I haven’t released a review in a while but I wanted to get my feelings out on ‘Godzilla’ because I am sure they won’t be shared by others on this site. I won’t go into much detail plot wise, I’ll leave that for either you to see or others to write about. So let me jump right into this…
The biggest failure by those involved with ‘Godzilla’ was thinking that its story and characters were strong enough to support a slow build up to the eventual reveal of the monster we all came to see; and I say this as someone who has absolutely no problem with slow burning narratives. The film spends more than an hour focusing on characters that it ultimately has little to no interest in beyond how they might, but inevitably don’t, manipulate the emotions of those watching . Do we really care about the engineer (Bryan Cranston) whose wife dies five minutes in even though we only see them together for about two minutes? Or the straight faced, incredibly dull soldier (Aaron Taylor Johnson), who after being fourteen months away from his wife and son has apparently no trouble leaving them again after only a few hours to go to Japan? Or maybe we are supposed to care about the cliched wife character, who has no development what so ever and whose only reason for existing is giving our dull male hero a reason to get home? The answer is we should care…but are not given enough to actually bother doing so.
Some might read that and say “Who cares about the human characters! Its a damn monster movie!” This may be true for similar films, but most of the monsters in those are featured prominently throughout the story. Take ‘Pacific Rim’ for example (yes, I am going to be one of those to draw a comparison). The characters in that film are not the most developed lot, but at least Del Toro and those involved understood this. So, he gives us scene after scene of robot vs. Kaiju goodness to keep us entertained while the story unfolded. We don’t get that with ‘Godzilla’. To make matters worse, once Godzilla does appear, the film becomes a major cock tease, with more than one occasion in which Godzilla shows up, allowing the audience a moment to gasp and move to the edges of their seats, only for it to cut back to those boring underdeveloped characters that NO ONE came to see.
Even more baffling is that the film doesn’t even try to apply a varnish of political or moral themes to give the story any weight to make up for the massive emotional hole left by its characters. There are two very short moments with Ken Watanbe (who I believe the film should have been focused around) where he mentions the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and then the arrogance of man, as if the actions of the characters might in some way reflect decisions once made in the past and how futile they may be…but like with Godzilla, whenever his character has a moment to add anything to the narrative, it cuts away. Which is disappointing. There is so much potential here that is completely wasted, just like its cast.
I said before the film was released that I had little interest in seeing this because I had no faith that Garth Edwards, whose only other feature was an indie monster flick, had the directing chops to tackle a film of this scale, with this many characters over such a long running time. For me, those reservations ended up being completely warranted. That isn’t to say the film is a total disaster. Once Godzilla gets the screen time he deserves, the result is a very exciting and visually well-constructed Kaiju battle. It also contains a killer score by Alexandre Desplat. But in a world where summers, including this one, are filled with more entertaining and competent blockbusters, this falls way short of being worth the price of admission in my book.
And thus concludes perhaps the most negative review I have posted, on this site at least…felt sort of good.