Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Bryan Cranston
Review Author: Tony
Synopsis: A navy bomb expert finds himself thrown into an ancient and colossal grudge match between Godzilla and an old rival, as both are awakened by man’s interfering nature.
The first film to kick off the Monsterverse; Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla was the second American adaptation of the legendary Kaiju preceding the critically lambasted Godzilla released in 1998 that got just about everything wrong when adapting the monster for American audiences. Edwards had a far greater understanding of Godzilla and wished to create his own spin on the G Man that both payed homage to the Japanese version while creating a bombastic blockbuster with a major Hollywood budget. The result was a solid opening film to the universe that introduced us to more heroic Godzilla, which both pleased fans and critics across the world.
Considering how the Monsterverse has evolved across each film, it’s funny to see just how grounded the first film is compared to the more grandiose but less believable sequels. Edwards does a fantastic job of upping the scale of these monsters who are mountainous and literally sake the ground they walk on. The serious tone throughout helps deliver a believable reaction from the humans forced to see their true place on a planet they believed was theirs as nature takes back control.
Godzilla himself is presented as a more heroic figure, only rising from his slumber to defeat his ancient enemy. While he causes untold collateral damage, he acts as a guardian/protector for the earth as the MUTOs have the potential to destroy it, thus becoming the dominant species. His design is far bulkier than any of his Japanese counterparts with a blockier frame (dubbed Fatzilla initially by Japanese fans) and a more avian looking head and rounder dorsal fins, which were later redesigned in the sequel, King of the Monsters. Thankfully Edwards kept Godzilla’s atomic breath, which was missing in the 1998 Godzilla film, and the moment Godzilla’s fins begin to glow blue and hum loudly is one of my favourite moments of all the Godzilla movies.
Where the film falters is the one note, lifeless characters that we spend most of the film with. Cranston is by far the most interesting character but is unceremoniously killed off before the halfway point. Ken Watanabe has his moments but doesn’t seem all that engaged, which is disappointing considering his skill as an actor. Elizabeth Olsen may as well not have been in the film at all with virtually nothing in the way of a character arc, or even character for that matter. There’s also a couple of frustrating blue ball moments where the stage is set for a monster showdown, only for Edwards to cut away to these humans we care so little for.
Godzilla was a great reintroduction to the King of the Monsters with spectacular CGI and some truly memorable visual flourishes such as the Halo jump descent that still takes my breath away on each viewing. While the slow burn approach to the pacing might put off viewers expecting a more bombastic spectacle, every scene where Godzilla graces us with his presence is a huge moment and the pay off feels worth the wait.
Shots of Sake