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Godzilla is an excelent visual upgrade on the old formula - stunning and satisfying

Updated on May 19, 2014

If you've been sitting at home, eating Häagen-Dazs straight out of the tub with your bare hands, mumbling to yourself "If only we had a good Hollywood version of Godzilla," then you're in luck. If you've been lurking in your fully stocked survival bunker, field stripping your collection of hand guns and assault rifles, cursing the day that anyone ever even came up with the idea of a movie about a giant radioactive lizard in a street brawl and leveling whole cities, then I've got bad news.

Of course, those are extremes. But basically this new Godzilla movie is an interesting beast.

And a hard one for me to firmly caution against or promote. Though I lean toward promoting it.

But first, the story

We start in the Philipines. Scientists Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) are flown out to a quarry where local diggers have discovered a curious void with a massive skeleton inside. There's also a curious level of radiation. At least there was. The curious thing now is how fast the radiation seems to have dissipated. It would appear that a parasitic organism may have recently emerged and tunneled out.

Cut to Japan and the Janjira Nuclear Plant in Tokyo. Some odd readings have raised the concern and curiosity of plant supervisor Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche). It's his birthday and it starts out sans a big '50' on his eggs made out of bacon. And the day only gets worse from there.

There's an accident at the plant with a personal cost to both him and his son, Ford (CJ Adams). They end up evacuating and quarantining the city.

Jump ahead fifteen years.

Explosive ordinance disposal officer Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) returns home to his family in San Francisco only to have to head out to Japan to bail out his father who was caught breaking the Janjira quarantine. After breaking the quarantine once more, they come across a troubling secret. Something has been growing in the nuclear plant for the past fifteen years and it's about to emerge.

And if you think you know what it is that's about to emerge, you're likely wrong.

Dot dot dot

If you've loved the previous Godzilla movies (excluding the 1998 Roland Emmerich movie which seems be completely overlooked by fans) then this new version by director Gareth Edwards should satisfy. If you don't care for them, then it depends on why you don't like them.

If you have a hard time watching a guy in a large rubber suit knock over cardboard boxes with windows painted on them, then believe me this is a dramatic step up. If you simply don't care for giant monster mayhem, then by all means don't watch this one.

The monster effects are stunning. It's amazing how ridiculously realistic some of these shots are.

The story's well developed but doesn't really surprise you. It's much more than bare bones and it's rather compelling, but it's not trying to make any profound points about existence or faith or anything. That's not a criticism. It's an observation. But with the story they've decided to tell, they do a very good job.

But it's still a giant monster movie. Make no mistake about that.

In fact, one thing that isn't made particularly clear in the trailers that I've seen is that Godzilla isn't even the only behemoth in the movie. There's one they call MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) that looks rather similar to the Cloverfield monster. And the pairing of behemoths lends itself to some really cool shots.

You watch some of these action sequences and you're reminded that wholesale destruction of entire cities did not start with Transformers or Man of Steel. It's been a staple of the Godzilla franchise for decades. It's just gotten more realistic.

So if you have a problem with Superman and Zod duking it out and taking out entire buildings, just know that you can expect the same kind of thing here.

Godzilla - trailer

But not at the expense of the characters. They're not as fleshed out as they would be in, say, King Lear. But Shakespear this isn't. For the little ammount of screen time that Elizabeth Olsen is given, she still does a great job of making you care what happens to her. Daid Strathairn's Admiral Stenz does basically what you'd expect any military leader in this kind of movie to do, but he doesn't play out as cliche and annoying. You understand what he's going through and why he makes the decisions he does.

Considering everything that happens in the movie, and the threat that Godzilla proves himself to be, though, I'm a little curious at the way the movie ends. I don't hate it and I'm not complaining. It just felt a little unrealistic.

One complaint I might point out is that I wanted to see a bit more of the title character. It's not that you don't see him. But there were times when they cut away just when certain action sequences were getting good.

But visually it's excellent. I understand the director is not a fan of 3D and he did not film the movie with 3D in mind (so I don't imagine it takes great advantage of the format even after conversion) but that doesn't mean the movie isn't great to look at. The HALO jump, for instance. The visuals combined with a very evocative soundtrack in that scene combine to make an exceptional moment in filmmaking.

I definitely want to see more films like this in the future.

But what do you think of the movie?

3.5 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of Godzilla (2014)

In the end, your feelings toward this movie will largely depend on your feelings toward monster movies. But for me, this one gets a weak 8 / 10.

Godzilla is rated PG-13 for a tiny amount of language and a ton of creature violence, destruction and mayhem. People die, but you don't see anything disturbing on that front.


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