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Godzilla

USA / Japan 2014
produced by
Jon Jashni, Mary Parent, Brian Rogers, Thomas Tull, Yoshimitsu Banno (executive), Alex Garcia (executive), Kenji Okuhira (executive), Patricia Whitcher (executive) for Warner Brothers, Legendary, Disruption Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, Toho
directed by Gareth Edwards
starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Carson Bolde, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Juliette Binoche, CJ Adams, Richard T. Jones, Victor Rasuk, Patrick Sabongui, Jared Keeso, Luc Roderique, James Pizzinato, Catherine Lough Haggquist, Eric Keenleyside, Primo Allon, George Allen Gumapac jr, Ken Yamamura, Garry Chalk, Hiro Kanagawa, Kevan Ohtsji, Kasey Ryne Mazak, Terry Chen, Mas Morimoto, James D. Dever, Akira Takarada, Yuko Kiyama, Takeshi Kurokawa, James Yoshizawa, Jason Furukawa, Brian Markinson, Ty Olsson, Al Sapienza, Gardiner Millar
story by Dave Callaham, screenplay by Max Borenstein, music by Alexandre Desplat, special effects by Double Negative (DNEG), Centroid Motion Capture, Legacy Effects, Lindala Schminken FX, Mist VFX Studio, Pixel Playground, The Third Floor, Weta Digital, visual effects by Moving Picture Company (MPC), Scanline VFX, Bubble Creations Digital Studios

Godzilla, American Godzilla, MonsterVerse

review by
Mike Haberfelner




Ever since he lost his wife (Juliette Binoche) in a grave nuclear reactor accident in Japan, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) has been trying to find out what exactly has happened as he has always had suspicion that it was more than just the earthquake it was attributed to. So he and his estranged Marine son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) break into the perimeter of the disaster one day and ... find out that the area isn't at all contaminated as alleged and that the Monarch corporation led by Dr Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) is conducting some experiments with a giant fossil there to ... well, who knows to what end, but eventually that fossil comes to life and turns out to be a giant flying dinosaur-like monster. And that monster, dubbed a MUTO, doesn't really like humans. So it lays destruction to the whole area before flying off. So time the American army (even though this takes place in Japan) takes over, and while Joe hasn't survived the ordeal, his son Ford is hired - and really just by accident he has all the exactly right qualifications.

Soon, Godzilla is entering the scene. Nobody knows why, but Dr Serizawa thinks it's nature's way of keeping in balance. However, Admiral Stentz (David Strathairn) figures it's a better idea to nuke the monsters, especially when a second MUTO is reported to run rampage in Nevada. The idea is to use the atom bomb to lure the monsters out into the sea and then blow it up, destroying them by the mere blast. And of course, Ford, who happens to know more about atom bombs than anyone else, is to be on the forefront of this operation. But things don't turn out as planned whtn the MUTOs first mate in San Francisco, then steal the bomb to feed their offspring with - after all, they're nuclear monsters. But then Godzilla shows up and gives the two MUTOs a sound beating before annihilating them with his radioactive breath, and in the meantime, Ford burns the MUTOs offspring and then sees to it that the atom bomb, the timer of which cannot be stopped, is shipped out into the open sea to detonate with no casualties. Of course, everything ends happily and Godzilla is celebrated as the saviour of earth.

Elizabeth Olsen plays Ford's wife, a caring nurse and loving mother, who though hasn't much more to do than being a caring nurse and loving daughter.

 

After the Hollywood tried to introduce Japanese icon Godzilla to American audiences for the first time with Roland Emmerich's movie of the same name with less than breathtaking success (both creatively and commercially), they tried again in 2014 - and they did better the second time round: This Godzilla does much more justice to the original, both concerning his looks and his origin story (even if liberties were taken). That said, the second American Godzilla still isn't a very good movie: Basically, Godzilla is kept out of the picture most of the time, and when he does appear he's more of a do-gooder than anything else. And for some reason, most of the monster fights are kept so darkly it's hard to determine what's actually happening. And the whole concept of monsters destroying cities - a mainstay in the Japanese films - is really kept to a minimum and lacks the joy of destruction. Instead it's just background to disaster movie mainstays - and this brings us to key point: the "human" plotline. Most of it feels very generic, lifted from dozens of similar movies, but one of the key problems is the character of Ford Brody: This guy has zero character arc, he is introduced as a hero in the first scene (after all, he's a war veteran, and in Hollywood movies they're all either heroes of psychos) and stays heroic throughout, always doing the right thing, always having the necessary skills to save the world yet again, and never being riddled by doubt, let alone allowed to fail. Basically, it's just impossible to form an emotional bond to such a bland character who's so central to the movie, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson's performance just isn't strong enough to overcome this. And on a sideline, making Godzilla the good guy, like in the cheesier (if funnier) Japanese Godzillas doesn't seem like too good an idea, either.

In all, a bit of a missed opportunity, really.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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