Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
After watching director Gareth Edwards 'Godzilla' I immediately called my older brother, a Kaiju geek if ever there was one… okay… a geek about everything if ever there was one… and ask him quite simply… 'Pacific Rim' or 'Godzilla'.  He hemmed and hawed, mentioning that watching robots hit a monster on the head with an oil tanker is hard to beat, but eventually he settled on Godzilla by a nose.  For me however… Godzilla by a long shot.  It laps Pacific Rim and I really liked Pacific Rim.

Somewhere in Japan, in the year of 1999, nuclear reactor scientist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) knows something is going wrong with his reactors and he needs to find out what it is.  It's monsters Joe, but later on that.  It is Joe's birthday, and just so you know, Joe is about to have the worst birthday that anybody could ever imagine.  Regardless, Joe sends his beloved wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) to check out the reactor down low while his team monitors the goings on up top, but tragically an earthquake or a typhoon or a tsunami or something wipes out the reactor and Joe and his little boy Ford are sad.  Still monsters though.  They just don't know.

Fast forward to the present day where Joe is a total whackjob, knowing full well that an earthquake didn't wipe out that reactor, and he will do anything to get to the truth.  Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is all grown up and defuses bombs for the navy for a living, when he's not loving his own little boy and his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olson) or bailing his dad out of some Japanese prison for violating the space around the contaminated area of the failed plant in his efforts to expose the truth.  Say like today, when Ford had to bail Joe out, but oddly enough Joe was right.  It wasn't an earthquake.  It was totally monsters, like we said, that collapsed that power plant so many years ago and The Man knew all about it.  Trouble is this monster, which they have named MUTO, which stands for something I can't remember, is out and about and causing a ruckus.
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The worst news is that this Muto has awakened another ancient creature which people in the know have named Godzilla, because Godzilla hates these things.  In fact Godzilla is about to wreck a whole bunch of stuff just to get to this creature.  And his girlfriend.  That's right, there are two of them and it looks like they want to spawn, which would be bad.  And wreck stuff, which is currently bad.  Unless Godzilla can stop them.  With the help of this dude we insist on following around. 

What we are going to try to do here in the next couple of paragraphs is attempt to counter a few of the criticisms that we have heard floating about in regards to this film, and probably agree with a couple as well.  For instance, the statement that Godzilla is a guest star in his own movie.  While the film doesn't have a lot of Godzilla in it, at least in the beginning, I prefer this 'Superman I' approach … setting the atmosphere and building a backstory for our hero… as opposed to the 'Pacific Rim' approach of just throwing us into the middle of the mayhem.  I appreciated the development of the world that Godzilla was about to enter, and the setup for Godzilla itself.  If we were to use the original Godzilla as an example, this is more in line with that film.  In my opinion this made for a purer, more organic viewing experience. 

Then there is the argument that movie is too grim.  Can't really argue… the movie is dark, both figuratively and literally… thousands upon thousands of people die, people get stomped on, buildings collapse with property destruction probably edging into the trillions and in this sense this film is very 'Man of Steel' like considering all of the death of destruction.  Difference being that these are giant monsters that don't know any better.  This is what should happen when giant monsters walk through the middle of town and fight to the death.  And when giant monsters that eat radioactivity do finally show up and randomly kill hundreds of thousands, chances are we aren't going to be cracking too many jokes to keep things light.  The original Godzilla wasn't all that funny either and 'Gamera: Revenge of Iris', argued as the greatest Kaiju movie ever, with which this film shares some similarities, was about as down as it gets.

Then we hear that the human characters are weak.  Maybe.  Bryan Cranston's character, for the time he was in this movie, gave this film its critical launching point, Ken Watanabe's Dr. Sherizawa provided us with exposition without actually becoming 'exposition guy' and Aaron Taylor-Johnson gave us a focal point.  I like monster destruction as much as the next guy, but there has to be a human element and I felt the human element in this one was handled well, but in all honestly, how really important are human characters in a Godzilla movie?  Who do you actually remember from a Godzilla movie, outside of those little chicks that sang to Mothra?

Some things, however, I can't argue with.  The fact that almost all the monster battles were fought in a dark, smoky haze.  Shine a light on something Mr. Edwards.  Also, this director likes to tease.  Godzilla and the first monster were just about to do their thing, for the first time no less… and the screen turns black to follow Aaron Taylor-Johnson around some more.   That was a little frustrating.  Other little issues… if one is waiting for a critical call from the one you love, thinking he might be dead, take your cell phone off vibrate.  Or better yet, man making call, call the house phone.  It always rings.  Oh, and this wife might want to check her messages on her cell phone.  And what was up with the road blocks on the bridge, knowing full well that 500 foot monsters were on the way to wreck everything?  Thank goodness for that magical bus driver who had the good sense to ignore the road blocks, and the people waving at him to stop, despite the fact this bridge was currently being decimated by giant monsters and rockets grenades and was seconds away from total collapse.  Those people are dumb and more people are dead.

There's more praise and more stupidity we could talk about, but with Godzilla 2014 I can safely say that director Gareth Edwards got it mostly right.  It is a visual wonder… from the parts I could see clearly… it tells a good story, is paced just about perfect and almost removes the taste of Godzilla 1998 from our mouths.  Almost.  Not quite. 
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