While the 2014 Godzilla film is meant to serve as the first film in a new MonsterVerse, there’s simply not enough of the monster in action.
The film starts off in the Philippines in 1999 where Monarch scientists Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) make a surprise discovery. Whatever was awakened made its way to Janjira, Japan. This is where we first meet Joe (Bryan Cranston) and Sandra Brody (Juliette Binoche). There’s been some unusual seismic activity taking place at the nuclear power plant so they investigate.
Cut to some 15 years later and Joe hasn’t given up on finding out what really happened. Back from an overseas tour, Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) leaves wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and son, Sam, behind. They surely have their work cut out for them. Whatever happened in 1999 resulted in a massive cover-up by Monarch. Ford, Serizawa, Graham, and a dying Joe make their way to the USS Saratoga. While Ford learns more of the Godzilla backstory, Admiral William Stenz (David Strathairn) leads the charge to find a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism).
It’s not until Hawaii when Godzilla makes his first appearance. It may be a sight to see but it’s only a brief one. While Godzilla battles this MUTO in Hawaii, another spore awakened in Nevada. All eyes now turn to San Francisco where chaos is certain to happen. It just wouldn’t be a monster film without a city getting leveled. In this case, San Francisco.
If you’re coming for Bryan Cranston, I hate to be the one to disappoint you. When this film came out, Breaking Bad had only ended just a few months earlier. It would have been reasonable to expect a sizable role for Cranston. He’s only in the film until the action really starts to get moving. Instead, it’s Aaron Taylor-Johnson taking on the meatier role. I’m not complaining except for the fact that there’s not enough Cranston here. He’s killed off way too early to tell you the truth. I felt this way in 2014 and my opinion still stands on second viewing. It’s somewhat weird to see Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen playing husband and wife after playing siblings in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Max Borenstein’s screenplay for the first Godzilla film in over a decade doesn’t really feature the monster. Our first glimpse doesn’t even come until we’re well into the film. What’s the point of such a film when we don’t even get the headliner for much of it? When the headline finally shows up, it’s not until we make our way to Hawaii before finally getting to really see him in action in San Francisco.
This is the problem that we’ve come to expect from monster films. There’s either too much monster or not enough. Look at The Incredible Hulk, for instance. While an improvement on the earlier Ang Lee film, there was still much room for improvement. Whereas in this film, the story is more focused on humanity. The film only builds up to Godzilla’s presence much in the same way that we don’t initially see the shark in Jaws. This can only work so much.
Godzilla is certainly a remarkable improvement on the Roland Emmerich film but there could have been more Godzilla.
DIRECTOR: Gareth Edwards
SCREENWRITER: Max Borenstein
CAST: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, with David Strathairn and Bryan Cranston