Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla attempts to answer the question: How would the world react to a large-scale monster attack? The movie ends up actually answering: How would the world react to a large-scale monster attack if the world was populated by big dumb goons?
This new Godzilla movie dedicates nearly half of its time tethering the appearance of Godzilla to Joe Brody and his son Ford Brody–played by Bryan Cranston and Aaron-Taylor Johnson, respectively. The movie wastes no time introducing us to how this father and son pair are tragically related to the beasts that go on to etch destruction through every unfortunate city that lays in their path. Unfortunately, due to poor scripting and what seems to be poor directing, It’s not hard to quickly lose interest in the Brody family–specifically Ford Brody a.k.a the Forrest Gump of monster attacks.
It doesn’t take too long for this section of the movie to start to slow down. An exploration of the human-side of the monster-fueled chaos quickly transforms into barely-veiled exposition for Godzilla and his monster foes. When the military appears, the film starts to become exceedingly corny officials designate the bad monsters of the story as “Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organsims”–or MUTOs. A stoic delivery of that acronym inspired a decent amount of snorts and laughing from my showing’s audience.
This would be excusable if the film was comfortable with the essentially corny nature of all giant monster movies, but the movie seemed to demand to be taken seriously, which made it that much harder to stomach the ridiculous actions of every character in the movie who wasn’t capable of leveling a building with a strategically placed fart.
Luckily, by the time Godzilla shows up to throw-down, many of the movie’s problems are quickly forgotten (Hollywood: take note of that effect). Once the monster showdown heats up, the movie starts to fully deliver on the promise of a Godzilla movie worthy of 2014’s CG and production values. Godzilla dedicates a sizable amount of time to this climactic confrontation–which is great, considering the soul of the movie really seems to lie within this last third.
I’m fairly conflicted in my feelings towards Godzilla, in part because the movie itself seems conflicted. I tend to be a big fan of the origin stories of most sci-fi and fantasy legends. I’m happy to sit and savor the development of these characters as suspense builds and they become the powerful icons we know them to be. But in Godzilla, a lot of the time spent before the big guy’s unveiling feels like a pointless waste of screentime that could have been dedicated to more great destruction.
If you’re down to see Godzilla make good on smashing other people’s property better than that one guy you know from college (you know, that one guy who always managed to show up to your parties), then you won’t be disappointed by the show the beast puts on when he finally gets his time to shine. The only drawback is you have to sit through about an hour of poorly scripted characters wandering through the increasing panic of the monster destruction before the title character shows up to snap everything back into shape.