Godzilla (2014) Directed by Gareth Edwards. With Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Wantanabe, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche and David Strathairn.
When it comes films about giant monsters laying waste to modern cities, I’m usually onside for joining in with the fun. Godzilla is widely viewed as the daddy of all behemoths; perhaps one of the most recognisable symbols of Japanese pop culture worldwide (just don’t mention Godzuki). So successful has the character been – that he has popped up in countless films since 1954, and is currently recognised as the longest running franchise by Guinness World Records. Director, Gareth Edwards continues that healthy streak with this souped-up, $160m version of the legend.
Beginning in Japan; with a story by Dave Callaham (whose CV most notably boasts The Expendables and Doom), and a screenplay by Max Borenstein – the film struggles to make an emotional impression. The set-up is simple, and ultimately involves big creatures fighting each while everything is destroyed fifteen times over. Early on, we’re introduced to a pair of characters played by Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche (if only the film could have been about them), and although it can’t escape the generic feel that so many workaday blockbusters innately have – there is some moving symmetry with the Japanese tsunami and subsequent nuclear fallout that devastated areas of the country in 2011.
Soon after, the early promise fades as the story centres on Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Cranston’s son in the film), who gives a vacant central performance – that in all fairness, is the mostly the result of a flat script. It’s one those films that squanders the talents of good actors like Elizabeth Olsen and David Strathairn in small, unremarkable roles.
Setting the scene in Japan affords some pop culture authenticity, but the balance of human investment becomes less and less as the main draw of monsters fighting each other takes centre stage. Gareth Edwards’ previous film, Monsters, was effective for being a film about human beings with monsters as a backdrop. Some of that is attempted again here, but the human characters (Cranston aside) don’t pop enough to make us properly care.
Edwards is clearly a talented film maker (his next film is Star Wars: Rogue One) but there isn’t much here to cling on to. The special effects are fine, but nothing we haven’t witnessed a few dozen times over. The father-son subtext is forgettable, as are many of the clichéd plot devices for this noisy, but underwhelming shrug-of-the-shoulders of a monster mash. 2.5/5
The one good thing to say about Godzilla (2014) is that it is (at the very least) better than Godzilla (1998), if only by the virtue of not including a line like, “That’s a lot of fish!”
I have vague memories of the 1998 version. I recall a similar sense of feeling gradually less and less invested, though. I was hoping for more. Thank you for stopping by.
You are welcome! Great review by the way!
When asked if 2014 was worse than 1998, I finally concluded that 1998 has that “That’s a lot of fish!” corniness to it. Whereas, Aaron Taylor-Johnson with his perpetual blank stare, the film taking itself too seriously, and the low amount of monster screen-time really places 2014 beneath 1998 in enjoyability.
It’s of small consequence as I’m not a fan of either. Just my two cents.
We see the film world through very similar eyes. I was rooting for this one, so it’s a shame that it didn’t live up my expectations. I think you’re right about the corniness – there has to be a certain amount of that in fare like this. It should be a delicate balance, though, which is hard to strike. There has to be peril, we have to care, but it also has to be fun. This film had none of those three elements, in my opinion.
I’m really surprised you didn’t like it – it made it onto my http://moviemetropolis.net/2015/01/01/mm-top-5-2014-films/#more-1001 taking the bronze medal. My only problem with it was the father-son story that you mentioned and the lack of screen time given to Zilla. That’s why we write reviews though, everyone is different! 🙂
Hi Adam, it’s amazing isn’t it!? Films hit us all differently and I’m glad that you got such a lot out of this.
I’ve just had a look at your list. At least we agree that Guardians of the Galaxy belongs in the top 5. That said, my 2014 list remains a work-in-progress. I still have so many to catch up on. Good to hear from you, thanks for offering the alternative opinion.
Yeah…I didn’t like or dislike Godzilla (2014), I was just moderately bored by it, and then it had really awesome segments interspersed (when Godzilla was onscreen). I should probably review it…Ugh. So many, many films to add to The Backlog. (Now my official name for it.)
Last year was a good one for film. The big question is for all those monster movie fans. Is Jurassic World going to be any good? I’m very hopeful, all the clips so far have been excellent.
Let’s hope so. Colin Trevorrow seems like an odd choice to direct; given that his CV only boasts the low-budget, but admittedly very good, Safety Not Guaranteed. However, I’m an eternal optimist, and I’d like to think going with a less obvious director will pay dividends. I agree, the trailer looks interesting. Chris Pratt is also the man of the moment.
