“In 1954, we awakened something…”
Warner Brothers’ 2014 Godzilla remake contains the same elements from Toho’s first Godzilla film. People running for their lives. Check. Viable scientific explanations. Check. Godzilla roars his prowess for all to hear. Check. Awesome monster fights near famous landmarks and highly populated urban areas. Double-check. The difference in this most recent installment is the steady pacing, visual intensity, realistic monster physics/movements and non-gratuitous content that provide a unique, realistic tone.
British director Gareth Edwards (Monsters) presents a story that equals the epic effects with an impressive style showcasing memorable point-of-view shots. Casualties, destruction, and human loss are widespread, but not exploited in various battles and confrontations occur over land, sea, and air. These amazing action sequences stress realism and genuine emotion instead of cheesy one-liners and weak situational comedy. Even young audiences can enjoy the action, drama, and disaster elements that impact without overwhelming, manipulating, or insulting audiences.
Bryan Cranston and Juliet Binochet play key roles as scientists Joe and Sandra Brody while Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays an expert soldier named Ford with Elizabeth Olsen as his nurse wife Elle and Carson Bolde as his young son Sam. Cranston gets the most time to flex his substantial acting muscles. Taylor-Johnson handles the physical demands of his role well and keeps his emotions in check in several situations. He’s an unselfish soldier always ready to serve and help complete strangers – an ideal protagonist character.
Ken Watanbe as Dr. Ichrio Serizawa and Sally Hawkins as Vivienne Graham provide crucial information linking the past to the present situations. Subtle themes of humanity’s responsibility for their actions and the resulting consequences never come off as stuffy or unnatural.
David Strathairn plays the military Admiral in charge, working well with the scientists and everyone else, as people use their intelligence to solve some gigantic problems.When viewing the 1998 Godzilla, I never forget the following comment from a fellow patron – “The whole thing started when they started shooting at it and that’s why I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.” Thankfully the military only does what they must in this 2014 version. These situations filled with catastrophic destructions, collateral damage, and the highest stakes.
The story succeeds in creating a narrative in which the audience can sympathize with Godzilla on the same level as the human characters because he makes admirable decision instead of random rampages and rage-filled fits.
In the big picture, the human characters are more like observers with minimal influence, but still have some of the most emotional scenes including some poignant rescues. The story provides helpful background behind the human characters as they rush through several location trying to track the monsters or avoid getting caught in some life threatening situations due to all the unpredictable destruction. One of the most effective shots was a moving top view showing cars crowding roads splitting into a Y to avoid a downed airplane.
Filmmakers also effectively use the story’s scope by adding key elements involving biologically created electromagnetic pulses, MUTOs (massive unidentified terrestrial organisms…though one also flies) and radioactive material as a massive food source. Audiences can enjoy several well directed sequences and quality special effects filled with action packed moments that don’t overwhelm or manipulate emotions.
The antagonistic monsters definitely look mean while Godzilla has a credibly designed look equal to their physical prowess. The expert camerawork provides numerous monster sequences with clear visuals, steady cinematography and outstanding special effects. The visuals impress during day and night among several weather conditions (many special effects can be shot in mostly rainy settings to hide flaws and imperfections), which enhances the realism.
The steady pace might leave some explosion-every-minute, die-hard action fans wanting more, but it’s better than an unnecessarily loud, obnoxious storyline that actually turns on itself like the 1998 Godzillafilm, which borrowed heavily from Jurassic Park. Ironically this film’s plot begins one year later in 1999 in the Philippines then progresses to Japan, Hawaii, and finally Nevada and the West Coast, mainly San Francisco.
Audience members can easily lose themselves and their senses in this movie while the realism, credible acting, and realistic physics in the special effects erase any potential campiness. The unforgettable sound work, including Alexander Desplat’s musical score, also enhances the film on a very high level.
Godzilla fans will likely catch more enjoyable elements including a Mothra reference in an interior classroom scene. Even Sony is prominently noted. The filmmakers should be highly commended for making this solid action drama feel natural (e.g. no subtitles when characters speak Japanese) without gratuitous violence, gore or profane language. Recommended (*** out of four stars) and rated PG-13 for action violence, destruction and mayhem.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler