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Five Views: Godzilla

May 16, 2014

Godzilla Poster

Godzilla – A Warner Bros. Pictures Release

Release Date: May 16th, 2014

Rated PG for frightening scenes and violence

Running time: 123 minutes

Gareth Edwards (dir.)

Max Borenstein (screenplay)
David Callaham (story)

Alexandre Desplat (music)

Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ford Brody
Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ichiro Serizawa
Elizabeth Olsen as Elle Brody
Carson Bolde as Sam Brody
Sally Hawkins as Vivienne Graham
Juliette Binoche as Sandra Brody
David Strathairn as Admiral William Stenz


©Warner Bros. Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
Godzilla in Godzilla.

Our reviews below:


Godzilla Review By John Corrado

*** (out of 4)

Four years after making a name for himself on the independent circuit with the impressive low budget film Monsters, director Gareth Edwards returns with Godzilla, a continuation of the classic Japanese creature feature that started it all in 1954.  Playing like Monsters with a budget, this is a well made blockbuster that breathes new life into the franchise after the forgettable 1998 remake cheapened the classic character.

After his wife (Juliette Binoche) died in an explosion at a Japanese nuclear plant, engineer Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) became obsessed with proving that the accident wasn’t caused by an earthquake in the Philippines, but rather something else that the government is trying to coverup.  Now fifteen years later, it’s up to his adult son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) to protect his own wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and young boy (Carson Bolde), when the same environmental patterns reemerge and terrifying creatures known as MUTOs are unleashed that wreak havoc on the world’s cities.

But this also reawakens the legendary Gojira for the first time since 1954.  Although his stomping feet and giant tail pose a threat to buildings and landmarks everywhere, he might just be the only force powerful enough to kill the MUTOs, and the climactic fights provide the best moments in the film.  The human characters aren’t always equally compelling and the actors aren’t given that much character development to work with, but this new take on Godzilla is worth seeing for the monsters, and serves up several thrillingly crafted action sequences.

The artful cinematography is impressive, showing both the gigantic size of these creatures, and the effect they have on the world around them.  Some of the most haunting moments come when the focus switches to reaction shots of children or animals, including a packed school bus that is brilliantly used as the captive audience to an exciting set piece atop the Golden Gate Bridge.  Although this version doesn’t have quite the same metaphorical resonance as the powerful 1954 original, the screenplay still draws on some interesting environmental parallels, with the creatures representing nature going out of control.

Gareth Edwards stages some great sequences here, including a giant wave that rips through Hawaii, and a finale that effectively uses grey tones and a nighttime setting to up the suspense.  From the spectacular visual effects and striking cinematography, to the thumping sound design and matching music by Alexandre Desplat, the technicals are impressive throughout, and Godzilla is a well made blockbuster that delivers in terms of monster thrills.


Godzilla Review By Erin V.

*** (out of 4)

In 1954, the film Godzilla was released, and what became known as a cheesy monster-flick actually had a surprising amount of depth and commentary about weapons use and what we do to our planet.  Since then, countless sequels were released, with Godzilla finding his way into pop culture and rightfully so – granted, with an original so great, it was hard for sequels to live up.

In 2010, Gareth Edwards made a small independent monster film of his own called Monsters.  This film I loved for its simplicity and almost quiet commentary on what we designate monsters and how we deal with them.  What was all the more impressive was the minuscule budget Edwards had and the fact that he did the special effects himself.  Shortly after the release and acclaim of Monsters, Edwards was named as director of a Godzilla film – and the question was whether he could make something that hearkened back to the original after all these years.

In some ways he does.  This Godzilla references the original and is a true sequel, in that the events of 1954 are what influence the events taking place in present time in the film.  When we open we get a brief flash-back to 1999, when a Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Object (or MUTO) finds its way into a nuclear plant in Japan to feed.  After creating a disaster, the government covers it up as an earthquake.

But Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) who used to work at the plant – and lost his wife in the disaster – isn’t convinced.  Even back then he knew the seismic readings weren’t like an earthquake and suspects something else.  What he finds is this MUTO – a giant wasp-like creature with wings – just before it takes off and begins to wreck havoc on cities worldwide.

This is a Godzilla movie, but the titular monster doesn’t appear until close to an hour in – in fact it is precisely an hour in when we first get to really see his face.  There is a lot of buildup, and a lot about the other monsters that have been awakened.  By the time Godzilla appears, his role is different in the film than one might expect going in, and this is where things really got interesting for me.

Judging by the trailers, this seems to be a very human-based film that features Godzilla as the main monster.  In all reality, the human characters (pretty much led by Aaron Taylor-Johnson for most of the film, who plays Cranston’s son Ford) aren’t as fleshed-out as they could have been and Godzilla is a little late to the party.  But the monster stuff is incredibly well done, and once Godzilla appears, boy is it worth the wait.  One thing is, the cinematography, colour tones, and framing of certain shots is gorgeously done.  Coming from an FX background, it is no surprise with Edwards behind the helm.

Overall, with ultimately similar themes to Monsters, and a touch of the original Godzilla, the film is definitely worth seeing.  It is well made, and the action is worth the price of admission and exactly what you’d hope to see in a Godzilla movie.  It’s a little different than the trailers show, but still a great ride that will be enjoyed by fans of monster-flicks from 10 to adult.


Godzilla Review By Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

Four years ago, Gareth Edwards made a thought provoking film called Monsters, about oversize aliens who wander between the USA and Mexico.  His second film, Godzilla, is a sequel to the sixty year old classic.  In this film, it’s discovered that the nuclear bomb did not kill Godzilla, because he eats nuclear energy.  Strange things are happening; “earthquakes” keep ravaging Japan and its nuclear power plants.

