We’ve come fresh from seeing the highly anticipated, highly marketed Gareth Edwards (Monsters) Godzilla, starring Aaron Taylor- Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen and Juliette Binoche. Our review is spoiler free and friendly for all!
Plot and Script – Lauren
Gareth Edwards, in trying to create a grittier Godzilla film, has tried to stay as true as possible to the realms of plausibility. The problem with that is, whenever he uses poetic licence, coincidence or convenience as a way of driving the plot forward, it has the effect of the film feeling lazy and the narrative holey. Unfortunately, where a sharp, intelligent and nuanced script can hide and fill in these holes, Max Borenstein’s rudimentary, lacklustre and cliché-driven dialogue only accentuates these problems. The ease at which Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Ford Brody manages to stay parallel to the action throughout would have been forgivable with a script that demanded as much attention as the CGI happening on screen. This is not a stupid film by any stretch – it never falls into Transformers lunacy territory – however, there is a tighter and more solid film within this that never quite emerges.
Characters and cast – Lauren
The flattest and, ironically, most lifeless component of the Godzilla is the human element. Not helped by the cliché heavy script, the actors struggle from the start to get any emotional purchase on the insanity unfolding around them. Bryan Cranston, as always, rises above the pack but even he fails to add any significant depth to the proceedings, Elizabeth Olsen acts merely as window dressing for the family unit with not a lot to do throughout, however its Aaron Taylor-Johnson that disappoints the most, leaving the audience cold with his overly-stoic and detached Ford Brody. Gareth Edwards has clearly tried to steer away from the hammed emotion often associated with summer blockbusters, however the emotion is dialled so far back here its lost completely amongst the enormity of the action.
CG & Special Effects – Ian & Lauren
This is why you see this film. Gareth Edwards background and talent shines through here with Godzilla and its respective parts appearing visually stunning at points. A key example of this happens towards the end with a 30,000 ft halo drop into an eerie apocalyptic San Francisco. The effects were fantastic throughout, but none more so than in the final scene; the colour palette, hue and visual design made San Francisco appear like a comic book city. This was by far the most impressive piece of motion graphics throughout the movie.
Pacing and Execution – Ian
There really isn’t too much to be said about the pacing; it’s incredibly simple. I have heard the phrase adrenaline fatigue used about a film before, and it seems very appropriate in this context. Maybe it’s my fault for going into a monster movie expecting something more; it’s a B-movie at heart, and it’s hypocritical of me, seeing I loved Gravity, but the pacing in Godzilla had me bored and frustrated. It felt like “science, fight, science, fight, family, science, fight, science, fight” until the end, when they threw in some army guys just in case the audience fell asleep.
Score/Music – Ian
The audio in Godzilla was frustrating to say the least. On one hand, we were treated to a cacophony of metallic strains, groans, screeches and industrial base warps throughout, which enhanced the perilous moments in the plot. However, when the squidgy, fleshy things on screen were trying to act, I found myself being all too aware of how terrible the score sounded. It’s blatently obvious they were harkening back to the monster movie days of yonder, however, in a film laden with CG everything, it felt like they were trying to connect two opposing magnetic poles.
Ian– I will gladly admit that my expectations were inordinately high going into Godzilla. These were met in some regards; the CG was fantastic, the plot had some original twists, especially as someone not familiar with the characters involved in the Godzilla history. That’s why I am disappointed with problems, of which there are too many for this to be considered a complete success. The acting and script, in my opinion, were unforgivably terrible, and this wasn’t helped by the direction, which seemed to be a case of “how many films have I seen with similar scenes, and what did they do in them”. I won’t be putting this on my ‘Films of the Year’ list for 2014, however, I already want to see it again to make sure it was what I thought it was.
Lauren – Overall there is a lot to be admired here and, as Ian has said, if my expectations weren’t so impossibly high then I may have been more forgiving on the film as a whole. Those that have defended Godzilla’s obvious inadequacies have done so by using the genre as an excuse to lower the bar on narrative and character. However, it wasn’t us that raised the bar – the trailer did that for us. The trailer painted a picture of a Nolanesque reboot of the Godzilla brand, which unfortunately this is just not. As far as Summer movie blockbusters go this was good; as far as movie’s go, slightly less so. All in all, lower your expectations and enjoy Godzilla for what it is; adeptly made monsters smashing shit up.