Thursday Night Movie Club
Godzilla (2014)
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Release Date: 16 May 2014

Director: Gareth Edwards
Aaron Taylor-Johnson
CJ Adams
Ken Watanabe
Bryan Cranston
Elizabeth Olsen
Carson Bolde
Sally Hawkins
Juliette Binoche
David Strathairn
Richard T. Jones
Victor Rasuk
Patrick Sabongui
Jared Keeso
Luc Roderique
James Pizzinato
Ford Brody
Young Ford
Dr. Ichiro Serizawa
Joe Brody
Elle Brody
Sam Brody
Vivienne Graham
Sandra Brody
Admiral William Stenz
Captain Russell Hampton
Sergeant Tre Morales
Lt. Commander Marcus Waltz
Jump Master
Bomb Tracker
HALO Jumper
Godzilla 2014 movie poster #1 Godzilla 2014 movie poster #2 Godzilla 2014 movie poster #3
Godzilla returns in The King of the Monsters is back in Godzilla. This version is head-over-heels better than the 1998 version starring Matthew Broderick. Unfortunately, Godzilla is not the star of his own movie. *Spoiler Alert* This honor is reserved for a mating pair of M.U.T.O's (Monstrous Unidentified Terrestrial Object), basically giant insects. When Godzilla is the focus, he doesn't disappoint!

Young Ford Brody(CJ Adams) is living in Japan. His father Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is employed as the lead engineer at a nuclear power plant. Joe Brody and his staff have been tracking mysterious seismic activity beneath the plant. He is frantically trying to get the Powers-that-Be to shut down the reactors before a possible core meltdown. His pleas fall on deaf ears! When the plant begins falling into the ground, Joe Brody must seal the reactor core, trapping his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) inside. Joe sacrifices his wife for the better good of humanity.

Elsewhere, Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and his assistant Sally Hawkins (Vivienne Graham) have been called in to investigate a massive cave-in at mine. The detection of radioactivity was thought to come from uranium. Inside the cave are the skeletal remains of a massive beast and what appears to be a living, yet dormant, cocoon. Worse still, something has dug a tunnel and escaped the island.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ford Brody in Godzilla (2014)15 years later, Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is returning to his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and son Sam (Carson Bolde) in San Francisco CA. Brody serves in the U.S. Navy as a Bomb Disposal Expert. Barely home a few hours, Brody receives a phone call. Joe has once again been arrested in Japan trying to sneak back into the ruined power plant.

While a massive government cover-up has labeled Joe a lunatic, he is anything but crazy. Joe is terrified. He wants to know why his wife died. He knows it wasn't a nuclear accident or an earthquake. Something caused the destruction of the plant. Joe wants answers. He wants closure. Making matters worse, Joe has been tracking the exact seismic signature that preceded the plant's destruction. Whatever happened before is happening again. Joe is the only person concerned. He must retrieve his old files to prove his claims.

Returning to the island, Joe and Ford are stunned by what they discover. The news reports and quarantine of the island are bogus. There is no nuclear radiation present. Instead is a massive undertaking. An unknown creature trapped in a pit has finally absorbed enough radiation from the planet to awaken from its slumber. Joe Brody was right. The creature has been "speaking" and it received a response. There are more of these creatures at large. Soon after the creature sprouts wings and flies away, Godzilla awakens from his own slumber and heads after his prey.

Godzilla (2014)Godzilla is told almost exclusively from the point-of-view of Ford Brody. Brody's attempts to get back to San Francisco to save his family keep getting sidetracked by the plans of Admiral William Stenz (David Strathairn). The second MUTO has awoken in the Nevada desert and is making its way towards, of course, San Francisco. This second MUTO is a female and cannot fly. It leaves a trail of devastation in its wake.

Herein lies the main problem with Godzilla. Like Cloverfield (2008), the film follows the exploits of Ford Brody and only occasionally shows the monsters when he encounters them. They are shown from a distance, on televisions, as shadows on a wall, or only a glimpse of Godzilla's tail. The two insect-like MUTOs have more screen time than the star, Godzilla. Go figure!

As an example, during one sequence, Ford Brody accompanies a military troupe bringing a nuclear missile to San Francisco. The train stops waiting to hear whether the tracks on the other side of a tunnel are clear before proceeding. Explosions are seen in the distance. Voices of troops are heard screaming over the walkie-talkies. During another sequence at an airport in Hawaii, Godzilla arrives to attack one of the MUTOs when the scene suddenly shifts to the following morning showing the aftermath of the battle. Godzilla and the MUTOs are not the main focus of the film until the final moments. There is a feeling of being a bit cheated. The battle scene special effects may have been too costly and time consuming to produce.