The government is hiding something, and nuclear physicist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is trying to figure out what caused the accident that killed his wife (Juliette Binoche). His son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is a soldier who just wants to get back to his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and young son (Carson Bolde).  But giant nuclear eating insectoids called MUTOs are ravaging cities and attracting their natural predator, Godzilla.  While the US military wishes to obliterate them with powerful nuclear bombs, Japanese scientist Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) suggests instead of working against nature, they let nature balance itself out.

Godzilla, like the original 1954 film, has a strong environmental and anti-war message.  The monsters are not animals, but nuclear bombs and non-renewable energy.  The creatures are simply drawn out into situations where they come into conflict with humans, and therefore do not deserve extermination.  Like in Monsters, both the human and creature characters are sympathetic.

It is tragic when human characters die, and one is really concerned when people are in peril, especially children and their parents.  The human characters are well rounded, complex and heartfelt.  But the creatures also have emotional depth, shown in a few brief yet powerful scenes.  Like its sixty year old predecessor, Godzilla will encourage people to live with our fellow creatures.


Godzilla Review By Maureen

*** (out of 4)

In 2010, Gareth Edwards wrote and directed a thought provoking and well made low budget indie film called Monsters, about creatures threatening Earth.  His latest film venture, Godzilla, could just as just as easily be called Monsters vs. Monsters.  In this nicely done remake, the iconic Japanese giant lizard ends up taking on giant insect-like creatures called MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Objects) that are terrorizing coastal cities, devouring military aircrafts and disrupting electrical circuitry.

The story beings in 1999 when nuclear engineer/scientist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) warns that the seismic abnormalities he’s been tracking will lead to disaster.  When the Japanese nuclear plant does experience an explosion, Joe is left a widower and single dad.  Flash forward fifteen years later to San Francisco, when Joe’s now-adult son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) returns to his own wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and young son (Carson Bolde), after a stint as a bomb expert in Afghanistan.  No sooner is he home when Ford gets a call from Japan saying his dad has been arrested.

Once father and son are reunited in Japan, Ford realizes that his father is seen as a conspiracy theorist and alarmist with his warnings that something other than normal earthquake activity is going on.  It’s not long before Joe’s predictions come true, and Japan is faced with another event like the one fifteen years earlier.  With the help of a Japanese scientist (Ken Watanabe) and a British scientist (Sally Hawkins), Joe and Ford help uncover the mystery of the giant MUTOs that begin trampling cities and eating anything with radioactive properties.  The US military takes over and tries to stop the invasion, but as the Japanese scientist says “the arrogance of man is thinking nature is in their control.”

The truth is, only Godzilla can defeat the MUTOs.  Once the monsters appear on screen about an hour in, the film really picks up.  The special effects are impressive, with some really exciting battles between the MUTOs and Godzilla.  The chaotic scenes of cities being destroyed are also impressive.  What really stands out is the excellent cinematography by Seamus McGarvey.  There is one scene shot in grey tones of Godzilla stomping through the streets with red Chinese lanterns being the one burst of colour, and the effect is memorable.

In many ways, this Godzilla reminds me of Gareth Edwards’ Monsters in terms of stylistic choices.  The film stays true to the tone of the original, with the big guy being a hero of sorts.  This Godzilla is a nice addition to the classic monster movies and is worth seeing in theatres for the very impressive special effects and excellent cinematography.


Godzilla Review By Tony

*** (out of 4)

Godzilla is a worthy homage to the first film which served sixty years ago in postwar Japan as an allegory for the horror of nuclear weapons. The eponymous dragon-like kaiju (monster) lived for billions of years deep under the ocean floor fed by natural nuclear radiation, only emerging when disturbed by threats to the earth itself.

A 1999 Philippines earth tremor accompanied by a distinctive EMP (electromagnetic pulse) led to apparent aftershocks destroying a Japanese nuclear power plant before the resident American engineer Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) could shut it down. Fifteen years later, his grownup son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is called away from his San Francisco home and wife (Elizabeth Olsen) to bail Joe out from a trespassing charge on the plant site. Having observed a new EMP, Joe is trying to warn authorities of a new disaster, but only the secret kaiju specialist Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and his assistant (Sally Hawkins) take Joe and Ford seriously.

It is too late. A flying insect-like kaiju called MUTO (massive unidentified terrestrial object) has drained the plant’s fuel and escaped, heading across the Pacific, tracked by an American naval force under Admiral Stenz (David Strathairn). Popping EMPs that disrupt any electrical power or signals around it and picking up nuclear weapons in its way and eating them like candy, it threatens the west coast, while another MUTO is coming over from Europe to mate with it. The title character is awakened.

This is the second feature and first big studio film for British director Gareth Edwards, sharing many elements with his first low budget 2010 feature Monsters. The film concentrates on human characters, the monsters not seen at first, followed only by brief flashes of them before the final scenes. The theme of conflict between humans and nature is faithful to the original series. The script unfolds like a mystery that maintains interest throughout the over two hour running time. The cast is all good, and the appropriately loud musical score from Alexandre Desplat is a nice complement to the spectacle.


Consensus: Directed by Gareth Edwards and thematically similar to his low budget 2010 debut Monsters, Godzilla is an impressively made blockbuster that smartly updates the classic franchise, with stunning visual effects and excellent cinematography. *** (out of 4)

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