Saturday, February 10, 2024

Review: "GODZILLA" 2014 is Still Awesome

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 7 of 2024 (No. 1951) by Leroy Douresseaux

Godzilla (2014)
Running time: 123 minutes (2 hours, three minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence
DIRECTOR:  Gareth Edwards
WRITERS:  Max Borenstein; from a story by Dave Callaham
PRODUCERS:  Jon Jashni, Mary Parent, Brian Rogers, and Thomas Tull
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Seamus McGarvey (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Bob Ducsay
COMPOSER:  Alexandre Desplat


Starring:  Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Carson Bolde, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn, Richard T. Jones, and Victor Rasuk

Godzilla is a 2014 science fiction-monster film and military thriller directed by Gareth Edwards.  Produced by Legendary Pictures and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, the movie was the first in the “MonsterVerse” film series, and it is a reboot of Toho Co., Ltd.'s Godzilla film franchise.  Godzilla 2014 focuses on the reappearance of monstrous creatures that have the power to destroy human civilization, but one of them may be humanity's only hope for survival.

Godzilla opens in 1999Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins), two scientists from “Project Monarch,” are investigating the skeleton of a monstrous creature that was unearthed in the Philippines.  Meanwhile, in Janjira, Japan, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), the supervisor at the Janjira Nuclear Power Plant, prepares for another day of work with his wife, Sandra Brody (Juliette Binoche).  Something odd has been happening in and around the power plant, and before the day is over, the plant will collapse due to what seems to be an earthquake.  It is an incident that will leave Joe Brody broken and haunted.

Fifteen years later, Lt. Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is a U.S. Navy EOD officer (United States Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal).  The son of Joe and Sandra, Ford has moved on with his life and is now on-leave in San Francisco with his wife, Elle Brody (Elizabeth Olsen), a nurse, and their son, Sam (Carson Bolde).  However, Ford is forced to return to Japan when he learns that his father has been detained for trespassing in Janjira's quarantine zone (Q zone).  Joe is determined to find the cause of the meltdown 15 years ago at the Janjira power plant.  Ford thinks his father is crazy and does not believe anything he tells him.

However, what Ford is about to witness will introduce him to the world of the MUTO (massive unidentified terrestrial organism).  One such MUTO has the power to disrupt human civilization by emitting an intense electromagnetic pulse (EMP), and now, it's headed for the United States.  Monarch's Dr. Serizawa believes that the only thing that can stop the MUTO is an ancient alpha predator he calls “Gojira.”  But Gojira is also a MUTO...

The “MonsterVerse” is an American multimedia franchise that includes movies; a streaming live-action television series (Apple TV+) and a streaming animated series (Netflix); books and comic books; and video games.  It is a shared fictional universe that includes the character, “Godzilla” and other characters owned and created by the Japanese entertainment company, Toho Co., Ltd.  The MonsterVerse is a reboot of Toho's Godzilla franchise.  It is also a reboot of the King Kong franchise, which is based on the character, “King Kong,” that was created by actor and filmmaker, Merian C. Cooper (1893-1973).

The fifth film in the MonsterVerse series, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, is due to be released sometime in March, so I have decided to watch and review the previous four films:  Godzilla (which is the subject of this review), Kong: Skull Island (2017), Godzilla: King of Monsters (2019), and Godzilla vs. Kong (2021).  I have previously seen Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island, but I have not previously reviewed them.

I watched parts of Godzilla 2014 more times than I can remember over the last decade.  It is a fascinating American “kaiju” film.  “Kaiju” is a Japanese sub-genre of science fiction that features giants monsters, and the term can also be used to refer to the giant monsters themselves.  Godzilla 2014 is very well directed by Englishmen, Gareth Edwards, who first came to notice because of his excellent 2010 film, Monsters, and later gained notoriety as the director of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016).  Edwards is a natural when it comes to big monsters and big monster conspiracies and threats.

The film includes some good performances, although Bryan Cranston is the real standout with his intense, heartbreaking turn as Joe Brody.  Elisabeth Olsen as Elle Brody is sidelined and wasted, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson gamely plays Lt. Ford Brody as the film's ostensible lead, who is more dragged along by the film's action than leading it.

What makes this modern Godzilla film exceptional to me is the work of the technicians, artisans, and crew that don't always get credit for making a film work.  Godzilla's camera work, the lighting, the film editing, the film score, the visual effects, the sound editing and mixing combine to create a film that is successful in what it conveys.  What this film is pushing to us is a deep and abiding sense of mystery.  It is in the shadows that hides the monsters and incredible battles.  It is in the mood altering and heartbeat pacing score by the great Alexandre Desplat.

The mystery is in the sound and in the silence.  It is in the flitting light and frequent flares and in the subtle film editing that hides itself while controlling the film's pace and mood.  Godzilla's technical skill is the art of cinematic craftsmanship coming together, and that is best exemplified in the beautiful, breathtaking “Halo drop” sequence.

Godzilla's sense of mystery keeps the film from coming across like lowbrow, popcorn entertainment, which was the fate of director Roland Emmerich's 1998 film, Godzilla.  Godzilla 2014's characters are in the dark almost as much as the audience is.  By maintaining a sense of mystery, the film's narrative could convince me that humanity may be on the precipice of extinction, and it did.  I highly recommend the MonsterVerse Godzilla, and I'll keep watching it.

8 of 10
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Saturday, February 10, 2024

The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



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