Godzilla (2014)The special effects are awesome, especially in Imax. When Dr. Serizawa investigates a mine collapse, the cave in and resulting pit is huge. When the workers switch on work lights one by one, the lights switch on... and on... and on... and on... and then some revealing the full length of the skeleton. Godzilla swims on a collision course with an aircraft carrier. He dives at the last moment and swims underneath the ship. The overhead shot showing Godzilla pass under the ship is stunning. When Godzilla rises up to release his fiery breath, the effect starts at the tip of his tail and expands upwards through the fins on his back before Godzilla takes a deep breath. His chest expands and then he releases the firestorm.!

The cinematography is excellent. Army soldiers are inspecting a nuclear dump-site in the Nevada desert. Soldiers look inside vaults to check that the contents are safe. One soldier opens a small view port and finds light streaming in. The vault is opened revealing the bright light is from the sun. Whatever was inside has completely destroyed the vault and escaped.

HALO jumpers descend on San Francisco in Godzilla (2014)When HALO jumpers descend on San Francisco, the camera picks up the viewpoint from Ford Brody. He emerges from the clouds to see Godzilla below him. As Ford sails lower and lower, Godzilla gets bigger and bigger and bigger! Godzilla is loaded with other fine examples

The acting has its moments. Carrying the film, Aaron Taylor-Johnson moves the story along with all the emotion of a combat veteran who has seen it all, including large monsters attacking cities. He is not fazed by the calamity. Ford is not angry or frustrated when he cannot return to save his family. He does his duty to his country without emotion, without question. He volunteers to retrofit the nuclear missile with a mechanical trigger thus preventing it from being affected by the electromagnetic pulses emitted by the MUTOs. Ford doesn't even get frustrated dealing with his "deranged" father who is apparently stuck in the past. Moments from certain death from a MUTO, Taylor-Johnson shows no fear, no terror, no ultimate dread or despair as Ford Brody realizes he will never see his family again. Instead, Taylor-Johnson calmly draws his sidearm and fires off a shot. Any actor could have played this role so why not a relative unknown actor such as Taylor-Johnson.

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Godzilla (2014)Bryan Cranston steals the show during the opening scenes and gets the film rolling with a bang. When the reactor begins falling apart, Joe Brody's wife Sandra is trapped inside conducting an on-site inspection. Joe waits for the last possible moment before slamming the blast doors in her face. The scene is heart-wrenching. Joe and Sandra try to say their last goodbyes to each other as the doors slowly close on their life together. Before Joe can mourn the loss of his wife, the reactor comes crashing down and he scrambles for safety.

Fifteen years later, Cranston builds up a fair dose of pent-up rage. Joe Brody's wife is dead. He knows the cover story is false. He wants answers. He wants the truth. He has earned the right to know what is really going on! Cranston channels all of the emotions of rage, frustration, not knowing why his wife died, and finally fear, as he seems to be the only one who sees the pattern repeating, into a slowly building volcano that finally erupts when he has had enough of being kept in the dark!

Elizabeth Olsen as Elle Brody in Godzilla (2014)Elizabeth Olsen is fantastic as Elle Brody, Ford's wife. She is the only actor in the film who nails all of the emotions running wild under the extraordinary circumstances. During her one key sequence, Elle is at the hospital treating patients in the emergency room when Ford calls her on the phone. One moment, Olsen is calm and collected performing Elle's medical duties. The next moment, Elle is an emotional wreck barely able to control her growing fear, terror, and helplessness. Elle is frustrated when she knows with full certainty she cannot keep her son safe from the coming onslaught. Olsen displays all of these emotions during one short phone conversation... fantastic!

Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins in Godzilla (2014)Ken Watanabe is great as Dr. Ichiro Serizawa. There is a subtle difference between looking stunned and actually being stunned. Watanabe steals every scene Serizawa is in by performing the latter. Watanabe expounds on the back-story while exploring the mine cave in. Watanabe pulls off this difficult sequence in fantastic style.

Serizawa is spewing gibberish trying to explain what everyone is looking at buried in the cave. Watanabe is a great actor. While Serizawa explains the facts, Watanabe conveys the enormity of the scene by the look on his face and depicting Serizawa does not really know with certainty what he is saying. The only problem with Serizawa is not Watanabe's fault. Serizawa is convinced Godzilla is a Force of Nature, a God who arises to preserve the natural balance of the planet. Watanabe's caliber of acting cannot pull off this load of bull. Unfortunately, Watanabe is made to continually repeat Serizawa's sentiment.

Godzilla has a happy ending. Like Man of Steel, the film glosses over the utter devastation and overwhelming despair. Survivors are pulled from the wreckage. There are no heaping piles of dead bodies. Several passenger planes have crashed or exploded in airports, building are laid waste from Japan to Hawaii to San Francisco. The list of the dead is astronomically long but is never mentioned, not even hinted at. Godzilla gives his famous roar before heading back to sea and hibernation until he is needed again in the inevitable sequel.

By taking a huge risk in showing the after-effects of the calamity, despair, hopelessness, families literally torn apart, director Gareth Edwards could have helmed an emotional roller-coaster ride that ends with a huge gut-wrenching dose of reality. There is no overwhelming sense of loss. Instead of greatness, Godzilla is a very good summer action movie.