was Godzilla fighting monsters in a knock-down drag-out battle. Instead, I got an hour and 45 minutes of one dimensional characters that made you feel NOTHING for them. I couldn’t care less. If they all died half way through I wouldn’t have even felt bad in the least. The writing was SOOOOO bad, I doubt anyone felt any emotional connection at all.

      It was cliche after cliche, boring character scene after boring character scene, monsters just walking, then an awesome very final scene with Godzilla followed up by a uber lame attempt at pretending he was “dead”. Couldn’t you tell a 350 feet tall monster was still breathing? Then he gets up, crushes more people on this way back to the ocean, is still a hero, and again, I felt NOTHING, because nothing is built up in any way to make you care and even a 5 year old could predict that’s how it would end.

      2/5 is spot on, strictly for the visuals, nothing more.

      • Now that i’ve had time to reflect and get the euphoria out of my system after watching it i hear you about the films negatives. There definatly wasn’t enough action and enough screen time for BIG G . The cutaways when shit was about to go down were frustrating as well.I guess I just rolled with it at the time but really disappointing.It was like in Spielberg’s War of The Worlds when the tanks go over the hill and you are ready to see the battle but nada I felt cheated. . I still liked this better than Pac Rim though at least when action was happening i could make out what was happening. If Edwards does helm a 2nd installment hope he brings more to the table than great visuals .I will not be seeing in IMAX after all maybe 30 min of action doesn’t make sense to.

  5. A lack of monster fights (and the classic score) aside, I LOVED Godzilla. It was just a great, fun film that did a fantastic job of bringing Godzilla into the modern day. Cranston was great, but I actually really liked all the actors and didn’t mind the way they handled Godzilla. Great film and can’t wait to see it again!

  6. Godzilla is the epitome of a shut your brain off and just watch it strictly for CGI destruction film. That’s it.

    It is as cartoonish, simple, illogical, cheesy, and paint-by-numbers as a movie can be. Is it visually amazing? ABSOLUTELY! Everything else fails miserably. It just is a complete dud outside all the carnage action scenes. The characters suck. The dialogue is shit. Every single moment designed to elicit an emotional response ends with an eye roll and thud. You feel like they took the same cliché husband/wife/child in peril disaster subplot from a million movies and just stuck it in the script without even trying to make it fit.

    This is where the super Toho “fans” say this is the Godzilla formula so who cares about anything besides Godzilla on screen. Well…he’s hardly on screen. The bland monsters are on screen twice as much as the big G. It’s 2014, not 1954, you can stay true AND be a better story.

    I don’t want to be super negative, because it is a FUN movie, just a really forgettable DUMB FUN kids movie, and it could have been so much more. One of Pacific Rim’s many problems was the story focused too much on the worst characters and not enough on the interesting secondary characters. Godzilla doesn’t even give you interesting secondary characters and the main characters are lame. People show up and disappear without ever getting to know them or care while doing completely illogical bullshit.

    The dad suddenly grows his hair like Dumb and Dumber just to show he might be “crazy”, the army lets the kid do whatever he wants as he inexplicably shows up at the most opportune moments, the Japanese guy suddenly becomes Godzilla’s psychiatrist explaining to everyone what he is thinking, 1000’s are squashed by Godzilla yet he’s still a hero, etc.

    The whole movie feels like someone said “HEY, THAT MIGHT LOOK REALLY COOL, LET’S THROW THAT IN THERE…” and the guy who said “How does that work in the context of the film?” got overruled and fired.

    GODZILLA 2014 – 2/5.

    • Kidd in no way is this just a dumbed up popcorn flick like Pac Rim that was completly forgettable to me just a cheezy mess full of bad dialog, and annoying characters . This was far better for me and sure it used some plotlines we’ve seen before but i still think this was better executed .Is it a masterpice or classic? no, it definately had its faults but overall i wasen’t disappointed. I won’t try to convince anyone to like it. I enjoyed it for what it was and this has potential to start something bigger in the franchise .Edward’s has said he would consider doing a follow up involving Monster Island ,a Destroy All Monsters update would be EPIC !

