When you trade in Heisenberg for adult-Ferris Bueller, you’re in good shape.
15 years ago, Lieutenant Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) lost his mother (Juliette Binoche) in a freak-accident that had to do with some sort of radiation break out. His father, Joe (Bryan Cranston), has been living the past couple of years trying to figure out just exactly what happened, and whether or not this is a sign of terrible things to come. Just around this time that he and his son reunite, a giant-sized creature comes to life, knocking out just about everything in its path, including electricity. The scientist behind this whole experiment-gone-wrong is Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) who believes that there is another creature out there just waiting to be heard from and to, if possible, stop these creatures from destroying everything, and everyone in its path. That said creature? Well, I’ll let this guy take the pleasure of announcing it for you.
It’s been a long time since Roland Emmerich practically destroyed the respectable, and totally cool name that was in Godzilla (a little over 15 years in fact), and in order for this movie to be awesome and hyped-up like it has been for quite time, that needed to be happen. Not only did it need to show Hollywood that messing with an international-product can sometimes be risky, but doing it to the point of where you’re practically disrespecting the culture it comes from, is definitely a big old “no no” when trying to deliver a form of entertainment. Hasn’t stopped big-time, fast-talking money-makers in Hollywood before, and it sure as hell won’t stop them from committing the same acts again, but with the disaster of that movie, it puts a clearer-emphasis on just how much “better” they were willing to make this latest re-boot seem.
And thankfully, “better” is exactly what this re-boot is, and by quite a lot as well.
Sorry, Jean Reno. You’re still Leon in my book, so that’s got to count for something.
Anyway, as for this new Godzilla, what works so well for it is how it doesn’t really give us the main attraction until about half-way through. Sure, we here his name dropped a few times (surprisingly by a Japanese actor), we see his thorny back and tail, and we even get plenty of glimpses at his huge feet, stomping on large-scale buildings and practically turning them into total rubble. However, we rarely ever get to see him in a full-on form until the half-way mark, and it’s totally worth the time and patience we as audience members are asked to have when it comes to seeing just exactly who this movie is made after. It’s a constant build-up that director Gareth Edwards racks up tension, just about the whole time with, and once we see what Godzilla actually looks like in this new edition (he’s really cool) and get to hear him use that ferocious screech that scares the pants off of any 5-10 year-old, then it’s on with the plot and all sorts of other shenanigans Edwards has to get into.
Yet, for some reason, the movie is never uninteresting. It can be a bit of a drag at times, but it never gets to the point of where I was bored neither. Which, for a summer blockbuster, is nothing new, but somehow, this time felt different than it has for the past two weeks.
First of all, it was a giant-scale, monster movie that delivered the goods on just about every level that Pacific Rim failed to do. We have human characters that are actually interesting; a script that doesn’t constantly hammer-us over the head with corny lines; monster-brawls that aren’t a constant happening, but still show up from time to time to liven things up and remind people why they came to see this movie in the first place; and a sense that we’re placed into a world that is a lot like the one we live in now, yet, we don’t really think too much about reality with. We just sort of get sucked into this world, even if it is our own, and it’s a really thrilling experience to go through.
You actually get the sense that even though Edwards himself doesn’t shy away from having a little bit of fun and pleasuring himself in all of the constant explosions of things like cars, buildings, race-tracks and Navy ships, that he wants to provide an heavier-emphasis on “the government” in this movie itself. In any movie, good or bad, we always see the government being shown as either “good”, “bad”, or somewhere in the middle of both. My opinion is that it’s a bit of a slippery-slope to jump into, all because a director can easily make it seem like their using it to their advantage to get up on top of their soapbox for a good two hours and force everybody to listen up, but here, Edwards is only using them as a tool to keep the plot, the action, and the ideas moving. It was weird to never get a glimpse at the President during this time of obvious crisis, but I guess that’s made for another movie, at another time.
Either way, the movie still steps itself into as much realism as it can, even when it’s all about large-ass monsters, beating the hell out of one another and terrorizing whole cities, and this is where I think the movie worked its most magic. Yeah, it was definitely thrilling and yeah, it looked beautiful, but I never really lost a sense that everything I was seeing was perfectly calculated in a way that didn’t seem hokey, or as if Edwards himself was just making up the rules as he went along. Some science majors may have a bit of a problem with this movie in how it explains certain happenings, in certain ways, but for the most part, I didn’t really find myself second-guessing anything of what any character said. I just sort of nodded my head, went along with it, and tried my hardest to enjoy the ride, and I’m glad I decided to do so, because it totally worked out for me in the end. Even when Godzilla wasn’t around to wreck everything in his sight.
But enough Godzilla already, that little monster him, let’s talk about the humans in this picture! Mostly, I have to applaud Gareth Edwards for putting together a nice ensemble of talents that aren’t necessarily the biggest names in all of Hollywood, but definitely have enough charisma and energy to keep a movie like this moving, and steeped in some sense of emotional. In fact, believe it or not, most of that emotion seems to come from Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody. Yes, that may be hard for some of you Breaking Bad fans to realize and accept (sarcasm, clearly), but Cranston easily has the best, most gripping moments in this whole scene. He’s likable, a bit weird, off-kilter, cool and a total dweeb, but he gets a chance to play all of these sides to his character in such a small fraction of space, that I was so happy to see him here in the first place. Didn’t really much matter to me that he isn’t in the movie a whole lot, but at least he gave me someone to empathize with and at least root for.
Because, to be honest, nobody else in this movie really gave me that much of a chance to do the same. Not saying that nobody tried to, it’s just that their material may have been lankier than others is all. For example, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a hot, young, and charming actor that wants to be more than just Kick-Ass – now he’s ready to get muscled-up, kick some ass, and do it all without a goofy-looking, DIY-mask and costume. Can’t say that it hasn’t worked out for him in the past, but here, his character is a bit unengaging. He isn’t an unlikable character by any means, it’s just that he’s a bit of a dull hero to have in the first place, that also happens to be in the army as is. Would have been a lot neater to see this story from a regular-man’s perspective, but I guess we wouldn’t have been able to see all of those cool, high-flying scenes we’ve been getting treated to in the trailers.
And sadly, the same sort of goes for the rest of the cast. Juliette Binoche gets the same treatment as Cranston does, although reasonably so; Elizabeth Olsen plays Taylor-Johnson’s wife that has to tend to their damn kid all of the time, while still maintaining her job as a local nurse (go figure); David Strathairn doesn’t always feel right as Admiral William Stenz, a man-in-command who is constantly shouting out orders and demands; and Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins play two scientists that are practically the first to get started on this huge project of theirs, and seem like the over-educated dopes a movie like this needs to point the big finger at. They just want to see what happens with scientist, rather than just doing anything about it, and because of their fascination, thousands and thousands of people are at risk for their lives.
Oh science, what a beautiful thing to waste.
Consensus: Though we don’t get to see too much of the title-character, Godzilla still benefits from exciting action set-pieces, an engaging story that feels slightly believable, despite being about monsters fighting one another, and enough good performances from the cast, to make this a summer blockbuster you must see to get the bad taste of the 1998-version out of your mouth.
8 / 10 = Matinee!!