Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Godzilla (2014)

JohnnyTwoToes recommends this flawed but entertaining reboot!

Godzilla has had probably more sequels, prequels, reboots than just about any franchise in film history. Let's just say it has had more tweaks, adjustments and face lifts than Donatella Versace. Some have been campy, some trashy, some trashy fun but none as visually awe inspiring than Gareth Edwards latest 2014 incarnation, Godzilla

This time, the film takes off with quite a bang as a nuclear scientist (Bryan Cranston) arrives at his workplace, a Japanese nuclear power plant, that has spawned a power plant meltdown. What has caused this? No one knows, but it is such a disaster that Cranston's character spends the next fifteen years trying to find out what REALLY caused the meltdown. His son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has moved on with his life, into San Francisco with his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and their young son. Needless to say, all hell is about to break loose with worldwide implications. 

Gareth Edwards who had only directed the independent film, Monsters, has been charged with a tall task (no pun intended). Reviving a franchise whose recent track record has met with limited success. Mostly because the films focused more on the monsters than on the people that are affected by them. The monsters are pretty standard characters. They are huge, lumbering and oafish. They are loud, screech a lot and generally are awoken not in the best of moods. 

Edwards has done something as a director that makes this Godzilla a film worth viewing. He focuses on the characters more than the monsters. I mean, we all pretty much know what to expect from the monsters. The human elements of this Godzilla are worth watching. Kind of, anyway. Cranston will put the hooks into you but he is surprisingly not in the film for very long. The remainder of this Godzilla focuses on Ford, his wife and they are really not anywhere as intoxicating as Cranston's character. Ken Watanabe is a scientist who has been studying this for many years and he spends most of his screen time looking like a deer in the headlights. He does what the character requires and sells his character, but nothing that is memorable. Which brings me to Taylor-Johnson and Olsen. They, again, do what is required to sell their characters but they come across as so uninteresting that I had a hard time fearing for their safety as characters. They are a little too bland for my tastes, but what sells this Godzilla is the visual feast that Edwards has created. There is no shortage of eye popping visuals and the personal stories, although they are underwritten with homogenized characters, are ENOUGH to sell the action. 

The action here is tremendously staged and the cinematography by Seamus McGarvey is worthy of an Oscar nod. Yes, it is that good. I have heard people complaining about the score by Alexandre Desplat which I found to be curious. It is a fine score and worth purchasing. Will he be remembered for this score in particular? Probably not, but it is an excellent score with a full orchestra that has been peppered with a sparse but effective compilation of electronics. 

This edition of Godzilla is not 100% great especially Godzilla's screentime but it is worth viewing and most people will agree that, this time around Edwards has created a bleak world where our own devices can kill or create our greatest enemies. This is the best Godzilla they have ever created and the look of the film is tremendous, I just wish the script by Max Borenstein was a little more meaty and that the lead characters had some more angles to them. The acting is efficient enough so you can believe the story on face value but in the sequel (yes, there is a sequel and Edwards, for the moment, is returning as director) I would like to see some more dimensions to the characters. I mean, if they want us to believe in the story and invest our time and money into this then make it worth our while, too. 

Still, I don't want to downplay this film too much. Godzilla knows what it is and has a fun way of telling us. It does not take itself too seriously, so we can sit back and enjoy ourselves. The sequel is coming, for the moment, tentatively in 2018. Godzilla-*** out of 4


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