      • I definitely enjoyed this more than Pacific Rim, but Godzilla is a whole lotta nothing. Even the “battle” was rather uneventful. Just a few bites, tail swing, and blue fire.

        You can sum up the entire film in a few words:

        We try to kill Godzilla in the 50’s with nukes. He disappears. Ancient monsters come alive in present day. Godzilla reappears, apparently with memory loss of the murder attempt, and saves us anyway because he’s really a good guy who likes to restore balance. Just ignore the 1000s he kills himself due to his sheer size. The end.

        There’s no sense of mentioning any characters because they existed just to fill out the 1:50 minutes of screen time unoccupied by Godzilla himself.

        • And those Mutos were just trying to hook up and get their freak on! Yeah I hear you the story wasen’t that deep and the battles could have been more epic for sure.I would of liked to have seen Godzilla do battle with some of the classic Kaiju give me Mothra, King Ghidorah ,or Rodan any day over them but i’m saying this is a good starting point to introduce that world in further installments.No way this was a kids movie though peeps died and i felt like there were real consequences not like Pac Rim where it was tonally misguided.

        • What didn’t make sense to me about the whole 50s flashback is that if they knew it fed off of radiation then why would you try to kill it with atomic bombs? Even in Godzilla 1985 they had the sense to try and kill him with stuff that counter acts radiation.

          I’m personally very conflicted about the film. A lot that I liked but perhaps even more that frustrated the hell out of me. The way it kept undercutting the monster action in order to cut back to the human characters who, with the exception of Cranston’s character (and don’t even get me started on his fate) don’t even register as one-dimensional. I can accept that Godzilla doesn’t get a ton of screen time but the fact that even when he isn’t on screen the movie still isn’t about him. They spend so much time discussing the MUTOs that when it comes time to Godzilla they quickly brush off his origins, nature, etc in one rushed scene. I honestly believe it wouldn’t have been that hard to rewrite the script to not even include Godzilla at all. The first words I used to describe the film to a friend were “Cloverfield 2 with special guest star Godzilla”.

          • I’m not going to deny that the film has problems. But when it comes to the imagery that we do get involving Godzilla, I was blown away by just how gorgeous and awesome it was. SPOILER!!!!!!

            The Atomic Breath down the throat bit had the entire theater going nuts! That moment alone was worth all of the cock-teasing.

          • I may be wrong about this, but I believe the revelation about Godzilla and the MUTOs feeding off radiation came sometime after the initial ’54 bombings.

          • You could be right. Theater I saw it at had the score cranked louder than the voices of the actors so every time Ken Watanabe spoke with even a modicum of music it was a bit of a chore.

  7. I really had some doubts going in not being a fan of Edward’s snoozefest Monsters but i gotta say this delivered for me. While the brawls were not abundant they were at least memorable and epic when they did go down . I appreciate that they took a more serious angle tonally than last years Pac Rim which tonally was all over the place and took me out of the experience i didn’t need poorly rendered comic relief to enjoy this. This is a visual feast i saw in regular format and wow it’s beauty to behold. I think I will see again in IMAX worth the extra coin for this one! I found the performances and dialog to be far superior to Pac Rim and the 98 travesty . I was grinning like a kid taking this in , i hope this starts a new era of Godzilla Kaiju films and we see an updated Destoy All Monsters that would be sweet!

  8. Loved the movie. Loved what it did with the Godzilla mythos. Wished it would have done more with Godzilla itself. No reason for the MUTO’s to have more screen time than Big G. It was almost like Tim Burton’s Batman in that the title hero felt more like a supporting role.

    • Loved it as well. Gareth Edwards nailed it! As for the restraint in using Big G I feel that when he does he show he’s there to kick some Muto butt!

      The moment Big G unleashed his atomic breath was AWESOME! This movie is awesome! FIVE ROASTED MUTOS OUT OF FIVE!

