Sean’s Double Take on GODZILLA
There’s an element that’s been strongly missing from many blockbuster movies today, an element that can evoke a magical sense of wonder, that stimulates our anticipation and delivers a gratifying sense of awe. This concept is not lost on Gareth Edwards and Godzilla has been awoken to liberate us from the numbing assault of empty spectacle, Edwards wants every big moment to count and have a lasting memorable impact on us. We’re not left with particularly memorable characters, they’re serviceable at best, but the protagonist is essentially our vessel to reveal awe-inspiring and chilling moments that slowly unravel before our eyes and this succeeds on a level that restores hope in the kind of movie magic that has long been taken for granted.
The script by Max Borenstein slowly builds our anticipation, which couldn’t work without the atmosphere that Gareth’s direction and Seamus McGarvey’s cinematography delivers. An enormous skeleton discovered in the Philippines is revealed in such a way to provoke curiosity and entice imagination, the first half of the film unravels on this level and it’s the director’s restraint that allows everything to eventually pay off on a massive scale. Fifteen years after a disaster involving a Japanese nuclear reactor tragically sets events in motion, a determined American engineer named Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) has a personal agenda to uncover the dangerous secrets behind it at any cost. The narrative eventually shifts to the perspective of Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), an American soldier briefly reunited with his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and son before circumstances lead him to reunite with his father, where he soon finds out that his outrageous conspiracy theories might not be crazy after all.
The repercussion of man’s arrogant attempts to control mother nature are witnessed through Johnson’s character as he becomes our tour guide from this point on and despite his lack of dimension or development, serves as a ground level spectator through which we vicariously experience the intimate threat of a giant MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) leading a trail of mayhem and destruction. Olsen’s nurse character had potential to bring an interesting perspective to the events unfolding but is unfortunately reduced to being the distressed wife who eagerly waits for her husband’s return. Godzilla remains hidden for a long time and is slowly revealed in bits and pieces as anticipation continues to build for a kaiju showdown beyond our wildest dreams.
When the king of monsters is fully revealed and stomps into battle, everything that fans have come to love about Godzilla is laid out in grand traditional fashion. Gareth Edwards completely nails the staging of this epic monster brawl with every maneuver as buildings collapse in the midst of a glorious kaiju battle royale. When the atomic breath is finally revealed, I instantly had chills shoot down my spine.
The fascinating mythology introduced in this vision of Godzilla offers scope and exciting possibilities to a whole new universe, but even if we never get another movie made in this country, Edwards’ film completely stands on it’s own. We might not be left with memorable or interesting human characters in Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla but he understands that maintaining a sense of wonder and awe creates a memorable movie experience and more importantly understands what has made Godzilla an endearing and iconic character for many generations.