Warning: There are some spoilers ahead.
“Godzilla” opens in theatres Friday. We were able to catch an early screening of the film and it may not be everything you’re hoping for.
Don’t get us wrong. It’s a good movie that starts out strong with Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) and ends with a big payoff fight sequence that had the crowd in our theatre roaring. If it’s a good monster film you want, you won’t be disappointed.
The problem is that “Godzilla” gets bogged down in the middle of the film by characters you just never feel 100% invested in.
Though many trailers may have you convinced otherwise, Cranston is not the star of the movie, but rather a minor supporting character. He plays nuclear engineer Joe Brody who’s desperate to find answers to the cause of tremors in Japan after the power plant he worked in was destroyed 15 years ago.
It’s unfortunate, not only because marketing effectively uses the actor’s likeness to sell “Godzilla” in nearly everysingleteaser and trailer, but also because Cranston brings the most life and vitality to the movie.
The three-time Emmy-winning actor gets lost in his role. Whether he’s joking about forgetting his birthday or chewing out police officials at the top of his lungs for hiding secrets, the audience hangs on every word he says.
Instead, the movie gets turned over to Joe’s son, Naval officer, Ford Brody. He’s played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson who you may recognise from 2010’s “Kick-Arse.”
After reuniting with his father in Japan, Ford’s on a mission to get home to his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and 5-year-old son in San Francisco.
While he bounces around from Japan to Hawaii and then the U.S. West coast fighting off brief encounters with monsters at each location, it’s difficult to fight a nagging feeling about the believability of Ford’s family.
Olsen is 25 years old and Taylor-Johnson is 23. Both look a bit young to be the parents of a five-year-old. If anything, they feel more like the babysitters.
That’s not to say the movie doesn’t attempt to have a human element. Underneath the monster movie is a story about two fathers — Joe Brody and his son Ford — who have different parenting techniques. The story juxtaposes two very different birthdays, first introducing us to Joe, who’s too involved in his work to have time for his boy on his day of birth, and, later, with Ford who makes time for his family on his birthday.
It’s just that the storyline is most convincing when Cranston is a part of the picture early on.
There’s an emotional moment when both Ford and his father revisit their old home in the quarantined section of Japan and Joe and the audience see a “Happy Birthday Dad” banner that wasn’t shown in the first stretch of the film. That resonates but gets muddled in the film’s larger monster plot.
The thing about Ford is that he’s supposed to be the action film’s hero and this awesome dad, but there’s just nothing that stands out about his character that doesn’t feel awfully generic. If he was in a room with Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne and Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills from “Taken,” he wouldn’t be the last man standing.
Olsen, who has been praised for her indie work in “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” isn’t given much to do either as a worried wife and mother who just happens to be at the exact location where havoc is wrecked.
Then there’s Ken Watanabe and Oscar-nominated Sally Hawkins who play scientist sidekicks; however, both feel like two glorified extras re-emerging every so often to tell us something about the monster.
It’s something reviews are picking up on:
“Superbly made but burdened by some dull human characters enacted by an interesting international cast who can’t do much with them, this new Godzilla is smart, self-aware, eye-popping and arguably in need of a double shot of cheeky wit.”
“Director Gareth Edwards (“Monsters”) gets the money shots right, but neither he nor screenwriter Max Borenstein (working from a story by David Callaham) makes the human characters interesting enough to get us through two mostly Godzilla-free acts.”
Edwards seems to have miscalculated our investment in his cast (including Elizabeth Olsen, uncharacteristically bland as Ford’s wife)”
“Its second crucial error is having Aaron Taylor-Johnson take over the movie from Cranston. Compared to Cranston, he is wooden, dull, and uncommanding, and the movie begins to deaden with his lead weight (the emotional and dramatic transference the movie tries to give Taylor-Johnson simply doesn’t resonate like Cranston’s lead).”
Most will head to the film not for the performances, but for the action, and if you’ve avoided most trailers and teasers for the film, then you’ll be in store for a series of surprises. However, Warner Bros. did itself a disservice by revealing a bit too much in trailers much as Sony did with “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
There’s one instance early on with Cranston that should pack an emotional punch when he’s sobbing; however, because this scene is spoiled almost entirety in a trailer it doesn’t hold the same emotional weight on screen.
Later in the film, when Godzilla finally made his monstrous entrance, while the crowd cheered and applauded, the big reveal didn’t feel extraordinarily special as his full figure was shown in trailers and images leading up to the film.
There are really two big surprises trailers don’t give away. *spoilers* Though eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed Godzilla isn’t the only monster in the film — an international trailer made this very clear — you probably wouldn’t guess that there are more monsters in the film as well. In addition, there was a scene near the end of the movie that left our fanboy-filled audience roaring that I won’t give away. *spoilers*
Still, the best parts of the film may come near the end — or any time — when Godzilla is seen *spoilers* going head-to-head with another monster. *spoilers*
I won’t give away what happens in the film’s final battle, but that was by far one of the most enjoyable parts of the movie. However, for anyone who saw last summer’s collaboration between Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros., “Pacific Rim,” the fight may feel reminiscent of the giant sequences between monsters and robots ripping each other apart in that movie.
One other scene that stands out is one where Taylor-Johnson’s Ford attempts to cross a bridge high above water that had us on the edge of our seats.
Overall, Director Gareth Edwards (“Monsters”) first attempt at a big-budget film, is a success.
Some reviews are saying the “King of the Monsters” isn’t getting enough screen time. That’s not true. He’s in plenty of the film — whether he’s teased, roaring, or going to town on other monsters.
Edwards knows how to tease Godzilla’s appearance and does it well with inspiration from the 1954 original. When a tail or foot or scales on the monster’s back are teased, it brings to mind images of Steven Spielberg’s 1975 hit “Jaws.”
The reboot just doesn’t do anything extraordinarily special to stand out and feel like something you haven’t already seen.
Check out a trailer below.
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