Review - Godzilla (2014)

Godzilla (2014), PG-13), 123 minutes - It seems that just about once a year, a movie comes out that really makes me wish that we had an IMAX theater here in Roanoke.  This year, that film is Godzilla.  I mean, the King of Monsters should be seen on as big of a screen as possible right?

There have been a number of Godzilla films produced since 1954, mostly by Japan's Toho Company, but also including a handful of American productions (the most recent of which was 1998's Roland Emmerich directed, Matthew Broderick starer which is not very highly regarded).  This latest attempt at rebooting and building a potential monster movie franchise capitalizes on a recognizable cast (Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Juliette Binoche), today's advancements in CG effects, and a basic yet compelling story line to produce a very entertaining summer blockbuster.

The film begins in 1999 with scenes in both the Philipines and at the Janjira Nuclear Plant near Tokyo.  It appears that something has hatched from a pod found near the remains of a gigantic skeleton found in a Philipine quarry.  About the same time, the Janjira plant experiences tremors leading to what was believed to be an earthquake.  The quake causes a leak that leads to an emergency lock down of the plant.  Fast forward to the present day: similar tremors begin again and those involved in the events fifteen years earlier believe that something other than shifting in the Earth's plates is responsible.  Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Hawkins), who studied the skeleton and pods found in the Philipines believe that the pods were eggs from pre-prehistoric monsters that have been in a sort of hibernation because they feed off of radioactive energies that the Earth's atmosphere no longer supports.  Joe Brody (Cranston), former plant supervisor at the Janjira site believes the tremors are caused by communication via echolocation between multiple, very large sources.  He is arrested in the quarantine zone attempting to retrieve his data from the plant accident, leading to his son Ford (Taylor-Johnson) leaving his wife Elle (Olsen) and their son Sam (Carson Bolde) in San Francisco in order to help his father.  After being bailed out, Joe convinces Ford to help him get to his data because he believes it will help determine the cause of the accident that killed his wife Sandra, Ford's mother (Binoche).  They retrieve the data, but are then arrested and taken to a secret facility based in the ruins of the Janjira plant.  There they cross paths with Serizawa and Graham, witness and barely survive the birth of a M.U.T.O (massive unidentified terrestrial organism) and begin working with Serizawa, Graham, and the Navy's Admiral William Stenz (David Strathairn) in efforts to track down and eliminate the monster.  As they do so, they become aware of two other M.U.T.Os one of which is much larger than the others.  Serizawa recognizes and identifies it from classified files (previously thought to be from nuclear testing) as Godzilla.  There are now three monsters rampaging along the U.S. west coast, and in wonderful monster movie fashion, mass destruction ensues, although events don't quite play out as one may expect.

Godzilla is directed by Gareth Edwards, whose previous feature length directorial effort was 2010's Monsters which proved that he had an eye and feel for telling a story with giant destructive creatures.  The monsters and their effects looked great, which one would hope for after Edwards' success in doing the same on the significantly lower budgeted Monsters.

I think this incarnation of Godzilla succeeds in that the strength of the cast and the visuals/effects are on equal footing - both are quite good.  This isn't just a monster movie with wanton destruction (although that clearly happens too), but a mystery with a personal, haunting connection to the characters involved (driven primarily by Cranston).  Godzilla has already scored the largest opening day box office of 2014, and it will be interesting to see if the King of the Monsters will be able to hold off X-Men: Days of Future Past at the box office next weekend, but if you're looking for a big, thrilling summer blockbuster, Godzilla will certainly fill those shoes.  I recommend checking it out on the largest screen possible, whether that be your local theater or, if you're lucky on IMAX or even at a drive in.












*****SPOILERS*****

- Bryan Cranston's was probably the strongest performance in the film, it was a little disappointing that Joe Brody didn't have more screen time.

- Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen play husband and wife here, and will play twin siblings in next summer's Avengers: Age of Ultron as Pietro and Wanda Maximoff.

- I really liked the concept of Godzilla being a natural balance for the M.U.T.Os.  As he swims off into the Pacific at the end of the film, things are obviously left open for potential sequels.  I'll be interested to see what other M.U.T.O threats may emerge, and/or will the human population try to hunt him down because of the threat he could be?

- I also liked the idea that the monsters feed on radiation and could naturally emit an electromagnetic pulse.  

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