The 400 Word Review: Godzilla
By Sean Collier
May 19, 2014
So, what worked about the classic Godzilla movies? Big monsters smashing cities, that’s a given. 50’s sci-fi charm, loaded with it’s-science-because-we-say-so jumps in logic? That was good. Direct, linear, one-thing-then-the-next storytelling? Yeah, that helped.
What didn’t work about the classic Godzilla movies? You know, everything else. Acting, direction, plot, what-have-you.
So a wise Godzilla reboot would keep the good stuff — monsters smashing, plot moving, science exiting the scene — and lose the rest. And that’s exactly what the new reptile does, under the guidance of relatively-untested director Gareth Edwards and rising screenwriter Max Borenstein. The smashing action and retro-chic nuclear paranoia are polished and present; the interminable mythology and stilted dialogue are gone.
Almost anything I could tell you would be a spoiler, and I’m not interested in revealing the twists; frankly, they’re just too juicy (and — for once — thoroughly disguised by the film’s trailers). In short: various world governments have been aware of the presence of giant monsters since the 1950s, when the beasts were beaten back into the sea. In late-’90s Japan, though, a devastating nuclear accident may have marked their return.
This Godzilla is an ensemble drama. Bryan Cranston (excellent) is a paranoid scientist who may or may not have lost his wife to giant monster trouble 15 years ago. Ken Watanabe (very good), along with Sally Hawkins (also very good), are the insiders who know most-to-all of the truth. Aaron Taylor-Johnson (he tries, but misses the mark) is our scientist’s son, just back from Afghanistan with a set of skills that will end up particularly relevant later on. Elizabeth Olsen (charming as always) is the put-upon nurse that ends up at ground zero. David Strathairn is the obligatory stern military type.
The main course, though, is the monster action; again, it’s hard to talk about the meat of Godzilla without spoiling anything. I’ll simply note that this film contains one of the best instances of delayed-reveal filmmaking I can recall, and happily note that both CGI and 3D technology are effectively employed.
Our characters are introduced (efficiently) early on, allowing the story to move forward logically, a pleasant change from the forced machinations we’ve come to expect from big-budget summer fare. Sure, some characters just happen to be in the right (or, uh, monster-targeted) place at the right (uh, wrong) time, but that’s the kind of movie Godzilla is: big, fun and improbable.
My Rating: 9/10
CriticsChoice.com Score: 81/100
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