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Godzilla (2014) [Review]

Total Score 88%

 

 

 

Return Of The (Rightful) King.

godzilla2014_poster2After nearly a decade since his last big screen outing, The King of the Monsters has returned in epically fitting fashion. Director Gareth Edwards (Monsters) has incorporated all the best elements of the first fifty years worth of Toho films and created an exciting launch pad for a new generation of Godzilla movies.

Godzilla is refreshing in two major areas. First, it truly honors the history that it came from. Across the board, this feels like a classic Toho Godzilla movie, but on a grander scale. And that brings me to the second point: while it delivers everything that a traditional Hollywood blockbuster would, it stays decidedly un-Hollywood at the same time.

The cast, while loaded with some recognizable names, isn’t hung on star power. Bryan Cranston is the most notable name in the cast and, while he does deliver a knockout performance here, but his character isn’t the story’s protagonist. Our hero is Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass) as a young soldier and Cranston’s son who suddenly finds himself in the middle of this disaster and separated from his family. Taylor-Johnson does a tremendous job, but to my point is not the traditional huge star leading man. Taylor-Johnson feels real in his role, as do the (mostly military) characters surrounding him. And that’s the true strength of this film – the people of the story are given value.

Edwards has smartly kept most of Godzilla‘s focus at street level, slowly teasing the various reveals of the film. As viewers we’re never overloaded with action. We get just enough as the film progresses. The anticipation is built up beautifully to a climax that pays off in spades. The bash’em up type action is also nicely balanced with scenes of real tension. What this Godzilla film does differently from most past entries is incorporate the human characters within the kaiju action. They are immersed equally into the story and are in peril. While the monsters battle, the characters aren’t standing by and watching, they are actively taking part in solving the problems. In fact, I give a lot of credit to how well the military aspect is handled here. The movie steers clear of the “American Cowboy” stereotype and the people in charge take time to strategize, weigh their options, and execute those plans in an effort to minimize the damage to human life.

But enough about the puny humans. What is a Godzilla movie without its monsters? Edwards has given us some truly fantastic creatures in both Muto designs as well as the big grey guy himself. Edwards is quoted saying: “The way I tried to view it was: imagine Godzilla was a real creature and someone from Toho saw him in the 1950s and ran back to the studio to make a movie about the creature and was trying their best to remember and draw it… and in our film you get to see him for real. It was important that this felt like a Toho Godzilla.” That really does sum up how Godzilla looks and feels here. The Mutos as well are very cool but also very believable. They move convincingly as animals. What is a great touch for me is that despite being created with CGI, all of the monsters still move as if they would have a classic suit actor, thus retaining the old Toho feel but giving a chance to do new things with the fights.

I had the good fortune to nab myself a premiere seat in the IMAX and I feel it only my duty to endorse how much fun the IMAX experience was for this one. The picture and sound were pristine, yes, but with a screen that size you truly feel a part of the action and that goes a long way here.

Whether you are a long time fan or not, Godzilla is an absolutely stellar ride and near perfect. A small number of its characters would have benefited from a little more screen time to deepen them a bit, but overall we get so much more plot and character than most would expect here. I know that I will be going back again a time or two before it leaves theatres.

[box] The Good: A near perfect Godzilla film. Awesome monster action backed up by solid plot and great cast.

The Bad: Underutilized (but outstanding) Bryan Cranston, some less than fleshed out characters.

The Verdict: Must See. Multiple Times.
[/box]

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