Thursday, December 11, 2014

Film Review: Godzilla (2014)

Godzilla (Review)
United States/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (Warner Home Video)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a very entertaining action blockbuster with masterful buildup and effective restraint, despite a lackluster performance from Taylor-Johnson."

After the unwittingly awakening of a radiation-eating creature identified as a MUTO, humanity tries to fight it off through military power, but find themselves relying on a much more destructive creature...

Godzilla is a reboot of the iconic creature feature series of the same name. The story begins in 1999 during the unearthing of two mysterious pods in the Philippines, which consequently leads to a disaster at a Japanese Nuclear Power plant -- a catastrophic disaster that is covered up as a "natural" disaster. 15 years later, father and son, Joe (Bryan Cranston) and Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who were affected by the Japanese disaster, discover the secrets about MUTO. From there, the plot follows Ford Brody as he aids Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and the military in tracking the MUTO. Oh, and Godzilla is in this, too! The story is a bit more dense than that, but I won't spoil anymore. I enjoyed the ending, though.
Godzilla is a great action blockbuster. The first half of the film is an effective slow-burn, the second half is an effective awe-inspiring thrill-ride. The use of restraint, particularly with the use of Godzilla, is a hate-or-love situation. You see, Godzilla doesn't have a strong visual presence in this film. Personally, I liked the restraint. I thought it helped build a more effective slow-burn and a more satisfying finale. One of the minor issues I had was the lack of character and character connection. Most of the film follows Ford as he tries to reconnect with his family. This plot isn't really effective, though, because we barely see Ford with his family. It would've been great if some of that restraint and plot buildup was used for character buildup, as well.

Regardless, if you don't care too much about character, especially in a blockbuster action film, then you're in for a treat. The suspense and buildup during the first half of the film is excellent. I was hooked, even without seeing Godzilla or the MUTO. The second half of the film delivers the explosive action you may be expecting. The large scale battles are exhilarating - the definition of epic. I even had chills during a few scenes. The blend of slow-burn buildup and satisfying climax is always great - and it's great in this case, too.

As for the acting, Godzilla has an amazing supporting cast. Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe are splendid. Elizabeth Olsen is also great, despite her limited screen time. Unfortunately, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, our lead, is disappointing. Don't get me wrong, he's competent. He's simply very bland and forgettable, he severely lacks charisma. If it weren't for Aaron Taylor-Johnson, this probably would've been one of the better acted blockbusters in recent memory. Otherwise, the film is technically great. The music is epic and goosebump-inducing, the cinematography is wonderful, and the special effects are superb. It's a beautiful audio-visual experience. Despite the lack of character, I liked Gareth Edwards steady direction; the pacing is wonderful and the film is very effective -- genuinely thrilling and suspenseful, a great combination.

Overall, Godzilla is a great film. It's a very entertaining action blockbuster with masterful buildup and effective restraint, despite a lackluster performance from Taylor-Johnson. Those looking for two hours, or even one hour, of Godzilla screen-time will be overwhelming disappointed. However, those looking for a slow-burning and epic blockbuster -- those looking for a change of pace in the blockbuster category -- are in for a treat. I highly recommend Godzilla.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood.

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