Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds
2014/ USA, Japan
Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Aaron Taylor- Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Keith Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche,
Since Warner Brothers acquired the rights to Godzilla in 2010 the question has lingered “how do you make Godzilla a marketable and interesting commodity again?” This is particularly difficult considering the less than tepid 1998 incarnation from Roland Emmerich. Since then Godzilla has gathered dust on the movie shelf. Now, Godzilla lives.
Yet, by all rights this newest iteration shouldn’t really exist. Directed by Gareth Edwards of low budget Monsters fame, written by the relatively unknown Max Borenstein and starring a cast of actors (Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor- Johnson, and Elizabeth Olsen) grounded in independent films and television, 2014’s Godzilla is an entirely different beast. The approach here has been to place the weight of expectancy for this cinematic behemoth in rather inexperienced hands.
This take on the Godzilla story refreshes the character’s Japanese/ Honda origins and pits him in the middle of a battle between mankind and other unnamed monster aggressors. We are forced to side with Godzilla who appears from the ocean’s depths like an old Samurai to re-establish Earth’s natural order.
Edwards’ Godzilla is slightly a victim of indecision. It’s as if the director couldn’t decide between making the film strictly a blockbuster or a piece of high art. It falls somewhere in between yet fails to satisfy either category. The film is broken into three acts noticeable for their apparent shift in genre from political thriller to high speed chase and ending up as the monster brawl it teases to become for over an hour. The film can’t decide which character is the lead, Bryan Cranston is cut criminally short and Aaron Taylor- Johnson assumes responsibility for the entirety of Earth’s safety with a series of death defying acts of self-sacrifice.
The faults detract from Edward’s intentions, outside of the leading cast characters feel underdeveloped and type cast. Merely there to sign post the action that takes place. Keith Watanabe’s scientist is there for the cultural link and to utter sections of prose famously repeated in the trailer. The pacing is rather clunky and attempts to build anticipation for the film’s final third. This however materialises into impatience as we await the monster showdown.
Credit where credits due though Edwards and co. have come up with something that does manage to entertain and satisfy that itch that has needed a scratch since 98’. The ending sequence is fantastic and more than makes up for any niggling errors and dead pan performances. You become a part of mankind’s desperation as San Francisco is smashed to pieces. It makes a pertinent point about man’s attempts with creation, after all the monsters in the film feed off of energy we produce. When this finally clicks everyone turns to Godzilla for help and he is happy to oblige our screams of terror (even if he instigates some of his own).
If the job was to give Godzilla new legs to stand on then the film has achieved this by literally building them two miles high. As the titanic reptile slips back into the ocean at the film’s ending we can see a bright future for the character and the franchise. When our anti-hero returns a more calculated story could make this generations Godzilla the legend he deserves to be. Only time will tell.