Ryan Maddux and Andy Stuckey
---- — This week we watched the monster franchise reboot, Godzilla.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson stars as a military bomb specialist whose father (Bryan Cranston) predicts a disturbance that ends up being radiation-consuming monsters that leave a path of destruction. Mayhem ensues. Gareth Edwards directs.
Ryan: In a full disclosure, I grew up watching Godzilla movies, so I still have an affinity for the big guy.
Although to be fair, Godzilla really hasn’t been on my radar much since Roland Emmerich’s disastrous remake in 1998. (Hopefully everyone forgot about that train-wreck-of-a movie). In any case, my interest started to be rekindled for Godzilla upon seeing the teaser trailer for the latest reboot and my expectations for the new film magnified exponentially. Ultimately, I’m satisfied with the latest entry into the Godzilla canon. The movie has a few issues but as a cinematic monster spectacle I really enjoyed it.
Andy: Making a big-budget Godzilla movie makes a whole lot of sense. Godzilla as a character has very strong brand recognition, and the highly violent format of the Godzilla story fits nicely into the super-hero sub-genre that moviegoers are so obsessed with. As Ryan mentioned, the previous Hollywood foray into Godzilla did not go well. I feel pretty confident that this one will stand the test of time better, but it is not a particularly good movie. It does, however, achieve a level of entertainment that is just what audiences want during the summer movie season. There is plenty of action, the monsters (mostly) look cool, and the movie is visually pleasing. That is a winning trio for a summer block-buster.
Ryan: I don’t mean this in a patronizing manner, but Edwards’ approach with Godzilla is something I would classify as the Christopher Nolan method—and that’s certainly not a bad thing. More specifically what I mean is taking something fantastical and treating it with respect and seriousness and creating a world that’s simultaneously grounded and heightened. This latest Godzilla remake follows that blueprint. Obviously one can only go so far in grounding a “monster movie” but Edwards does a virtuoso job in terms of presenting a real-world tone to the film and I think that is what helps sell the film as more than just a monster movie.
Andy: Not surprisingly, much of the anticipation around Godzilla being a “good” movie centered around the presence of Bryan Cranston. It is safe to say that he has just about as much credibility as any actor working today, and his presence on the film is profound. Unfortunately, he is not in as much of the movie as the ads would have you believe, and it suffers when he is not on screen. But the real star here needs to be Godzilla anyway. He is also not on screen as much as you might think, but the filmmakers showed great restraint in not overexposing the monster, instead maximizing the impact he makes when he is on screen. Godzilla is full of plot holes and there is a whole lot of nonsense, but it is hard to not feel a little satisfaction by the time the final battle arrives.
Ryan: There was a point early in the film where I thought this Godzilla movie might actually resonate as more than just a really good summer spectacle. It’s more than just a monster movie, but it’s not a game-changer type of film — which I do think it could have been. Needless-to- say Bryan Cranston owns the movie at the beginning of the film. Not only does he provide the much needed human element to the film but his tragic character provides a lynchpin to a conspiratorially type of tone to the movie. Unfortunately, midway through the film the perspective abruptly shifts to Cranston’s son (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). This is problematic in three ways. One: Taylor-Johnson is not yet able to carry a movie of this scale. Secondly: the movie loses whatever emotional weight that Cranston established and thirdly: the movie goes from an interesting conspiracy thriller to a by-the-books military procedural. Ultimately this point-of-reference change in the movie is utterly baffling.
Godzilla brings both great action and glaring flaws to the screen. Fortunately, the action is more enduring, earning the film a final grade of B.