Godzilla version 2014 isn’t a bad movie, not by any stretch, but it didn’t quite meet its full potential. The visual effects are great and when Godzilla finally shows up on screen, 59-minutes in no less, the energy picks up only to get bogged down again with the human element which, despite some good actors (mainly Strathairn, Cranston and Watanabe), feels like a waste of time with minimal payoff either emotionally or thematically.
Genre(s): Action, Adventure
Warner Bros. | PG13 – 123 min. – $35.99 | September 16, 2014
THE MOVIE – 3.25/5
Note: This review contains major spoilers about the plot. Please skip if you don’t want to learn certain plot points.
There was much hype surrounding Godzilla based in part on footage released and theatrical trailers, but I would think also, even in small part, on the fact Roland Emmerich’s 1998 version which is both an abomination and yet an oh so good it’s bad kind of flick. This is not that movie, thankfully, however the human element is yet again the weak link… along with the fact Godzilla himself seems to be a supporting player in his own movie.
The 2014 edition of Godzilla, after a great opening title sequence, begins in 1999 Philippines where scientist Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (KEN WATANABE) and his assistant Vivienne Graham (SALLY HAWKINS) are flown to investigate a collapsed mine where they discover a gigantic skeleton inside and a hatched cocoon with something that had crawled out leaving a trail in its wake to the ocean. Meanwhile, the Janjira Nuclear Power Plant in Japan is experiencing unusual seismic activity which concerns the plant supervisor Joe Brody (BRYAN CRANSTON) who sends his wife Sandra (JULIETTE BINOCHE) and a team to check the reactor during which, it’s breached releasing radioactive material killing the team and eventually the entire plant collapses.
Fast forward 15 years where we meet explosive ordnance disposal officer Ford Brody (AARON TAYLOR-JOHNSON), Joe and Sandra’s son, who has returned home to San Francisco after 14 months on duty to his son and wife, Elle (ELISABETH OLSEN), a nurse. But his return is short-lived when he receives a call from Japan that his father, obsessed with discovering the truth about the Nuclear Power Plant incident, has been arrested for trespassing into the quarantine zone. Ford travels to Japan to bail his father out and in the process gets roped into going back into the quarantine zone so Joe can return to their family home in order to retrieve research discs as he believes what happened 15 years prior is happening again.
Of course, father and son are discovered and arrested, but instead taken to a secret location where, after more “seismic” activity, a monstrous winged creature escapes destroying the complex in glorious explosions and crashing objects. Ford barely makes it out alive but sadly Joe succumbs to his injuries, thus the movie loses its one and only interesting character and more to the point, better actors and we’re left with a blandness that devolves an already so-so story.
With the creature on the loose, Serizawa must now work with the U.S. military and requests the assistance of both Graham as well as Ford to track it down. Heading the military side is Admiral William Stenz (DAVID STRATHAIRN getting a splendid, and lengthy, reveal shot) as they try to find this M.U.T.O. (aka Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) and through some scientific mumbo-jumbo, graphs, etc they determine this M.U.T.O. may actually be communicating with another one of its own, perhaps located in Nevada as these things need radioactive material in order to survive… or something like that, whatever it takes to have a Russian sub tossed around.
Also on the M.U.T.O.’s trail is the creature Serizawa named Godzilla, the M.U.T.O.’s natural enemy and perhaps the only key to civilization’s survival. Meanwhile, as you can tell, the M.U.T.O., along with his female counterpart, are on target to meet in, where else, San Francisco, the very city Ford’s family is in. Why? Because… plot… and we need Ford to have further investment to stick around and help destroy the M.U.T.O.s.
End Spoiler Zone
Alright, so Godzilla isn’t a bad movie. Heck, there are some fine moments, but despite clocking in at a reasonable 2-hour running time, it does tend to drag in spots and the fact Godzilla doesn’t even show up until the 59-minute mark, doesn’t help matters and the viewer is mostly left with the human element which is the weak spot even with the talents of Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe in there.
Now, I didn’t have much of a problem with Aaron Taylor-Johnson as he did an OK job but his character is so bland, although I suppose being bland is better than being annoying and obnoxious as performed by Matthew Broderick in the 1998 version. Oh, and speaking of which, the 2014 incarnation did port over something from the ’98 one: rain. Lots of rain to set the mood when Godzilla finally gets to battle the M.U.T.O.s.
Godzilla 2014 was helmed by Gareth Edwards, a young up-and-comer set next to direct a Star Wars spin-off and eventually Godzilla 2. His direction here actually wasn’t bad, being able to at least present a decent version of the giant monster and the finale sequence is a great call back to the Godzilla greats of old. That said, the pacing was off and on the whole, this has the making of a shoulder-shrug flick than anything terribly memorable.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.5/5
This release comes with a title-embossed slip cover. Inside is a standard DVD Copy and a redemption code for the Digital Copy.
MONARCH: Declassified includes three separate featurettes: Operation Lucky Dragon (2:44), MONARCH: The M.U.T.O. File (4:29) and The Godzilla Revelation (7:25). Each one gives background on the fictional MONARCH company. Some of these were played during the movie and are not BTS features.
The Legendary Godzilla is also split into various featurettes: Godzilla: Force of Nature (19:18), A Whole New Level of Destruction (8:24), Into the Void: The H.A.L.O. Jump (5:00) and Ancient Enemy: The M.U.T.O.s (6:49). Now, these featurettes do give some behind-the-scenes footage and cast/crew interviews that give at least some insight into the making the film, but it’s all fairly thin.
VIDEO – 5.0/5
Godzilla (2014) stomps and roars onto Blu-ray presented with a 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer. Not overly surprising, but the film looks excellent with sharp and fine detail levels throughout and colors appear to well balanced although the drawback is, a huge bulk of the movie takes place at night and in the rain so it’s not exactly something that pops off the screen. That being said, it’s still a damn good transfer that, alongside the audio, you can show off to friends and family.
AUDIO – 5.0/5
And speaking of the audio, Warner Brothers has given this monster flick a boisterous 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio track, showing off each yell, roar, scream, and explosion that fills the film from the louder, more action-oriented scenes to the few quieter moments; Dialogue levels are crisp and clear. This was a fantastic, showcase worthy, lossless track.
OVERALL – 3.25/5
Overall, Godzilla version 2014 isn’t a bad movie, not by any stretch, but it didn’t quite meet its full potential. The visual effects are great and when Godzilla finally shows up on screen, 59-minutes in no less, the energy picks up only to get bogged down again with the human element which, despite some good actors (mainly Strathairn, Cranston and Watanabe), feels like a waste of time with minimal payoff either emotionally or thematically. The Blu-ray released by Warner Brothers does have excellent video and audio transfers but falls short on the bonus material front.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.