By:Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)
It’s almost inevitable that storytellers will go back into the archive and resurrect certain films for revival. And for the bang for your buck, it’s best for studios to bring back something that the majority of people know to get that excitement high. Transformers has gone through three films with a fourth upcoming, King Kong returned, one can say it’s only a matter of time before Jaws rears its scary fin again and, now, we have Godzilla. It has been nearly 16 years since the last Godzilla film came to life back in 1998, so it was about time for the revival. Director Gareth Edwards was given the monstrous task of doing the film justice, but could he live up to such lofty expectations?
It’s 1999 in the Philippines and scientist Serizawa (Ken Wantanabe) and his cohort Graham (Sally Hawkins) find radiation evidence within giant fossils found within a mining disaster. At the same time, over in Japan, scientist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), who is working at the local nuclear power plant, determines that the recent “earthquakes” aren’t earthquakes at all. But, by then, it’s too late. Fifteen years later, the same thing is starting to happen again, and Brody’s son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), now a US soldier, must return to Japan to help his father who has been in some trouble. Though no one believes Joe’s theories about what is happening, Joe is adamant that something big is coming. Soon a huge, flying insect-like creature, mutated by radiation, is up and about the world and feeding on radiation. And it is on its way to the United States. But another creature awakens at this time, Godzilla. And Godzilla may be the Earth’s only hope against this new enemy.
The first question one may have is whether this film pays homage to the original idea of Godzilla, and the answer to that is yes. It is largely based on the 1954 version, minus the man in the Godzilla costume walking around. There are direct lines in the film discussing the Hiroshima bombing, all that radiation, and the eventual rise of Godzilla from the radiation. Visually, Godzilla looks like what one might expect a giant, mutated-by-radiation type dinosaur to look, though he does look a little “fluffy” to me. I mean, he’s been…sleeping or something, at the bottom of the ocean for how long? One would expect him to be a little thinner and defined maybe? And the Godzilla roar he is known for sounds a little deeper and heartier, which was an upgrade. There are times when it’s very evident the actors are acting against a green screen and a little more time could have gone into post production to iron out this flaws, but overall the visuals were consistent and acceptable.
As with any film within this genre, the humans generally take a back seat to the title characters (i.e. Transformers). Taking out that human element often has the story suffering and the audience not caring. This version brings together the father/son aspect with Cranston and Johnson, but that arc is, for the most part, short-lived. There is only so much screen time with these two actors together. Cranston is definitely not the Walter White we remember from Breaking Bad, but still delivers a solid performance with what he has to work with. With Aaron Taylor-Johnson, for the most part, it feels like he’s forcing some of the material to work instead of just being in the moment, believing in the given circumstances, and allowing the character to do what the character should do. Elizabeth Olsen, who plays his wife, is pretty much wasted here with the majority of her scenes involving her looking worried or running around. Ken Wantanabe also doesn’t have much to work with and is there more to provide some background information on the history of Godzilla and a few one-liners like “Let them fight.” And Juliette Binoche has minimal screen time, so it’s really not worth talking about her performance except to say one would wish to have seen more interaction between her and Cranston.
When one thinks of a summer blockbuster, one thinks of action, destruction, and mayhem…generally. Based on that criteria, Godzilla is successful. I mean, you have huge monsters destroying cities with military trying to stop them and people trying to survive. But audiences have become more sophisticated over the last 20 years and require more, and Godzilla doesn’t deliver much more than the superficial. There are better, and more entertaining films available in theaters right now, with other potentially better films in the weeks to come. So if you’re up for something superficial, or just want to get out of the early summer heat, then Godzilla may be for you. This isn’t the Godzilla you were hoping for, but at least it was better than the 1998 version.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars