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Godzilla

May 16, 2014

Let’s just get this out of the way at the beginning: I really liked this movie. I want you to see it so I can talk to you about it. Not that this movie is particularly deep or quotable and needs to be picked apart. It’s not as shallow as you might expect but it’s still firmly in popcorn flick territory. Godzilla is just the type of movie where after you see it you want to say to your friend, “Remember when he was all like, ‘Rawr!’” and your friend replies, “Yeah, that was so awesome!” and then you both do your best Godzilla impressions.

Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla reboot is definitely good and it definitely hits the high points of spectacle that will make you regret not watching it in theaters.

The film opens with a riveting and mysterious sequence that introduces us to Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) a scientist who seems to be all too aware of what horrors he is investigating. Meanwhile, in Japan, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is becoming very worried about the nuclear plant he oversees because of unexplained tremors. From the trailers, you already know that something goes terribly wrong and gets covered up, but what’s really a testament to the people who made this film (writers, directors, actors, etc) is that despite seeing these scenes already they’re still very powerful. The opening is clearly a major turning point for the world, even though they don’t know it yet.

Flash forward to the present day, Joe’s son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is all grown up with a family of his own and just returning from a 14 month tour in Explosive Ordinance Disposal. He’s home less than 24 hours before he learns that Joe has been arrested for trying to break into his old nuclear power plant. Things are happening and no one, not even his own son, believes Joe’s wild theories. I don’t want to give away any specifics because part of the fun of watching monster movies is the process and the people behind this reboot definitely show their reverence to the films that have come before.

The movie delves just deep enough into the science behind these giant monsters to provide something approaching a plausible explanation but luckily they avoid hanging themselves with their lack of knowledge. All that being said, the majority of the movie is fairly slow and lumbering like its many predecessors. The Godzilla franchise, and the kaiju genre it spawned, have always been about the build up toward big finales and the reboot is no different. We spend a lot of time alongside the humans who are trying to understand and stop these monsters with only fleeting glances of the title character.

However, when Godzilla finally does show up on screen, everything kicks into high gear. The final act is a glorious set piece that easily moves from Godzilla rampaging through the city to the humans running in fear and trying to pull off their plan to save the day. The finale is awesome and well worth the wait if, unlike me, you find the movie to be dragging.

The script has surprises that you don’t see coming, while managing to make Godzilla believable and ground us in the human drama unfolding around him. Edwards definitely makes you feel like these monsters are huge, and more importantly he knows how to make the audience feel small. There’s tons of fantastic shots where you get a perfect idea of just how existentially terrifying Godzilla is and the actors perfectly sell their reactions. It’s mind boggling to remember that these actors are surrounded by green screens and can’t actually see what’s happening around them because they give such great performances.

This is movie magic at its best.

I can’t ignore the score, which elevates the movie tremendously, especially the final scenes with Godzilla. The opening credits are actually very entertaining and I feel like they perfectly prime you for what’s coming. My last stray thought is that I wish there had been less of a military focus but at the same time, watching all of this hardware do nothing is part of what sells the whole the film. Godzilla is definitely epic in scope and tone and it really does work.

Once again, go out and see this movie in theaters. It’s more than worth the price of admission.

If you do, don’t forget to tell me, so we can talk about those scenes. Yes, you’ll know what I’m talking about because they were great. For those of you who have seen it, yes, those ones.

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