Friday, April 10, 2015

My take on Godzilla (2014) Directed by Gareth Edwards

A moment’s preamble:  In June of 2014 I began graduate school at Seton Hill seeking an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction. This term I’m enrolled in a course that focuses on MONSTERS, and as a part of that course I’ll blog on each book/story/movie covered.

My review breaks down into 4 parts: Strength of Character, Genre potency, Poignancy of themes, and Entertainment Value. For each of these I will assign a letter grade. My reviews will contain **SPOILERS**

Godzilla is a 2014 American science fiction monster film directed by Gareth Edwards. It is a reboot of the Godzilla film franchise and retells the origins of Godzilla in contemporary times as a "terrifying force of nature" –via Wikipedia

Strength of Character: D+

Where to begin? I suppose I’ll start with what rescued this movie from receiving a solid F for strength of character, and that’s Brian Cranston. I assume his character had a name, but no one would remember him as anything but Brian Cranston. BC is fantastic here, milking the opening sequences and turning that milk into blue meth (Ok maybe not that part). The failing nuclear reactor scene where BC’s wife, played by Juliette Binoche, adds a weight and pathos to the narrative and sets the tone for the character-heavy drama that we are about to enjoy. BC is a man obsessed, a man against the world, and we are right there with him. Let’s do this.

And then he and all that pathos fall off a catwalk and get zipped up in a body bag.

Characters? Who are you kidding? This is an old-school monster movie, the only character you need to worry about is a little guy named GODZILLA. He’s basically Earth’s bouncer called in to kick the shit out of some unruly drunks trying to hook up before last call. Silly humans, thinking they are important.

And that’s the problem. The fatal flaw of this movie. It can’t decide what it is. It’s got a whopping case of dissociative identity disorder.

The bag of dirty diapers on top of the dumpster fire of this movie’s characters is Aaron Taylor-Johnson as “Sir Snorefest” himself, Ford Brody. AKA G.I. Joe Shmoe.  Who will ever forget the moment he spoke those immortal words, in a blip above a monotone, to the dying Brian Cranston?

“Hey, stay with me.”

I know, brings a tear to the eye even writing it. He’s all like, “hey,” in case BC wasn’t listening, and then he doesn’t want his dad to die so he adds: “Stay with me.” Legendary. (Sarcasm font, in case you missed it).

And let’s not forget Dr. Serizawa, who walks around the whole movie slack-jawed and mumbling “let them fight.” Take another bong-hit, Dr. S.

Genre Strength: B+

This is a monster movie. Forget what the previews told you, forget the all the implications that it was going to be about the characters, forget Brian Cranston.

Is that all forgotten? Good.

Now watch some old Godzilla films, I’m not talking about that runt from 1998, I’m talking some lizard-mascot fighting another mascot on top of a model city. That’s what this movie is, at its radioactive core.

And how does it succeed in that respect? It knocks it out of the park, and then Godzilla steps on the park. This movie rips open the jaws of Godzilla (1998) and breathes a blue laser down its throat. This is modern CGI at its finest, and the genuinely awe-inspiring sequences of the Thunder-From-WAY-Down-Under, Big G, are near-flawless. The only thing keeping me from giving this movie an A+ for genre is the aforementioned identity crisis.

Thematic Poignancy: C

Man vs. Nature. More specifically, man vs THE LEATHERY BOOTHEEL OF NATURE OH MY GOD IT’S CRUSHING ME. This film brings Godzilla back to center. Big G is an incarnation of a natural disaster, as immense and unstoppable as a category 5 hurricane. The MUTOs are the “villains,” but even they aren’t given some sort of human-intelligence. They are big animals just looking to mate and feed. It’s even sort of cute when the winged one defends big momma.

The raw power of nature becomes the focus and theme of the movie, yet it feels a bit hokey for my tastes. Probably because Dr. S spells it out for the audience every other time he’s on screen.

Entertainment Value: C-

After you stub your toe, amirite?
So, entertainment-wise, this was a mixed up bag of radioactive monster eggs. On the one hand, this movie rocked my entertainment system. You should’ve heard that patented roar on my woofer, seriously. The action was fun. The tension? Generally tense. The monsters delivered an epic performance.

The movie uses subtlety well, keeping the creatures obscured for most of the film, barely glimpsed on the small television screens, or behind a cloud of dust or smoke. Director Gareth Edwards deftly uses a quiet before the roar. (I said roar instead of storm, see what I did there? DID YOU SEE?)

Unfortunately that wasn’t enough. They had the right idea, in my opinion, to try and go the character route. Their mistake was in letting BC and basically that whole angle die off early. By the time I saw Sir Snorefest predictably reunited with his family I’d completely jumped off that poorly-positioned ship.

Random Notes and Final Grade: C

*Godzilla is the real protagonist here, we’re just led to believe he’s the villain. It was an interesting move, but one I think leaves the audience at a loss for something to root for until the very end.

*The skydiving scene is visually awe-inspiring and gorgeous. And those seem like paltry adjectives to describe it. The look of that scene alone sold millions of tickets, and they were smart to use it so prominently in the trailers. 

*I’m actually intrigued by the potential confirmed sequel. I would go into the movie in the right mindset next time, looking for Godzilla vs New Monster and disaster-porn, but little else.


  1. Agreed. BC died so well. He dies well, that's sort of his thing, I think. And then we get, "Hey, stay with me." Lame.

    Dr. Serizawa, as Jacob Baugher noted, was there to be cryptic. Truly not a deep character, and depth is demanded of a scientist. Just didn't work.

  2. I really enjoyed this movie in the theatre because I went in thinking, "Aww, hell yeah, Godzilla and Walter White." So the lack of plot didn't bother me because I wasn't looking for it, but my goodness, I did not give a shit about that guy getting back to his family.
    I did like the slow reveal they did with Godzilla but this movie did drag a little. I forgot how long it was. I think you gave it a fair grade.

  3. First, this entire post was hilarious. The only reason I saw this movie in theaters was for Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, and Juliette Binoche. Having Juliette die within the first 5 minutes was my first clue that I'd hate this movie. Then Bryan bites the dust and I was stunned and not in a good way. Poor Watanabe only gets like seven lines and is told to stare off into space because that's what every scientist would do, right? And 20 minutes of Godzilla in its own movie is not enough.

    1. Thanks, Vanessa! I had fun writing this review.

  4. Yes, I liked the movie specifically because of the monster badassery. If the director missed doing the monsters right, it would have received a solid F. I think that the monsters were just right, however: not crazy superpowered. Godzilla was awesome, but he was slow. It's not like he was zipping all over the place. That's what sets this film apart from transformers, who are so overpowered that it's just not fun anymore

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  6. It's always a disappointment when the preview is better than the actual film. The skydive shot comes to mind and got me really pumped to see this one! Then I had to suffer through it once Cranston died. I'm still amazed (appalled?) that they killed him off after hooking us to him emotionally. I get that his son was estranged and not very emotionally attached but there are so many better ways to make this work. Once I realized that the guy who wrote Doom and the Expendables movies wrote this I wasn't really surprised it was so terrible. It's a shame though because this movie had so much potential.