Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Godzilla (2014)

Review #1,035






THE SCOOP
Director:  Gareth Edwards
Cast:  Aaron Taylor-JohnsonElizabeth OlsenBryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche
Plot:  The world's most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity's scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.

Genre:  Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi
Awards:  -
Runtime:  123min
Rating:  PG13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence.

IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
“The arrogance of man is thinking nature is in our control... and not the other way around.”

This easily feels and looks like a great Steven Spielberg blockbuster.  So kudos to Gareth Edwards who helms a massive project only on his second outing as director, after the small critical success that was Monsters (2010). 

Godzilla is an assured film, full of all of the elements we would expect from such a movie – superb staging of action and terror, timely reveal of the scale of the monsters, a range of stunning money shots, and outstanding sound design. 

The movie satisfies in a gleeful way as we sit hooked at all that unfolds with a childlike awe.  In short, Godzilla ranks as one of the highest tiers of blockbusters this year, and I recommend that you see it on the big screen.

It also blows into smithereens the awful Roland Emmerich version in 1998.  This updated one by Edwards is respectfully made, with strong reverence to Toho's classic Gojira (1954) by Ishiro Honda.  It is not a surprise to see such luminaries as Alexandre Desplat, whom I regard as the most versatile and prolific composer of the post-2000s era, and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey (Atonement, 2007; The Avengers, 2012) involved in the picture. 

We follow Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who is thrust into fighting monsters when his visit to Japan to save his father from the authorities turns awry.  As we expect, the authorities are hiding something.

If there is a legitimate flaw of Edwards’ film, it is that it takes a while for the narrative to pick up.  The film could have shaved off ten minutes or so at the start, and hit the ground running.  I remembered Pacific Rim (2013), a similar blockbuster inspired by the legacy of kaijus (read: strange beast), hit the ground running and never lost steam. 

However, Godzilla is the more effective experience overall, though it can also be judged to be light on human drama at the expense of spectacle.  But at least there’s some effort put in that centers on the drama that comes out of human peril.  Unlike certain it’s-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it blockbusters, we still show some concern for humanity.

Godzilla is a truly entertaining movie.  You will have a blast with it.  It is well-made and constantly striving for the new even as it pulls references from the old, notably from films such as Jurassic Park (1993) and Aliens (1986).  Disregarding its pacing issues at the start, I daresay it is an exemplary model of old-fashioned Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking redesigned diligently for the modern audience.

Verdict:  This ranks as one of the highest tiers of blockbusters this year that will leave you in Spielbergian awe.

GRADE: A-






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