â€œThe arrogance of man is thinking nature is in our control and not the other way around.â€ â€“ Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe)
Keeping it old-school to a certain degree with build-up, followed by chaotic beauty, GODZILLA is a rumbling, upgraded piece providing a loud, soul-rattling nostalgic experience.
We all have our memories when it comes to GODZILLA. For me it was those Thanksgiving holidays Iâ€™d have off from school that stand out the most when I think of this legend. I totally recall the Friday after Thanksgiving at about 11AM or so when GODZILLA marathons would air on NYCâ€™s WWOR-TV (a/k/a channel 9). It was endless hours of GODZILLA mayhem and from Monster Zero, to Mothra, to Gamera, to Mecha-Godzilla, it was a world of hypnotic catastrophe, but I was hooked and so deep into these monster movies, it was beyond my comprehension why. If anything, most definitely one of the coolest moments of my childhood that as I sit here with so much nostalgia as I type this up, Iâ€™d give anything to relive them millisecond by millisecond.
The origins of this badass icon dates back to 1954 when Japanâ€™s Toho Co., Ltd, released Ishrio Hondaâ€™s ground-rumbling monster movie GODZILLA in a land still healing from the devastation of WW2. The movie became a huge hit in Japan and sixty years later continues to resonate around the world for purifying the fears and horrors of the infamous atomic age into a shock-and-awe force of freaky natureâ€¦GODZILLA!
Partially reshot, adjusting some of its metaphorical roars (a/k/a atomic reprimands) and dubbed into many other languages, the film was released across the globe two years later and a legend was born. For the past six decades, the towering â€œKing of Monstersâ€ has cut through many pop-based cultures, igniting a boat load of sequels, tons of cool toys and tentacles of other forms of worship in terms of comic books, video games, clothing, etc. A whole new genre of movies emerged (Kaiju Eiga) and GODZILLA became one of the best and most recognizable movie heroes of yesterday, today and without doubtâ€¦tomorrow!
Whether referred to as it and/or he, 2014 presents the return of Toho’s iconic creature! Not having done away much with its original formula, this tweaked, contemporary version pits the world’s most famous monster against malicious creatures who, reinforced by humanity’s scientific ego and arrogance, threatens our race as a whole. Without missing a beat, no matter what form it chooses, when nature calls, it awakens its own kind and so starts a destructive battle to restore balance â€“ and one that entails mankind on the sidelines questioning and working their own form of survival, even if it means sacrificing their own.
Gareth Edwardsâ€™ (â€œMONSTERSâ€) version is one that expands across multiple continents and spawns several decades, retracing the impact of a series of mysterious, unexplainable and catastrophic events through the eyes of a handful of people tangled in a web of its epicenter. A version of which in the midst of the crises are people whose lives are forcibly changed by it all. There arenâ€™t any super heroes or miraculous happenings, but everyday, regular humans caught up in extreme circumstances which serve up its interesting cast.
Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ford Brody, a Naval officer specializing in disarming bombs and wrestling with complications while helping his troubled father (Bryan Cranston) in Japan, leads the film into a deep, dark reality of unexpected scenarios beyond anyone in their right mind could handle. Juggling tons of questioning pertaining to his fatherâ€™s work and defiant attitude towards the events that unravel while the film expands, to balancing another crucial reality pertaining to his family back in San Francisco â€“ a city on the edge of destructive insanity â€“ the stakes raise as a long stretch of overwhelming occurrences gain leverage, only to be oddly understood and approached with a different perspective by someone whose seen it all before. Often challenged by those in charge of overseeing and protecting the human race, Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) insists on a different approach that can restore some sort of balance and do away with what caused the giant-sized issues in the first place…atomic action.
What works best for this version of GODZILLA is the homage paid to its origins, the storyâ€™s connection to atomic arrogance and overall feeling of guilt and doubt about what exactly has created such a situation where perhaps the human race itself may be the ones who pretty much gave birth to their own demise. The movie never loses its touch of how and why this monster came to exist. However, complimented by its story-line, what I think most (if not all) of us look forward to are the moments of heavy-hitting disaster. When those moments hit, they hit BIG! Layered with lots of set-ups and typical-annoying-teases through its first hour or so, when Gareth grants GODZILLA his cuts, man are they fucking awesome! Theyâ€™re everything you want in terms of monster grapple. Thereâ€™s intense sound, motion and feeling! From one building being demolished, to creatures flying from one end to the next while flying or having been slammed by GODZILLA, to GODZILLAâ€™S radio-active breath shooting out, to its iconic roar which is pretty much engraved in all our brainsâ€¦you get everything youâ€™ve seen on TV before only on a much larger scale in terms of cinematic art-form.
Balancing all of the movieâ€™s chaotic charm is the chemistry within the cast. On occasion it felt like a bit of a slip, but stand-outs were Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe. Those two seriously carried the film in terms of emotions and the best lines, especially Watanbe whose constant belief of manâ€™s misbehaviors and arrogance are the reason why the world as they know it seems to be falling apart. The most amazing thing about Cranston and Watanabe is their screen-time is so little, but powerful, itâ€™s almost like their characters pretty much serve as the link between transparency and logic among others who carry the burden of the destruction.
Written by Max Borenstien (Screenplay) and David Callaham (story), the movieâ€™s pretty engaging and keeps tension going. Getting right into the oddities of whatâ€™s been going on in the world, you get the sense of something big in the works. It doesnâ€™t move away from all the strange occurrences that have been erupting and always links one scene to the next. There are some issues with its editing and tone being a bit dark â€“ and perhaps some movie-goers wanting more damage than dialog, but it serves up what and who the movieâ€™s marketed for. Now, at moments there are feelings of it being too contemporary where it takes you out of the usual GODZILLA-like feeling, but itâ€™s not necessarily a downfall. We get it all in a two hour run and with an open ending of questionable calm, thereâ€™s no doubt Warner Bros. and Legendary will be chatting it up if numbers and reaction for the film turn out to be positive.
That said, GODZILLA (2014) totally reignites respect to one of the world’s most iconic monsters!
Grade: A- / Genre: Sci-Fi, Action/Adventure / Rated: PG-13 / Run Time: 123 Min.
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn
Directed by: Gareth Edwards