March 26th, 2021
MOVIE: GODZILLA (2014)
STARRING: BRYAN CRANSTON, AARON TAYLOR JOHNSON, ELIZABETH OLSEN
DIRECTED BY: GARETH EDWARDS
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
Watching the 2014 Godzilla the second time around left me feeling excited, a bit sad, but also grateful for what Gareth Edwards was trying to do with his restart to the monster series. I wasn’t sad because the movie was bad, no I think this Godzilla is awesome, but I was sad because when directors try to make movies in their creative vision, if it’s not constant monsters smashing against one another, then it’s just not doing what people wanted to see. Edwards still has the giant lizard monster stomping on buildings and blowing stuff up with radioactive fire breath, but this narrative is unlike the majority of the Godzilla films. Warner Brothers Entertainment this week released Godzilla on 4K UltraHD blu-ray, which not only looks great, but it gives a reason to revisit the film the week before we get to see Godzilla fight against Kong. On a second look, this Godzilla is the setup, the introduction to the big guy, and with an artistic and visual flair of his own, Gareth Edwards made a Godzilla picture to marvel at. This one isn’t just about the monster. This Godzilla is about everything and everyone else impacted by the monster. That creates a giant smash.
Typically in the Godzilla movie it’s the human characters that truly don’t matter. They’re used to push a brief human narrative, before the arrival of mega kaiju creatures, fighting in various locations, causing great destruction. That same sentiment is what we get in this Godzilla and it’s a big reason why investing in any homosapien character in a Godzilla movie is a pointless gesture. In this version, it’s Bryan Cranston as the lead character Joe Brody, a seismologist in Japan, working with his family at a nuclear plant. A massive earthquake-like experience hits, leading to his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) dying in the result of the core exploding. Fifteen years later and Joe Brody is still obsessing over what caused the accident, creating a divide between him and his now older son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who now works on nuclear bombs for the army, and hopes to protect his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and son from his crazy conspiracies. But of course, he’s not crazy, and now these seismic shifts are the result of giant beings in the ground waking up. Soon the massive beast will battle the bug-like MUTO’s and it’s best to get out of their way.
One of my major complaints about this Godzilla is that the cinematography from Seamus McGarvey has issues with lighting. This Godzilla is dark, looking like the lens was caked with charcoal, often making it difficult to know what’s happening. Although that will rightfully frustrate some, this 4K version looks much crisper, but it’s also very much a visual decision from Edwards. The entire concept of this Godzilla is that the monsters lurk in the night because they are erasing the light. At the risk of sounding like an apologist for Edwards, his structure here is fascinating, using brief spotlights, red flares, and neon radioactive fire to flash a light on what we’re looking at. It’s because of this choice that Godzilla gives off a sense of more dread, where humans are walking through a world that is void of that lighted protection.
The other major complaint from audiences when Godzilla first arrived was that we did not see the beast enough. Once again, that may be true, but the narrative from writers Dave Callaham and Max Borenstein has its sights set on the things that bring more destruction to humans, such as massive typhoons, the radioactive destruction of our planet, and a complete loss of energy to our power grids. This Godzilla has the monsters as the start of the destruction, but in many ways, they are accelerating the planet’s problems, in a place that has lost all ability to control the controllable. It’s when the monsters make their way to land when our major characters can only stare up at him in awe, mouths agape, and slowly moving to any kind of cover.
It’s not just the 4K release that makes this Godzilla worthy of a revisit. It’s easily the more artistic approach to a kaiju film, where Gareth Edwards uses inspiration from the 1954 Ishiro Honda original Godzilla, or Spielberg films such as Jurassic Park or War of the Worlds as reference points. The narrative is on a massive scale, dealing with unexplainable phenomenons, and having humans react to them. That’s not easy. And Gareth Edwards establishes the concept of protecting loved ones against all odds, allowing the big guy to rough up the ugly MUTO’s, and still have enough to remind audiences that even a Godzilla movie can be a form of high art. This will go down as the Godzilla film that slowed the beast down and gave us a chance to look at him in all his massive glory.
GODZILLA 4K ULTRA HD IS NOW AVAILABLE AT LOCAL STORES AND ONLINE.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady