Godzilla Review 
Posted by Joseph Lee on 05.18.2014
All hail the king.
*Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ford Brody
*Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa
*Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody
*Elizabeth Olsen as Elle Brody
*David Strathairn as Admiral William Stenz
*Sally Hawkins as Vivienne Graham
*Juliette Binoche as Sandra Brody
Story: The world's most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity's scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.
Trivia: This is Godzilla's 30th film after 28 Toho movies and one attempt at an American remake in 1998. It arrives on Godzilla's 60th anniversary.
Godzilla has been around for a very long time and has survived many different kinds of attacks. He's been double-teamed by MechaGodzilla and Titanosaurus. He's had to fend off Destoroyah while suffering a nuclear meltdown. Let's not even go into Toho's All Monsters Attack (better known as Godzilla's Revenge) or Roland Emmerich's attempt to make him a fish-eating irradiated iguana. The point is, regardless of how Gareth Edwards' attempt at a Godzilla film turned out, the big guy would survive and probably be back in several more movies in the future.
Fortunately, Edwards seems to get everything right. This is a movie that takes its influence directly from the 1954 original Gojira, choosing to cloak the monster's reveal in secrecy and build-up, while focusing more on the human characters to give us actual people to root for while the monsters cause incredibly large amounts of destruction. It's a Godzilla movie for everyone, fans and non-fans alike, and that's why it works so well.
The movie first shows a brief attempt to kill Godzilla in 1954, but it obviously fails. All we get is a glimpse of his spines. We then jump to 1999 where something causes a nuclear meltdown and kills the wife of Joe Brody (Cranston). This makes him a little crazy and determined in his quest for the truth. Fifteen years later, he enlists his son to help him and the two get caught up in the discovery of the film's second monster, called MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism), which not only caused the meltdown but feeds off radioactive energy, potentially setting up many more meltdowns in the future. The worst part, as it's revealed later in the film, is that it can reproduce.
While the film could have made Godzilla a destroyer, Gareth Edwards and writer Max Borenstein wisely anticipate that the audience will be rooting for the King of the Monsters. So instead they make him a protector as he's been in many Toho films. He's described as nature's way of restoring balance when there are massive threats to the world. One interesting note is that Godzilla is portrayed to be as old and tired as you'd expect an ancient creature to be. He has some personality in the way he's animated. If he could talk (which would be a terrible decision), he might have quoted Murtaugh's most famous line from Lethal Weapon.
The most divisive part of the movie has been how much Godzilla appears. The move likes to tease the audience with appearances. His tails shows up here, his foot lands there. Even the first fight between Godzilla and Muto are intiially revealed as a television broadcast. This is a very smart decision, one that Toho has done in its own movies (including the original 1954 film Gojira) on numerous occasions. It develops the human characters and situation so there are actual stakes in Godzilla's fight beyond "which monster is tougher".
We can say that we want nothing but Godzilla but the truth is watching two CGi monsters fight each other for a two hour movie with nothing else would get dull very fast. Godzilla shows up exactly when he needs to and never overstays his welcome. His appearances are earned and even when he's not on screen, his presence is still felt. When Godzilla and MUTO finally square off at the end (it's not a spoiler to suggest that the two monsters will fight in the climax), it makes all the waiting worth it as fans get some incredible moments to go home happy about. The film is paced perfectly and gives the audience just enough that they're demanding an epic showdown at the end. It then gives them that as well.
While the human portion of the film was necessary, it would have been a chore to sit through if the characters weren't interesting or the acting wasn't top notch. Luckily, we get that too. While Aaron Taylor-Johnson is admittedly the weak link of the cast, he still manages to hold his own enough to keep the movie going. His biggest problem is that he doesn't emote as much as he should given the events, but he's never boring and a good enough choice to follow as part of the human cast. He's the "action star" of the movie, and that's fine.
The rest of the actors manage to hold up their end to make up for any problems that Taylor-Johnson could provide (although again, he's not really bad and doesn't hurt the film). Elizabeth Olsen is good in almost everything she's in. Bryan Cranston is Bryan Cranston. If you've seen Breaking Bad then you know he could turn in a good performance while sleeping. Ken Watanabe grounds everything out and gives it some authenticity, playing a character named after the hero of the original Gojira. If a sequel is made, hopefully he can return.
The real star of the show is Godzilla, and he does exactly everything you would expect him to. His design looks tremendous, as he looks like an ancient beast but is mobile enough to fight off threats. There are a few moments that long-time fans will love, particularly at the end of the film. Godzilla is fun for everyone and is one of the best monster movies of all time.
The 411: Godzilla is a movie that should please hardcore kaiju enthusiasts and the non-fans who just want a good summer blockbuster. It has just enough of the big monster to deliver what fans want without overexposing him. It builds and builds to an incredibly satisfying payoff instead of playing its hand too early and the effort is appreciated. This is the American remake that fans have been wanting for a long time now.