Hopefully so. I’m optimistic thus far, as Jurassic World has given me no reason to doubt its quality.
Nice review; you were far kinder than I was. : D
I was semi-engaged for the intro, but it fell away badly. I see it took home $200m at the domestic box office. No doubt that means we’ll get a sequel. They must do better.
“They must do better.”
Yeah I couldn’t believe how much praise this movie got. I remember thinking how much I wanted Ken Watanabe to be the main character instead of random pretty guy.
Yes, that would have been an improvement. Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s storyline didn’t resonate at all. So flat.
I saw this at the drive in last summer (last summer?) against my will. I was confused for a lot of the movie, didn’t understand that there was more than one monster, and felt it looked too much like other movie monsters and couldn’t keep the story straight. And don’t blame the champagne, that’s a total red herring!
Now I’m jealous that I haven’t experienced a drive-in movie in my life. At least that part sounds cool.
Yes, you’re absolutely right. Visually and narratively, it did nothing to separate itself from the herd. Very flat and emotionally lacking, with a phoned-in central performance. A little booze would have gone a long way during this. I struggled.
2.5 is being overly generous. The only thing that’s giant and scary in this movie is the amount of clichés.
I must have been feeling kind. Admittedly, portions of it do run at the 2/5 level.
Ah well, I liked this one a lot. I was disappointed at the lack of Godzilla screen time for the first half, but it helped for the tension I suppose. It even cut out the unnecessary animals being tested subplot from the novel adaption, which was cool. Adding more emphasis on the monsters would have made it more fun for me like in GMK, Ghidorah The Three Headed Monster, and the other G classics, but the sequels should certainly be ready with a lot more action. I ended up giving it a 7/10 I believe, which is still fairly close to a 5 I suppose. Hopefully, the monster battles in the sequel can help it to be more fun and separate it from the average monster film for you.
It’s cool that you liked it and I’m always glad to read the opposing view. I wasn’t too worried about the lack of screen-time for Godzilla; I just felt that they squandered that time with lukewarm characters and tired cliche. I was really rooting for this to be something resonant and interesting, but all I felt they achieved was more of the same.
It’s interesting to gain insight from you, though – especially considering you are familiar with the novel adaptation too. I take you are a fan of the long-running Godzilla franchise? In your opinion, which of all the incarnations of the creature is the definitive version?
Absolutely, I’ve seen every single film and own all of the post GC era games aside from the latest one. I haven’t gotten into the comics yet, but I’m working on that. I’d say that his Final Wars form was his definitive version. The film embodied everything that a Godzilla film should be like for me
I must make it my mission to see that film. Thank you so much for your insight and input. It’s great to meet someone passionate about a particular sub-genre, like Godzilla films.
I have to admit that I enjoyed Godzilla but definitely agree about the ‘human’ element and it not having a strong emotional core/weak characterisation, hopefully the sequel will rectify that somewhat. Have you seen the 1954 Japanese original? It’s obviously dated but still an influential classic with some decent post war allagory, steeped heavily in the fears of the atomic age.
I haven’t, but you’ve tweaked my interest in the 1954 original now. I really must get that one under my belt.
I completely agree with your review. Godzilla could have been a fantastic film but it really fell short lf expectations. I cried when Bryan Cranston’s character died, mostly because that was when my interest in the film died. If they had kept him in the whole film, I think it would have been a step up. Can I also mention the similarities between the MUTO and the aliens in Edwards’ ‘Monsters’? Their apprarance, the mating angle? It feels like he’s stuck reusing concepts.
Good point about the comparison with the MUTO and the aliens in ‘Monsters’. Edwards does seem to be stuck in a bit of a cycle here. Bryan Cranston is probably the reason I gave it 2.5 instead of 2. Sadly, his presence next to Aaron Tyalor-Johnson’s demonstrates what the film is sorely lacking in. Thank you for responding, great to hear from you.
Good review. Godzilla himself is pretty cool, but the movie surrounding him not as much. 😦
Thank you. Yes, he demonstrates more charisma than Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
Finally – someone else who wasn’t a fan of Godzilla! I have been looking to come across a review like this for a long time. Everyone I know is obsessed by it. I on the other hand, felt I was yawning throughout the whole film, as it didn’t interest/grip me at all.
I was disappointed, to say the least. I very much enjoyed Gareth Edwards’ ‘Monsters’, and hoped that he’d bring some of that personality to a huge blockbuster like this, yet that was the ONE thing that was lacking. I sincerely hope that he can get his game together for Rogue One, the Star Wars ‘Anthology’ film he is directing.
Great to hear from you.