The year is 1999 in Japan, where loving husband Joe (Bryan Cranston) and wife Sandra Brody (Juliette Binoche) work side by side at a local nuclear reactor.
Joe becomes uneasy when he notices some irregular seismic activity happening below the factory. It eventually collapses leaving Joe to pursue a 15 year long conspiracy theory in order to discover the truth about what really happened that day. This is where our story takes place.
It’s 2015 and Joe’s son Ford is now a trained military solider in a bomb disposal unit. Ford has just come out of long tour and can’t wait to be reunited with his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and their five-year-old son. Ford has not been back a day when the military phones him with news that his dad Joe has been picked up and thrown in jail in Japan.
Ford then goes back to Japan to release his father and try to take him back home to America. Joe can’t seem to let the past go and insists on showing Ford the truth. What follows is an unveiling that monsters do actually exist and they have been around for centuries. When two hibernating M.U.T.O’s (monsters) wake up and start to wreak havoc, the government decides to bring forth a more ancient monster to fight their war. Godzilla.
The Good – Japanese Throwbacks and Visual Effects
If you’re a fan of Godzilla, and have a deep attachment to this legendary cinematic character, then there is a lot to get out of this film. They constantly pay homage to the original Japanese source material – depicting Godzilla as a hero with personality rather than just a mindless monster, which is the way he came across in the 1998 version that most Godzilla fans try to pretend never happened.
The visual effects were very good. A lot of the battle scenes and the destruction of entire cities were very seamless and never took you out of the story. Bryan Cranston was another great addition in this film, despite the little screen time they gave him in the two hour plus movie, which was a big disappoint seeing as all the trailers made it seem like he was going to be an essential part of the narrative.
The Bad (where do I begin…)
1. The trailers give you a very different story than what you’re watching
From all the trailers I watched going into this film, this seemed like a story of pure and utter chaos. A realistic interpretation of what would happen to the world if a gigantic lizard showed up and started destroying cities, and the reality of the world reacting to the existence of these god like creatures.
Instead, the story we get just follows Aaron Taylor Johnston’s character, Ford, who was one dimensional and uninteresting. Godzilla just seemed like a set piece to his story – I’m not saying I need explosions to be entertained but Ford was so bland and had zero stakes invested that every time he was on screen, I just didn’t care.
2. Godzilla doesn’t show up until 1 hour and 15 minutes into the film
That’s right. A film titled Godzilla and he doesn’t fully appear until halfway into the movie. They tease and tease until he finally appears in all his glory, and just when he’s ready to fight, they cut away before he throws his first punch and skip it entirely (literally). This happened three more times. By the time I got to the end fight I just didn’t care and wanted to leave. His on-screen time could not have been more than 12 minutes in a running time of 2 + hours.
3. No Bryan Cranston
I wanted to see Bryan Cranston’s talent celebrated in a film of this size. I wanted him to make me believe that the world was in jeopardy and to be our lead character that we experience the movie through. Cranston’s story was the only thing anchoring the film emotionally and he’s only in the film’s first act, after that the film switches to his son Ford.
With a strong beginning and end, Godzilla’s middle is poor at best. Choosing to follow the weakest human story with no stakes rather than giving us a film built on terror and dread that have made other films of this genre so iconic (Jaws, Jurassic Park, Independence Day). I never felt excited or connected to any of the characters I was supposed to be and just when I thought Godzilla would save the film, they cut his scenes down so much that after the third tease of Godzilla fighting and looking at close ups of his feet, I just felt cheated.
I have had a lot of die hard ‘Zilla fans come up to me and explain that, “Well if you had watched the original Godzilla a lot of this story structure would have made more sense,” and maybe so. I know I’m in the minority here but I have to go off my first impression. The action is something to behold and seeing this in IMAX would be the best way to appreciate it’s huge scope, but other than some cool effects and fun japanese throwbacks I got nothing out of this.
The film’s title should have been changed from GODZILLA to… Ford Brody: The Lame Solider (featuring Bryan Cranston and Godzilla)