  9. I’m a life long Big G fan and while I enjoyed the film overall, the lack of Godzilla & monster combat was undeniably an issue. I didn’t mind that it did the Jaws thing and made us wait for them – but the way it would constantly cut away from the monster action was really criminal. After the giant orgasmic reveal of Godzilla, who in their right mind would just cut to the aftermath of the battle the next day? I’m not demanding wall-to-wall action, but the Big G definitely felt like a guest star in his own movie.

    Cranston was awesome but the other humans were a bore.

    It may sound like I’m being too down on the movie… I really did enjoy it and the few Godzilla moments we got had me cheering (especially that last bit). It definitely redeems us from the Godzilla 98 atrocity…but I liked Pacific Rim more.

    • Jaws isn’t the only monster film that purposefully delayed the full reveal of the creature; Jurassic Park pulled the same stunt. And in all three cases, Godzilla included, it worked marvelously. If they had shot their load early on, I fucking guarantee that audiences would have quickly been desensitized to the action long before the final battle. The final battle also happens to be better than all of the fights in Pacific Rim combined.

      I give Godzilla 10/10. My only complaint has to do with Aaron Taylor Johnson’s unconvincing performance as a devoted and loving husband and father figure. It wasn’t enough to sour my experience though.

      • The reason that it worked in Jaws and Jurassic Park is because the characters in those movies are interesting. The reason that it fails in this movie is that the characters, ESPECIALLY the main character and his family, are dull, annoying, and uninteresting.

        *SPOILERS* going forward

        I kind of understand Ken Watanabe; he has a better idea what the monsters are than anyone else and knows there is nothing that can be done. I understand the Admiral; he appreciates that his options are “bad” and “worse” but he has to do SOMETHING. I understood Cranston; he is obsessed. What the hell is up with the main character? He kind of hops around, getting quickly recruited by whatever military operation is happening at the time trying to get back to San Fran for… reasons. Yeah, his family is there, but he tells them not to evacuate because he is coming in with a nuke to use on three monsters coming toward the city. Both his parents were killed by the monster, but that once he gets to Hawaii they might as well not have for all they get mentioned/it informs a damn thing he does. Every other troop he serves with in the movie dies, which also does not seem like that big a deal. He’s poorly written, poorly acted (along with his wife which has me nervous about Age of Ultron), and just plain boring.

        You know what maintains the movie for the hour or so between Cranston’s death and Godzilla finally getting screen time? Set pieces. Not characters; not story; set pieces. Despite being entertaining, it is really not great storytelling.

        I feel like a lot of people (myself possibly included) are really trying to like this movie for not failing as hard as the ’98 Zilla, but are struggling to like it due to massive massive flaws.

        • You and Foy are spot-on with the criticisms. I liked It a lot but it sure had it’s fair share of problems. It’s not the worst Godzilla movie but not the best either.

  10. I liked it for the most part. As a disaster movie it was pretty effective.

    *SOMEWHAT SPOILERY*
    I have a fear of tidal waves and that scene freaked me out pretty badly
    *END SPOILER*

    The amount of time it spent keeping the camera off of monster action was a bit of an issue for me though. At one point I leaned to my gf and told her “You know what would make this movie great? If Godzilla were in it.”

    And it sucks that we are trying to avoid spoilers in here (or maybe that was just before the official release), but I am going to throw this out there for people to consider; this was more of a Gamera movie with Godzilla than an actual Godzilla movie. And I could probably point to some classic Godzilla movies where Godzilla acts this way as well, but for everyone comparing this one to the 1954 original… no, not even.

    The original and GMK are in absolutely no danger of being dethroned as the pinnacles of the series, but it is still a really good disaster movie and great for what it is.

    • I saw it again today; it fared well on a second viewing. All the fake out “you’re about to see some monster mayhem… NOPE! Gotta wait!” moments were less infuriating knowing that I was just getting jerked around beforehand. And without waiting for Godzilla to actually show up in a Godzilla movie, I could enjoy what was going on more.

