Ok, what's this film about? You know, a freaking huge, cheesy monster...oh wait! Bryan Cranston is in the film! This could be good! The trailers look good. People say it is good. Wait, didn't people say that about Pacific Rim and its logic had more holes than I have in my underwear. Ok, I guess I'll give it a shot. . . I'm glad I did.
I would start out with a synopsis, but I think it is pretty evident what the film is about. There is a giant monster and he is dangerous. I think you find your way from there.
Normally I would start with my positives, but in the spirit of building up to the climax, à la Godzilla, I'm switching it up.
I have to say that the character building in the film is incredibly lacking. The emotional depth of the main protagonist, Ford, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, is hardly even there. I don't blame Aaron Taylor-Johnson for this. I know that he is a very talented actor. Though, they definitely could have given him scenes to build his character and showcase a more emotive human that we can root for. Instead we are given a stoic, nearly emotionless protagonist who stumbles upon a crisis and follows the events that are happening. In the end, you want to root for him but the depth isn't there to warrant a connection. This docks quite a few points from the quality of the film. Though, is he really the main character (Hint, hint, wink, wink at the title)?
The next paragraph is a SPOILER to talk about the misuse of a certain character.
I will also dock some points for the poor use of the Emmy awarded talent Bryan Cranston. Every scene he is in, he kills it and brings gravitas to the screen which is needed (especially for a film about monsters). I can only hope he is nominated for a supporting actor role for this film in the next Oscars. He is that good. Then they decide to kill him off. This might have made sense in a script in which a lesser actor had his role, but to not implement such a talent to his fullest doesn't make sense. Instead, they fill that time with a half-baked lesser character, who, don't get me wrong, is acted well, but never given the emotional depth needed to carry a lead role.
Then there is the pacing and movement. While at moments it is delicious, it drags on where it doesn't need to. When it comes to the climax, the big reveal takes a little too long, and the tease starts to wear off its magic. I could go further and suggest more innuendos and say “That's what she said”, but I'll try to be above that.
As far as the positives go, I'll start with Godzilla himself. I recently said that Smaug from The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug could be the greatest cinematic creature ever created. Yeah. . . Godzilla takes his place. His presence on screen is above and beyond awe inspiring, and his roar rivals Benedict Cumberbatch's perfect voice any day.
While we are only half way through the year, I will make a prediction that Godzilla will win best visual effects at the Oscars. It is mind-blowingly good. I know that “mind-blowingly” is not a real word, but neither is the creature Godzilla, and they managed to make him work just fine. In all honesty, the visual effects are jaw dropping at moments and bring a gritty realism to ground the film in believability.
They are coupled beautifully with the best cinematography I have seen all year. The use of perspectives in the film is brilliant and make one really think about the terror such a force of nature would bring. From a poor dog, a lost child, or a terrified adult, Godzilla honestly showcases viewpoints of each intense situation. The sweeping shots and smooth movements are also incredibly impressive and give a sense of realism that subtly suggest it being epic without overplaying its hand.
The cast is also noteworthy. Bryan Cranston, as always, is brilliant. Elizabeth Olson, while I might have had her character story changed for the film, is nevertheless great. Furthermore, Ken Watanabe has a terrific presence, even if he is more or less playing a one note character, used to let the audience know the back story and direction of the film.
Though, more than anything, I love how this film is grounded in reality. Sure, when it comes down to it, we are talking about monsters taller than skyscrapers. That being said, it could have been incredibly cheesy and defied any form of reason. While not every film has to be completely believable, it more than helps with being immersed into the full cinematic experience. There is also something to be said with the way humanity is presented in the picture. We are both shown as frail and powerful in our perseverance. The response to the crisis and the relief efforts in the film give a real sense of this. They show a level of epic chaos while simultaneously showing the good in people.
Now we come to our climax. To be perfectly honest, I clapped when the credits rolled. The ending of this film is completely and utterly awesome. Looking back, the film in its entirety probably didn't warrant that level of enthusiasm. However, don't be confused. Godzilla is better than just a decent movie and its final act tears up the screen with a vengeance.
Personal Preference: 4/5
Critical Analysis: 3.5/5