Godzilla 2014Title: Godzilla (2014)
Director: Gareth Edwards
Runtime: 123 minutes

It would be an understatement if I said I was excited for the new Godzilla movie. It was at my number one spot during the February Cinefessions Podcast, and remained there for our Summer Preview list. I’ve seen and own all the films in the series, even the 1998 Godzilla. There’s always a downside the hype train, though, and that’s whether or not the film can live up to it.

In 1999 (I see what they did there), a mysterious something happens at a nuclear power plant in Japan. Fifteen years later our new hero, Ford Brody, is returning to San Francisco after the war. He’s barely home before receiving a phone call from Japan that his father has been detained for being in a restricted zone, which has to do with the power plant where Ford’s mother died. He runs off to Japan, they do stupid things (duct-taped nuclear suits, for example), and end up arrested just in time to see something awaken.

Minor spoiler: Godzilla doesn’t show up in this two-hour film until almost the fifty-minute mark. It then takes a good ten minutes until we get the full body shot, which saw my theatre erupting with cheers. He looks fantastic, and my worries over the bear-based head design were for naught. Please note that I read the prequel graphic novel, Godzilla Awakening, which came out last week. It’s in no way required reading, and there are a few odd issues with continuity between the two projects, but I’m not going to blame the film for that.

What I am going to blame the film for is delivering some of the worst human characters I’ve seen outside of a bad indie horror film. Aaron Taylor-Johnson (he played Kick-Ass in those films) stars as Ford, and he has the personality of a rock, and apparently the structure of one as well because he survives the most absurd things. But hey, he’s a key plot point that’s required to be kept alive. The entire film relies on him to bring out emotion, tension and caring, but he doesn’t. He just wades through the film, which is a shame. Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), who was top billed for most of the trailers and promotional material, is given very little screen time outside of the opening of the film, and just feels wasted. Ken Watanabe, while a fantastic actor, is just type-casted here, and isn’t strong enough of a leading man, nor is that role offered.

When there is creature action, Godzilla is freaking fantastic. The size and scope of the battles are amazing, but it’s like bringing a supermodel home from the bar just to have her pass out on the sofa. Just as things get good, the film jumps to the humans, as if we cared about them, but I really didn’t. They could have all been eaten and I would have been happy. It’s not until the grand finale that we see the best of what the film has to offer.

Gareth Edwards directed the 2010 film Monsters, which I hear is fantastic but I haven’t seen. You can tell he’s a fan of the Japanese Godzilla films because he keeps a few mythoi alive, which gives me hope for future films in the series. Even with a two-hour runtime, the film feels rather brisk, despite a lack of Godzilla screen time. There are a few fun little nods to “big creature” projects that I caught, including Jurassic Park, and the video game Bioshock Infinite.

I had the pleasure of seeing Godzilla in IMAX 3D. I’d recommend the IMAX aspect of it, but the 3D is very underwhelming, which is sad. The audience really dug the film, and added to my overall enjoyment (the applause after a few key moments was icing on the cake). Godzilla is so close to being everything it should be, but just misses the mark with the poor human personalities that are used to fill the runtime, and a general lack of Godzilla, which should never be the case in a film called Godzilla. I get teasing him up to a point, and the delivery is excellent, but sometimes more is better.