      But ultimately, it is still a very flawed movie. It is cool, it is nice to see some Godzilla action on the big screen, but I’m not going to pretend that it wasn’t also a little disappointing. It had the same big problem that Pacific Rim did, it took the worst actor and made him the main character with a pretty stupid story. As everyone has noted, Godzilla is a bit player in his own movie. There are some plot holes and characters making downright stupid decisions. Oh, and yeah, this is a Gamera movie with Godzilla. Its plot is actually stupid close to Gamera: Guardian of the Universe.

      But the destruction is pretty awe-inspiring. Unlike movies that I have heard referred to as “disaster porn,” this movie rarely lost track of the fact that this wasn’t just trying to one-up every other movie in destroying property, people were being killed, terrorized, hurt, etc. It helped add to the feeling of dread and overall atmosphere of the movie. When the movie finally got around to monster action, it was pretty good and fairly uniquely filmed. There were certainly some memorable moments. And like in Pacific Rim, the supporting cast was good and interesting to the degree that I kept wishing one of them, ANY of them, could instead be the main character.

      In the end, it tried something different with Godzilla with mixed results. It did some stuff really well, it did some stuff really poorly.

  11. It’s very well made, the f/x work is excellent, but most of the characters, save for Cranston’s, are unbearable. The movie is also light on monster action, but what there is should excite any Godzilla fan. It does cheat the audience at a few points, using breaks of monster news footage in between long periods of often unnecessary character banter teasing things to come. When Godzilla or Cranston are on screen, things are all well and good. When anything else is going on, it makes it difficult for you to care about anything else. The new monsters or Muto aren’t very interesting, but serve the purpose of a punching bag for the King of the Monsters nevertheless. Edward’s directing is inspired as well. He knows exactly what kind of movie he’s making. Most importantly, Godzilla is the Godzilla we all know, love, and grew up with this time around. Hail to the King!

    • I’m going full boat on this Friday, Imax/3D and 21+ booze strongly encouraged seating. I’ll let you know. Although from what I’ve read the fights are incredible (it’s the people that get tedious) so I can’t help but think the answer is yes.

        • To be honest I didn’t really notice all that much. I don’t know if it was the theater I saw it in or the film itself (or my old tired eyes) but some of the night or dim lit indoor scenes were hard to see. I was suspecting the 3D glasses.

          If you wanted to save a couple bucks my opinion would still be to see it on the biggest screen you can but skip the 3D and you wouldn’t miss anything.

  12. Okay so I amended the review to remove the two things that could be considered “spoilery” and removed any mention of them here in the comments section.

    Sorry guys, I didn’t really think it gave away anything at all, but I respect that you all have your own ideas and considerations of what a spoiler is and that’s only out of passion and excitement for the film. Apologies for any damage done.

    • If it were any other movie, no one would care. Everyone’s so jazzed to see this and some us us are deliberately trying to stay in the dark as much as possible. Hell, saying “Godzilla is onscreen for X amount of time” would be considered a dick move by some.

      Next week I have a feeling we’ll all be talking about this in depth. Hope you and your buddy have fun at the screening.

  13. Just scrolled down to score i dont want to know anything else that could ruin my experience on Fri, I hope i dig this as much as you did!

  14. These are your childhood dreams come to life

    My dreams never featured a giant walking piece of fecal matter as Godzilla.

  15. [Reference to vaguely spoiler-ish comments deleted by Steve have been deleted by me in the interest of nerdish-consistency]

    In any event, very good review by Decker. I tend not to get excited about most big budget schlock, but I am really anticipating this one, as all reviews indicate that, despite some missteps, Edwards nailed it. In fact, we watched Godzilla v. Megalon tonight to begin to prepare… “jet jaguar…jet jaguar…”

  16. Never read anything by this reviewer, so I’ll hold off judgment and continue to keep my expectations low.

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