In Theatres: 
May 16, 2014

It goes without saying that Godzilla is the king of all monsters – it is his nickname after all – yet in recent years the mother of all kaiju’s has remained dormant within the depths of the sea waiting to make his triumphant return. Godzilla is the second attempt by an American Studio to give the monster his due justice, and after the disappointment that was the 1998 version it’s nice to finally see him return to his truly massive and terrifying self. He’s a god, and director Gareth Edwards does an excellent job at portraying him as the king that he is.

The film opens with a tease as scientist Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) investigates a collapsed mine in the Philippines in 1999. There he finds the skeletal remains of a massive creature, one whose ribcage dwarfs the scientists walking through them. Alongside the remains is what appears to be a two spores, one in hibernation and one that has obviously awakened, which is made apparent by the path of destroyed forest area leading towards the ocean. Meanwhile in Tokyo, nuclear physicist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) go to work at the nearby power plant where they discover tremors occurring in a distinct pattern and in increasing magnitude. The resulting earthquake causes the destruction of the power plant and the death of Sandra. In the present day, their son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has joined the military as part of the bomb disposal unit. His arrival home to San Francisco is short lived, however, as he must travel to Japan to bail his father out of prison. Joe has been spending the past 15 years believing that what happened at the plant was no seismic accident, but something far more disastrous. When the same signs start showing up again, he believes that they are on the precipice of another incident.

The first half of Godzilla doesn’t actually feature much of the titular monster at all as a matter of fact. Godzilla needs a reason to show up, and in this case it’s M.U.T.O.s or Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism. It’s the creature that hatched from the spore in the beginning of the film and does all of the initial damage to the cities. The M.U.T.O. itself is rather impressive and looks like something out of Cloverfield with long sleek limbs and a pincer-like jaw. It’s a cool beast, but it’s still no Godzilla.

With Gareth Edwards it’s all about the anticipation. Oftentimes you see the devastation left behind in the wake of the kaiju and not the monster itself. You’re always a few minutes behind. It can be a little bit of a letdown, but it also makes Godzilla’s first appearance in the film have a much bigger impact. When he finally does show up, it’s a truly epic sight to behold. The M.U.T.O.s are massive in their own right, but Godzilla makes them appear like cockroaches in comparison. Godzilla does a fantastic job at portraying humanity as a spectator in all the ensuing chaos. Really no matter what the army does, it’s a one-on-one battle between Godzilla and the M.U.T.O.s. We’re just along for the terrifying ride.

That ride can be a little bumpy at times, however. While the action scenes with Godzilla are amazing, the story itself is quite dull. Godzilla mainly follows Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Ford as he tries to get back home to his wife and son in the wake of the attacks while still doing what he can to help out the military. It’s all rather cumbersome exposition as the story takes you from location to location without really going anywhere. The only interesting character is Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Serizawa. He understands Godzilla and is always spouting off philosophical quotes about how nature is trying to restore balance to the world. He says it best though, just before the spectacular third act of the film saying, “Let them fight.”

It’s the final 20 minutes of the film that make everything preceding it worth watching. All of that waiting in anticipation pays off when Godzilla does what he does best; fight. It reaffirms that Godzilla is indeed the King of the Monsters and that he hasn’t lost his touch over the years. The action is great, and while I won’t spoil anything, there are plenty of epic moments that are sure to please the fans.

Godzilla is far from perfect, and while it struggles with the plot, it does manage to deliver on the action. Godzilla is a complicated monster, and I think Gareth Edwards does a fine job at showing that. I just wish he would have shown a little bit more.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
Follow him @ Twitter
Friend him @ Facebook