"The arrogance of men is thinking nature is in their control and not the other way around. Let them fight."
Godzilla is by far the best film of 2014 in the visual department thanks to some stunning special effects and beautiful cinematography. It is different from last year's Pacific Rim in that you get far less action scenes and much more teases. Some people had a problem with this, but I loved this approach from director Gareth Edwards allowing the tension to slowly build and not making this just one giant battle sequence after another. What didn't work for me in Pacific Rim, worked perfectly for me in Godzilla because I got exactly what I wanted. The human drama might have been weak, but it was enough to engage me and make me care for them as destruction was heading their way. Some may argue that a film about Godzilla should focus on the monster and not just have it on screen for a mere 10 minutes, but I disagree because without seeing him, his presence is felt throughout the film. We may not have gotten the full scale monster that we were expecting at the beginning, but the way Edwards teased the audience by showing just small parts of Godzilla or the path of destruction it left behind was enough to engage me and leave me wanting more. By doing so, Edwards kept the audience engaged and slowly built some memorable and gripping climactic scenes towards the end. It is what other great films like Jaws, Jurassic Park, or even Alien have done, and Edwards inspired by them borrowed those elements and directed a remarkable blockbuster film. If you thought that Godzilla should be on screen for almost the entirety of the film in order for it to be the true star, than you were mistaken because even though it isn't on screen much, its psychological presence is felt throughout the film turning it into the real star. This argument reminded me of Hitchcock's Rebecca which was a film that centered on the title character without ever showing her once on screen, but her presence dominated every single scene just like Godzilla does here. Godzilla's presence is felt throughout the entire movie and that is what distinguishes this film from Roland Emmerich's 1998 version which may have had more monster on screen, but with disastrous results.
Ever since Ishiro Honda directed the original 1954 film, Godzilla has remained the king of all monsters in cinema. After an impressive debut in 2010 with his small indie film, Monsters, director Gareth Edwards was given a much bigger monster to work with. With a larger budget and an all-star cast, Edwards had a heavy load on his shoulders, but he delivered. The screenplay co-written by Max Borenstein and Dave Callaham may be the weakest link in the film, but it works nonetheless. The film opens by introducing us to Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) who is responsible for the security at a Japanese reactor plant. His wife, Sandra (Juliette Binoche) also works at the plant and their young son, Ford (CJ Adams) studies at a nearby school. Joe has been picking up some strange signals after a series of quakes had affected the region, but his officials refuse to allow him to shut down the plant. What appears to be a big earthquake ends up destroying the plant and Joe is forced to shut it down leaving his wife and hundreds of workers underground contaminated by the nuclear reactor's leak. Fifteen years later we see Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) all grown up returning to San Francisco from his military service to his wife, Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and his young son, Sam (Carson Bolde). Elle receives a call from Japan that night, and it's the police who claim to have arrested Joe for invading private property. Ford has to travel to Japan to bail his father out of jail and convince him to come back home with him, but what they end up discovering there will change their lives forever.
I really enjoyed the performance from Bryan Cranston (after the success of Breaking Bad, I don't think there is anyone who doesn't like this guy) and I thought he gave the film a powerful dramatic narrative. Aaron Taylor-Johnson may not have what it takes for the lead role, but he delivered. The best dramatic moments took place during the beginning of the film and they were enough to keep me interested in what was going on. I really thought Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn, and Ken Watanabe were all underused. They are all talented actors and should have been given stronger characters, but they all felt like cardboard cutout characters. Watanabe's character especially didn't seem to serve no other purpose in the film than to inform the audience and explain what was going on. The human drama along with the screenplay didn't work as well, but the spectacular visuals and great action scenes carried this film a long way. The score by Alexandre Desplat is also spectacular and helped set the tone of the film. The final 15 minutes of the film are gripping and there are also several memorable scenes like the one that takes place in Hawaii or the HALO parachute jump scene. I'm not one usually blown away by CGI, but this time I was really impressed with Godzilla. This isn't a perfect film, it has many flaws, but it works way better than other recent disaster or monster related films.