Godzilla (2014) Review
Godzilla is a haunting and beautiful tribute to the Ishiro Honda films and what made them so great in the first place. It imagines Godzilla as a raw force of nature, unhinged by man’s moral code and his wanton destruction. The film constantly reminds us through its frames that we are mere mortals in the presence of a God.
Like many fans of the King of Monsters, I was apprehensive about the reboot. It had already been 16 years since Roland Emmerich’s campy disaster but the pain and frustration were still etched in the minds of Kaiju fans everywhere. However, there was a glimmer of hope when Legendary Pictures showed how serious they were when they released early concept art for their take on the Toho icon. That hope grew when Gareth Edwards was chosen as the director due to his success with the acclaimed Monsters (2010) and it never stopped.
Thankfully, my faith in him paid off in spades. Edwards was able to balance a difficult tightrope that intimidates directors when it comes to adapting Kaiju films for Western audiences. He gave the main focus to his giant star but still built the world around him in such melancholic beauty. Destruction and ruin was aplenty but not to the point of being pornographic. The film also gave tribute to Godzilla’s Cold War origins and how, even today, the atomic bomb is a silent threat that lingers on the fringes. The themes of the balance of nature and man’s reckless disregard for the environment were nuanced and not heavy-handed. My personal favorite, however, is his recurring motif of animals simply being amidst the terror engulfing mankind.
A lot of credit also goes to Edwards’ collaborators. David Callaham and Max Borenstein gave the excellent template and foundation upon which to create a clash of titans. Seamus McGarvey managed to channel the look of the old Godzilla films with a digital touch. Bob Ducsay’s editing kept the pacing smooth. Alexandre Desplat provided a score that was reminiscent of the Japanese ones that brought terror and awe.
As for the supporting players, they were given interesting enough arcs without distracting from Godzilla. The role of Joe Brody would’ve easily been reduced to overacting in the hands of less-capable actors but Bryan Cranston managed to be compelling enough. Ken Watanabe and Juliette Binoche are always a plus. Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s character isn’t given the usual tricks for action heroes to be sympathetic to the audience. He knows not to steal the scene from Godzilla and is the perfect example of a mere mortal awestruck by Nature’s masterpiece.
Overall, I’d say Godzilla is the best 2014 summer film so far. Toho and Legendary allowed us to witness the rebirth of a God. I think we’re all the better for it.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures.