It’s story time, dear readers. Many winters ago, in a faraway land called Ludlow, Massachusetts, lived a pale, spritely lad named Mike Muse. This freckled youth bonded with his best mate over a mutual love for the Toho Godzilla franchise. Fast forward 15 years and these two friends, now ruggedly handsome, uncomfortably attractive burly men, are shaking with excitement like little girls, their voices in a far higher octave than normal, as the theater lights dim and the screen comes alive to show Gareth Edward’s new take on Godzilla. I preface my review with this personal tale so that you know that however objective I tried to be, I am no doubt in some way subconsciously biased toward this film/franchise. Or… perhaps more qualified? In any case, I’m here to tell you that Godzilla (2014) is awesome. It embodies that over-used descriptor better than anything in recent memory.
As has always been the case with the Godzilla franchise, and movies like it, it is very difficult to create a human story that is as interesting as the events happening around them. Godzilla isn’t concerned with anything as small as one human, so how do you tie a few characters story with that of the big green guy himself? Gareth Edwards is more successful in this endeavor than not, but isn’t able to completely weave the two together without it feeling slightly disjointed. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a serviceable lead, doing what he needs to do when he needs to do it, but felt a little stiff. He is never unlikable though. Elizabeth Olsen is very talented, but isn’t given a lot to do here as Johnson’s wife. Bryan Cranston is the shining radioactive gem of the cast, and it is his character that proves to be the most interesting. Ultimately, for a blockbuster like this, all that matters is that the story between the action sequences is engaging enough to tide you over, and it most certainly is here.
One aspect of the film that is bound to be divisive is the pacing. Some viewers may not be so happy with the amount of screen time the titular monster gets in the first two acts. There is a lot of teasing and build-up, which ends up being very true to form for the Godzilla franchise. However you may feel about the amount of build-up, though, one thing we will all agree on is that the payoff is ridiculously worth it. Once the big guy is on full display in the final act, we see a lot of him, and I can’t emphasize enough how awesome it is. Sorry, there’s that word again. It’s just so fitting.
From a filmmaking and technical viewpoint, this film is astounding. The visual effects are absolutely top notch throughout. The creature designs are well thought out and the destruction is realistic and glorious, as well as feeling deserved. It doesn’t feel like destruction for destruction’s sake, which was a problem I had with, say, Man of Steel. Perhaps the greatest success is the sense of scale. Edwards employs a plethora of clever and intelligent cinematic tricks to relay to the viewer just how big these creatures are. One cannot help but be in awe. When things aren’t exploding, Edwards uses strong colors and interesting camera movement to add some style to the quieter moments. Your eyes will never be bored or overwhelmed. As far as the 3D goes, it is obvious this film was not made with it in mind (which is great in my opinion). It isn’t bad, but it doesn’t really add anything to what you’re seeing. Save your money and see it in 2D.
Whether you’re a longtime fan of the Godzilla series like me, or someone who actually went outside and talked to people, I’ll be damned if you don’t walk out of the theater with the goofiest and giddiest grin on your face. Though the middle of the film may lull a little, the strong opening and closing acts help create a truly satisfying cinematic adventure. It doesn’t hurt there are a lot of sly nods to the films that came before, which I couldn’t help but smile knowingly at when I caught them. Almost no film has had a better sense of massive action. Those of you with a history of heart problems might want to steer clear of this one. Everyone else? Go see it. You won’t be disappointed.