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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Studio: Legendary / Warner Bros.

Reviewed by: Jordan C.

Let’s get something clear, kaiju (giant monster) movies are not disaster movies. They may be distant cousins, but the genetics are quite different. In a disaster movie, it’s all about the main character and their loved ones, but in classic kaiju, the monsters are the focus.

As you can guess, my main gripe here is that this movie leans a little too far towards the disaster movie side of things. Much like Brad Pitt’s character in World War Z, Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Ford Brody is just trying to get back to his family…inadvertently ending up in the “eye of the storm” no matter what he does. While ATJ’s acting was good enough, I didn’t get much of a sense of urgency from him. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure Bryan Cranston’s obsessed Joe Brody is supposed to be a Japanese monster movie mainstay - the mad scientist (who turns out to be not so mad after all). I’m not saying human characters are not needed here, but the plot should primarily concern itself with two behemoth cryptids trading earth-shaking blows.

Now, what makes Godzilla awesome, is Godzilla.  They did an outstanding job of staying true to the King of Monsters’ original design, while adding a size and strength to him unseen in any iteration yet.  And I don’t want to spoil anything, but, ‘Jira’s energy blast was epic.  The way it started at his tail, snaked up his spikes, and finally emitted explosively from his maw, was everything you want and more!  The M.U.T.O.’s were not bad, but they did seem to share more visual similarities with 1998’s Matthew Broderick Godzilla, than anything from TOHO’s classic line-up. The battle between these impossibilities is gargantuan and chaotic, but we only get to see snatches of it, as the editing chops up much of the prime action. Director Gareth Edwards did Monsters in 2010, and while I appreciated certain aspects of the film, it was hard not to be annoyed by lack of actual monster visuals. He steps up with only his second feature-length, but I can’t help thinking that a more experienced director might have exerted a more personal vision. There was subtle nods to Mothra and some other kaiju lore, but I felt there could have been more homage to the legacy of this cinema icon.

Even though I wanted this to be the best kaiju movie I had seen done outside Japan, I can’t say I enjoyed it more than Pacific Rim. However, I’m not going to deny it was epic and every moment we got to spend with Gojira was quality time.

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