Kaiju ("monster") motion pictures have a fairly wide target audience. While the kids of today think that they look pretty cool, there is a large number of adults who grew up with the classics. The original Godzilla from 1954 is still enjoyed by many viewers in modern day. However, we have all been a bit spoiled by the incredible advances made in special effects, making us crave bigger environments and even larger monsters. Filmmaker Gareth Edwards wrote and directed his independent motion picture Monsters quite a few years ago, but has had a huge piece of news to cling onto for some time. He was offered the chance to direct the new Godzilla motion picture, which is a huge step for this director. However, will the drastic increase in budget overwhelm this filmmaker, or will he utilize it to his advantage?
The world's most famous monster appears after Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) predicts that there is more going on than the public is aware of. Several strange events continue to occur, as malevolent creatures begin to cause unspeakable destruction across the Earth's surface. With humanity's scientific arrogance, the world faces a threat that could remove our existence. Joe's son, Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), fights to make it back home in order to evacuate his wife, Elle (Elizabeth Olsen), and their child out of the city.
Since the 1954 remake, there have been several sequels. However, many of them became a bit too silly for many viewers. Due to this drastic change in tone over the years, a reboot doesn't seem to be completely out of the question. With Pacific Rim bringing many of the fans back, it would only make sense to bring the most famous kaiju onto the silver screen. However, Edwards and writers Max Borenstein and Dave Callaham deliver a completely different tone than many viewers will be expecting. The Jaws effect has been applied, as this isn't being made as an all-out monster flick. Rather, director Gareth Edwards has the intention of making this motion picture build within the mind of the viewer. There's a lot more tension when we aren't always seeing the monsters, but we know that they're somewhere close. If we were to simply watch Godzilla destroy cities and fight monsters for two hours, things would get dull rather quickly. This is a smart approach that will probably split fans. However, those who are searching for a more suspenseful moviegoing experience will appreciate this change.
Don't forget that this is still very much an action film. Godzilla soon turns into a chase motion picture, where the military and the scientists are constantly following the monsters in order to monitor them and minimize as much destruction as possible. While the frequency of these scenes is far too high, they are never able to stop the creatures from destroying anything that is in their path. Once this momentum is gained, the film is sure to have your full attention. In nearly every one of these sequences, the filmmakers place us in the shoes of a nearby spectator. The situation is seen through the eyes of the humans. If they aren't around to see the fights and the destruction, then neither are we. However, this is a relatively smart use of perspective, as it constantly changes. Through one moment of chaos, we might be following a dog running from the destruction, or a driver with a bus full of children. It most certainly increases both the stakes and the tension. There are many elements, such as these, that aid in the overall moviegoing experience.
Even with some highly positive aspects, this film's sense of storytelling is its Achilles' heel. We are introduced to a relatively intriguing first act, as Joe Brody tries to figure out what the government is hiding from society. However, once his son becomes a key character, it's all downhill from there. Ford Brody is a seriously weak character that drags down all of the unique elements found throughout the running time. While his goal of reaching his family is admirable enough, we're never given much of a reason to care for his wellbeing. A lot of this can be attributed to the fact that we learn very little about him. Even after it seems as if the world is coming to an end, we don't see any changes in this character. While he now believes all of the claims that his father made, we never see an internal change that would allow us to connect with him further. Nearly all of the human portions of the plot are absolutely wasted, as they're all pretty bland and one-dimensional.
Godzilla has been sporting its cast in its trailers for quite some time now, but do they bring life to these characters? Surely the biggest casting mistake made is Aaron Taylor-Johnson in the role of Ford Brody. He doesn't add any sense of personality to this character and simply doesn't fit into the role. Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, and Sally Hawkins are good as Dr. Ichiro Serizawa, Elle Brody, and Vivienne Graham, respectively. However, they aren't given very much to do throughout the running time. It would have been nice to see more of them, and a lot less of Ford. Bryan Cranston is fantastic in the role of Joe Brody. He delivers a lot of emotional depth, allowing him to shine in every scene that he stars in. The cast itself is impressive, but not all of them are able to show what they can do.
Even though we don't see the famous kaiju throughout the entire motion picture, the visuals are incredibly impressive. Director Gareth Edwards is working with some marvelous creature designs here. Godzilla has been made much larger and more intimidating. Even though this creature has been modernized, the kaiju still maintains a a traditional look that took my breath away. The creatures that Godzilla must face also have intriguing elements that elevate our interest. They are all brought to life with a superb quality of work put into the CGI. This is made only more intense by the sound quality. There's no other way to see this than in IMAX, as every stomp, roar, and explosion rumbles every seat in the cinema. While the 3D doesn't distract from the viewing experience, it doesn't necessarily stand out either. There's a fair amount of depth, although it doesn't feel as well-integrated as it could have been.
There are a lot of good things about Godzilla that will surprise some moviegoers. Director Gareth Edwards has introduced numerous fresh elements into the action kaiju genre. Even though some of these decisions may split audiences, these deviations from the Hollywood formula are welcome with open arms. The visual design is absolutely marvelous, as your jaw will be left hanging in the IMAX theater. You would be doing a disservice to yourself by seeing it on a screen any smaller. However, the film is hindered by the human portions of the running time. The majority of the characters are bland, leaving us with nobody to connect with. Godzilla is entertaining and satisfying, it's just too bad that the human material isn't.