Going into Godzllla, I was somewhat hopeful. They hadn’t fucked up the design like the Matthew Broderick one (all comments about the King of Monsters being a bit pudgy aside). They had some incredibly beautiful shots in the previews. They had some extremely talented main actors in Ken Watanabe and Bryan Cranston. Then the reviews started to come in and I become less hopeful. Apparently there was a distinct lack of monster in this monster movie and they tricked us all by making Aaron Taylor-Johnson the actual lead actor.
It turns out that both of those complaints are accurate but I don’t feel like the movie ends up being ruined for it. We catch some snippets of hot monster on monster action but don’t really get the main knockdown dragout that we want until the third act. This ends up mirroring the way in which the humans in the film try to deal with the problem of a couple giant monsters. The try to redirect it, study it, bomb it and are incapable of letting go until we finally get Watanabe’s character, Dr. Serizawa, imploring them to “Let them fight.” This is probably the biggest message of the movie, if it is said to have one. That humans spend too much time attempting to control the world around us instead of letting it run its natural course as it wants to.
Taylor-Johnson as the lead is mostly there to provide the scope of the monsters in the movie. He is the constant that we are able to follow and compare to the immensity of the destruction around him. Kaiju movies can generally follow one of two focuses. You can have one of Monster Size, like Pacific Rim, where the camera is set to show things from a giant perspective. The robots and monsters fight in terrain that is small in comparison. The other way you can show it is from the human perspective, which this film does. Everything is shot to show just how enormous these godlike creatures are when viewed from the perspective of a mere human. And there are some very beautiful shots done this way in the movie. The preview was at least honest in that the cinematography in Godzilla is incredibly well done.
The movie does suffer from a few things. There are a lot of silly things you have to just sort of accept, like in any movie that is going to feature something as impossible as kaiju. Also, some shots are done just because they thought it looked cool even though it makes no sense like the flying monster going past an office building where there are apparently still people working at computers even though the city has already been either evacuated or the remaining people moved to shelters. The constant monster teasing also gets old. At first it seems kind of cheeky but then you’re just like “Come on, man. Quit being a dick and show me some monster fights.”
I did like the anti-nuke sentiments that should present given the origins of the Godzilla franchise. Dr. Serizawa shows the leader of the army his father’s watch that stopped working at 8:15 am, August 6th. 1945 (when Hiroshima was bombed) and begs him not to use nuclear force. It’s nuclear energy that the monsters feed on and both of their appearances are representative of how the use of nuclear energy can cause devastation. And, of course, the plan to use a nuke ends up not working and, in fact, almost ends up causing more death than the monsters ever would have.
In all, I enjoyed the movie. You got to cheer and root for Godzilla and it was made very clear that, far more than Aaron Taylor-Johnson, he is the true hero of this film. He even gets all the heroic camera angles. I give this movie a 3.5 out of 5 and think that with a bit better pacing and more of a focus on the titular kaiju (he ends up with an anemic amount of screen time given his status), this could have been a truly great movie.