Godzilla is a creature beloved by many but yet even in this day and age of terrific visual effects, why has it been such a difficult monster to portray on screen. Why is it that studios have been so reluctant to make a film on the King of Monsters? Well, the 1998 Godzilla film for sure left a sour taste in the collective mouths of Hollywood and fans alike but filmmakers also have a hard time finding the balance between fan service and actually telling a story. A Godzilla has to feature the titular monster but it cannot just be him. It has to have a human element, or at least filmmakers believe so, for the viewers to actually care about. It is a tough dilemma for even the most experienced of filmmakers and yet Legendary Pictures decided to go with a talented cast and an unknown director, Gareth Edwards. Does Edwards deliver a Godzilla film that will appease the fans while also bringing something new? Yes and no.
Godzilla focuses on the Brody family, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who live in Janjira, Japan in the beginning of the film at the time of 1999. Joe Brody is the local plant supervisor where his wife also works. Not to far away, Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) found fossils of a monstrous creature in the Philippines and that it had spawned two eggs. One of those eggs had already hatched and after it hatched, Janijira, Japan began to experience seismic activity. Joe dismisses the notion that it is an Earthquake noticing that it follows a pattern leading him to believe that something is actually causing it. Upon another Earthquake, he orders for the plant to be shut down which condemns his wife to an early death by radiation poisoning. The film fast forwards fifteen years later after the plant had been completely destroyed and Janijira has been quarantined. The film shifts it's focus at this point to Ford who is now an explosives ordinance disposal officer in the Navy and returning home to his wife, Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and his son Sam. He had been gone from his family for fourteen months so he was eager to return to them, but his crazy father had found himself in jail at Janijira for crossing the quarantine line. Elle encourages him to go help his father.
Upon reuniting for the first time in a perceivable long time, there is no pleasantries exchanged between father and son. Instead, Joe explains to his estranged son that he believes whole heartedly that whatever happened that fateful day when he lost his wife that it is happening again and soon. He crossed the quarantine line because he needed to get his previous readings to show proof of his outlandish claims. However, the government continues to cover up something which leads Joe to continue to push for the truth. Eventually that truth rises from the ashes in a terrible way that threatens to send our very way of life back to the Stone Age.
The most frustrating aspect of the film is how it completely lacks simple logic in the final act. How military soldiers are able to get near these monsters who are around weapons that are leaking radiation without the correct protection to safe guard themselves from it, baffles me. Little details like that I know as a viewer you are supposed to allow the film to suspend your disbelief, but when it continuously expects you to be essentially unintelligent and just enjoy a entertaining blockbuster film, it gets frustrating. Seeing a film named Godzilla, you would expect to see the King of the Monsters play a big part. He is the star of the show, but nope, Aaron Taylor Johnson gets the most screen time and his scenes are at times incredibly difficult to watch. Even more frustrating is how when the viewers are graced with the off-chance of seeing Godzilla begin to actually fight a monster the camera cuts away to whatever the military is doing. If you were to do a survey outside the theater per viewing, I am sure that everyone would agree that they would have enjoyed it much more if they got more scenes with Godzilla then Taylor-Johnson's Ford character casually trying to save the city in the final act.
Speaking of the actual King of Monsters, they did a very good job in that regard. His roar was perfect he looked the part and all of his signature attacks were featured. The die hard fans will truly get a kick out of the final fight of the film. When Godzilla was on screen and even when he was not the film did it's best to go ahead and do the fan's service. There were Easter eggs scattered throughout, like on Ford's fish tank the word "Mothra" was written on paper tape. Gareth Edwards deserves a pat on the back for all of these little details and he does certainly have an eye for capturing big destructive moments that are featured throughout the film. The acting however leaves a lot to be desired. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is earnest in his role but he simply cannot carry the film. Bryan Cranston does in his scenes, and continues to show why he is so beloved among his peers and fans. Elizabeth Olsen literally has nothing to do in the film except running around scared for her life. That is about the summary of the acting prowess of the film. I understand the need to have humans in a Godzilla film, but they do not need to be featured so prominently. People go to see a Godzilla film to see Godzilla fight other monsters. Let us have that.
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