At the core of this latest attempt to reboot another generally successful franchise is a troubling cinematic philosophy: money. Why would you go through the hassle of trying to make a cohesive film with compelling characters and an interesting story when you can do the exact opposite and still fill seats? It isn’t that Gareth Edwards’ (Monsters) Godzilla is all bad, it just isn’t all that good and makes a point to remind the audience of that whenever the chance arises.
There is just no substance to the film. Sadly, Godzilla is presented more as a lifeless, flailing mess that gums up all that hopeful lizard action with unending interjections of the cast. Bryan Cranston’s ability as an actor is completely wasted in a movie that loves to show humans doing nothing – I guess to subvert the audience’s attention from the not-so-compelling Monster narrative that unfolds rather slowly. Sure, you get to know the baddies in the film: the MUTOs, or Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms, but, you never really get to know what is actually going on. Nor is there ever a reason given for why Godzilla wakes up to kill these MUTOs other than to “balance nature” as Ken Watanabe, playing an overly stressed out Dr. Ichiro Serizawa, points out no less than 15 times. I suppose maybe I was expecting something else. Maybe I wanted Godzilla to be a force going up against a world’s military and not Godzilla waiting until the third act to fight two MUTOs in a 15 minute final battle that just gets bogged down by awkward action. Watching three massive terrestrial beings fight each other should be entertaining (remember Pacific Rim?), but it isn’t.
The acting is also an issue. None of the actors used their words. No one was ever talking in the film. There is a lot of fake tension revolving around Cranston’s son, the war-hero-coming-home, Ford Brody, and his wife and child but you never once felt a connection to their situation. Screenwriter Max Borenstein didn’t write enough lines for his characters to even act, which is a real shame considering some of the actors casted. Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene) are both talented enough to carry a film on their respective backs, but instead neither of them have enough screen time or lines to really shine through the CGI infested murk. Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass), playing Ford Brody, gets the most screen time and fills it with too many scenes reminding us that he was an explosives removal expert in the military.
At one point Godzilla was a film which provided a commentary on the atomic age and served as a warning for the potential danger that could arise from non-stop nuclear testing in the Pacific – obviously I know giant radiation monsters aren’t real. Now, this Godzilla is just a lifeless husk – Edwards never wants to give the audience any sort of social commentary. Instead just transforming Godzilla into a “protector of the realm” role by building him up as a MUTO hunter. Which still doesn’t make a lot of sense to me: I just have so many questions.
Maybe I just didn’t understand the aim of this film ($$$) and really missed out on something quality. However, I think it is more likely that I fully understand it and wasted my time. Ultimately, Godzilla is one of those movies about which a lot of people will have a lot of different opinions. Most will probably like it because it is just mindless and has a bunch of CGI (and it is the start of summer). Some will hate it because it fails to tell a story at all and I like for my $10 to be well spent. There may even be others who will love it simply due to the fact that it resurrects Godzilla in a way Roland Emmerich couldn’t back in the late 1990s. I,however, am no fan of this.