Godzilla: Balance of Nature
Most people are no doubt familiar with the 90’s version of Godzilla, with the film of the same name that starred Mathew Broderick in the main role with the human interest story focusing on a scientist and his run-in with the “King of Monsters”. I remember watching that movie several times as a kid. I thought it was pretty cool in those days. But when I moved to college in 2005 and started watching movies a lot more regularly, I began to see that the movie didn’t hold up so well, and once I started reading stuff about Godzilla, I realised that the movie was rather disappointing in its portrayal of of “Gojira“.
When the new movie was announced, I was rather excited, because it felt as if we would be getting a more faithful portrayal of the titular character and that this would cleave to some of the earliest portrayals as well. My excitement had more to do however with the expectation that the movie would simply be better than the 90s version, and in that I certainly wasn’t disappointed at all. The human interest story is still there of course,
Note:A major spoiler from roughly 30-40 minutes of play-time is mentioned in the review and this is the main story of the movie.
One thing that really struck me about this movie is that it lacks any sense of subtlety whatsoever. Several of the big moments of the movie, with regards to the human interest story especially, are all signposted early on and given the kind of movie that this is, you just know what is going to happen next, whether in the very next scene or later on in the movie. This got irritating after a while, and even a bit boring, because it meant that there wasn’t any kind of excitement or anticipation in the human interest story, which was pretty basic to start off with.
Furthermore, Godzilla is not the movie that the trailers proclaimed. And this is both a good thing and a bad thing, and it brings me to the spoiler that I mentioned up above in the note. You’ve already had your warning in that regard so if you don’t want to find out what the spoiler is, then I would suggest not reading the rest of the review.
Anyways, the big twist about 30-40 minutes into the story is that fifteen years ago a mining corporation in the Philippines unearthed a massive underground chamber that was home to two strange chrysalis objects, one of which was broken and the determination of the scientists called in to investigate the site is that whatever creature or thing was in that broken chrysalis was, escaped. Cut to Janjira Japan and the inevitable happens, the unknown and unsighted creature from the Philippines comes to roost in the heart of the nuclear reactor there, causing a near-meltdown that also sees the death of the wife of Bryan Cranston’s character Joe Brody, who is the plant supervisor. Cut to fifteen years later and Joe’s son Ford is now in the American military and on leave back home is called away to get his father out of prison, caught trying to break into the Quarantine Zone, which is the new name of Janjira now. Joe has suspicions that a massive conspiracy is in place, and before long, as the father and son duo investigate together, we find out what kind of a monster had taken the nuclear plant for its home, an insectile creature more than a 100 meters in length. The creature, inevitably emerges from its chrysalis and rampages around Janjira and Bryan Cranston’s Joe Brody dies in that rampage, thus ending the first act of the movie.
Up until this point, the movie had been rather boring actually, especially since a lot of the developments were already signposted for the viewer. But, once the creature designated as a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) enters the picture, things get really interesting, and the viewer is reminded once again o
f that scene from fifteen years ago when Ken Watanabe’s character Dr. Serizawa investigated that massive underground cavern that also happened to be home to the bone remains of a truly massive creature.
With the MUTO’s entry, Godzilla also makes itself known and we quickly get treated to some exposition as Dr. Serizawa predicts that the creature designated as Gojira is an apex predator from millions of years ago and that the MUTO is one of its natural enemies. So follow some really intense action scenes as San Fransisco once again becomes the battleground for these two titanic creatures, each seeking to destroy the other utterly and completely.
The human interest story throughout the movie’s running time is straightforward and predictable and it doesn’t really do much unfortunately. In that context, the movie certainly disappoints although the story is much more interesting than the whole Mathew Broderick story from the 90s simply because it doesn’t follow the same smarmy plot points. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen do some decent acting in their scenes, as does Bryan Cranston but then again, as a friend said, you don’t really go to a Godzilla movie expecting good acting. I’d say that the acting here is passable, and that’s that. Once the MUTO and Godzilla entered the picture, I was far more intrigued by either of them than I was with the human characters.
Significant portions of the movie take place in the dark, either at night or in shadows. In that respect, it is very much like last year’s Pacific Rim, although the action is low-key and not as flashy as that other kaiju movie. And I have to say that the way the movie builds up the suspense for the scenes in the shadows, that’s a great bit of cinematography there. Because you have this big honking kaiju successfully trying to be invisible when it wants to be, and being all gloriously badass when it wants to be, and the direction is pretty much perfect here.
Godzilla of 2014 is an entirely different beast and while I was a bit ticked off that the confrontation between the MUTO and Godzilla didn’t happen much earlier and that those early scenes between the two of them were also basically just flashes of their combat, the story maintained my interest nevertheless. And the climax is an all-out battle between the two of them, as they seek to destroy each other in the streets of San Fransisco. On one hand we have a winged monster who can run circles around Godzilla all day and on the other hand we have the “King of Monsters” who can use atomic breath and packs a sledgehammer-type tail which can get really mean when it wants to. The movie portrayals Godzilla as both a force of nature and a hero (hence the title of this review: “Balance of Nature“, and I loved that aspect of the movie. It was so much better than the almost-mindlessness of the monster in the 90s Broderick version.
Godzilla’s first full reveal in the movie is pretty awesome I think and as someone who has seen very little of Godzilla previously and thus has little to compare it too, I think it is one of the best scenes in the entire move. Especially once the monster issues a roar of challenge to its enemy. The monster looks a bit too heavy, and even really thick at the neck and all, so that was a bit of concern I had. More so since the movie didn’t really take advantage of the monster’s heaviness, which would have been an interesting angle.
Still, when all is said and done, Godzilla of 2014 is a fairly interesting and exciting movie. All the big twists are great and though the pacing is really off for at least half of the movie, the climactic battle really makes up for a lot of it, and just for those 20-25 minutes I would really recommend this movie. I think those final scenes are all worth sitting through the rest of the hour and a half of the movie. They certainly were for me, and my wish was that it would all be dragged out a little longer so that I could see more of the final epic battle.
Do go see it!
Posted on May 19, 2014, in Movie Reviews, Review Central and tagged 2014 Movie, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, David Callaham, David S. Goyer, David Strathairn, Drew Pearce, Elizabeth Olsen, Film, Film Review, Frank Darabont, Gareth Edwards, Godzilla, Godzilla (2014), Gojira, Hawaii, Insect Monsters, Japan, Juliette Binoche, Kaiju, Kaiju Fiction, Kaiju Movie, Ken Watanabe, King of the Monsters, Legendary Pictures, Max Borenstein, Monster Movie, Movie, Movie Review, Philippines, Review, Review Central, Sally Hawkins, San Fransisco, Science Fiction, Science Fiction Monster Movie, Toho, Warner Bros. Pictures. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.