Godzilla (2014) re-watch

Thanks to a superbly executed marketing campaign, Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla was one of my most anticipated blockbusters this year. The film’s initial trailer showcased the standout set piece of the film: the soldiers skydiving into what looked like a desolated city with that unmistakable droning score from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was simply breathtaking. This is possibly where it all started going wrong: the trailer set a tone which was sadly at odds with the final product. However, I was a fan of this film upon first watch and feel like I’ve been defending it ever since. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s got its fair share of issues, but with Godzilla hitting stores and VOD services this week, it was a good chance to revisit the film to see how those issues played out on a second viewing.

Ryan summed up Godzilla quite eloquently in his review upon its theatrical release, and I don’t cavil with much of what he said. Just recently, I caught Gareth Edwards’s Monsters (2010), which Godzilla could arguably be considered a massive budget remake of, in that they feel strikingly similar despite being at polar opposite ends of the budgetary spectrum. Monsters is a beautiful little film which manages to be both character-driven drama and believable monster flick. (If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend you track it down). Given the meagre budget of Monsters, Edwards is forced to convey the threat and terror of the creatures by way of suggestion and interesting set design, instead of relying solely on CGI imagery. This style seems to have bled into Godzilla, as if Edwards hadn’t quite adjusted to the larger playing field he found himself on. He ended up making a rather a self-conscious blockbuster which never seemed comfortable in its own skin.

Performance-wise, Bryan Cranston has the showiest and criminally shortest appearance in the film, checking out within the film’s opening act. A shame, really, since he brings gravitas to the material (and few people can match the conviction of Cranston when they scream). I'm guessing it was his commitments to Breaking Bad which restricted further involvement in the film. In a similar vein, Juliette Binoche doesn't feature nearly as much as I'd have liked, but her role is only there to give the story some emotional thrust, which it succeeds in doing. Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins chime in as the world's dumbest scientistic duo, who always seem to be several steps behind the action and look completely bewildered by the very facts that they are supposed to be experts on. Neither of them seem overly challenged and they are only really around to spew clunky exposition when it's required.

Aaron Johnston Taylor does a serviceable job as the lead of the film, without ever being memorable. He's yet to really wow me in anything outside of Kick-Ass, but he seem to be improving with each outing. Interestingly, the film also features Elizabeth Olsen who will be reuniting with Johnston-Taylor in next year’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Olsen is under-utilised here. The film would have benefited by a significant bulking out of her role, because she gets lost in the mayhem. That said, she's outstanding in the few scenes where she gets to show off her craft. I suggest you check out Martha Marcy May Marlene to see what she's capable of.

One of my major gripes with the film is the lack of its titular monster. Forgive me for thinking that a film called Godzilla should prominently feature Godzilla. Glimpses were so scarce that the film could spawn a spin-off childrens book titled ‘Where’s Godzilla?!’; we’d arrange several key sequences from the film and get the kids to try and spot the big fella. Just as he did in Monsters, Edwards went for a slow burn, tension-building approach leading up to the reveal, but Godzilla is so entrenched in popular culture that he could have sped it up considerably and achieved the same effect. Unlike JJ Abrams’ Super 8, where the creature’s reveal was so utterly unsatisfying, here the ends completely justify the means, since Godzilla does look truly majestic when we finally get to see him throwing down.

I’ll happily concede that Godzilla never reached the dizzying heights of my expectations, but for those of you who missed it the first time around, it’s definitely worth catching up with. For those of you who weren’t blown away when they saw it originally, I’d suggest giving it a rewatch; this is one of those films which will only improve with subsequent viewings.

- Stu 


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