It's only been minutes since I left the theatre so this would be the most appropriate time to try and "vocalise" what I feel about the film I just watched.
I will steer clear of spoilers, however I am not sure what could be considered a spoiler by this point since the trailers are very clear. So there, I will start with that. The marketing department did a helluva job promoting this film. They gave us enough to understand that Godzilla would be about dread and fear. Dread and fear that only us (squashy humans) can feel. That all plays a big part throughout the story because everything kaiju-y and monstery happens around us, the viewers and the characters. We are at the epicentre of the "shitstorm" that befalls earth here, and it befalls FAST. Also the film has a starting credits sequence which I found very well done!
The pacing is lightning-quick in order to establish a few characters (including Big G himself). Let me just take a moment and say that Bryan Cranston is a powerful actor although slightly underused here. Same goes for Ken Watanabe although in my eyes the character he portrays is the Japanese connection to all of this. Throughout the entire story we are "fed" enough to realise that Dr. Serizawa (Watanabe) gets it. He understands something that the rest of the panicking people around him don't.
However, and this is my biggest gripe about the film, Aaron Taylor-Johnson sucked ass. Seriously. I am actually quite angry with his casting because when the dust settles and everything is quiet again there is a small void. And that void was left because of him. He has an important role throughout the story and his acting is flat, uninspired and at times insulting to the sombre majesty of the situation he and all of us are involved in. At no point did I feel the desperate father in him. He is just 'meh' throughout the entire movie. Thankfully, he is not THE hero...
Don't expect lengthy explanations or deep exposition as to how three gigantic monsters end up in our face. We are never given enough to understand where they came from or what they are and that's OK. This is the angle used in Cloverfield (which will pop up again in the article soon) and you are just left in the dark alongside every other human being in the story as to how and why all this is happening. What really counts though is that it IS happening.
The symbolism is powerful all throughout the story with even a small added touch to the whole deal regarding radioactivity and nuclear power. Grand catastrophe and human tragedies are the main themes of Godzilla and that is established very early on.
Let's get this out of the way, Big G himself was perfectly designed and animated. It is understandable that the body wasn't that much of a chore for the designers (it's the original Godzilla body, no joke) and the head was always going to be the most difficult aspect. And they nailed it in my book. You feel his weight and power whenever he is on screen. The other monsters are identical to each other in a way with the bigger of the two looking a LOT like the one from Cloverfield. Not just the body or the way the limbs work but also the way it moved. I had no problem with that because unlike a lot of people I know I enjoyed the shit out of Cloverfield.
What was that? Is Godzilla on screen for long? No. He is not. All three monsters have the exact same screen time (individually) in fact and I think I would place the counter at "just right" if I had to decide if it was enough or not. You can always have more but that doesn't mean it would fit the character of the film. Having said that whenever the monsters ARE on screen it almost always lowered the temperature of the theatre I was in by a couple of degrees. People around me reacted to them, with audible gasps and breaths being held. Which brings me swiftly to what this film did absolutely majestically.
Gareth Edwards, the director and Seamus McGarvey, the cinematographer need all the pats on the back. In the whole world. There were frames in Godzilla that took my breath away. Images that stick with me even now and only half of those frames involved the monsters! Colour was used very carefully throughout the whole film which helped many shots to stand out when colour WAS used to magnificent effect. One such frame (visible in its entirety in one of the trailers so nobody cries "Spoilers!") is the so-called "halo jump". The soldiers fall through two layers of clouds and between those layers was magic. A small clear pocket of air sandwiched between heaven and hell. The top part of the visible sky a beautiful blue and the bottom half a milky flaming orange surrounded by thick asphyxiating grey. And below the bottom layer of clouds? Mayhem. This was just one of the many frames that will probably stay with you long after the film ends (the very LAST frame itself was brilliant, oh I could go on for hours!).
I doubt there is anyone here who doesn't know what the third act of the film is all about. I will be careful though. Again, even the colours used in the final part of the film is all about tribute. It involves a storm and plenty of dark colours. Almost black and white (I am sure it also saved the CGI crew a lot of sweat). Monster shots in the first two acts were subtle and snappy. Watching them felt like being treated to the ending of Inception again and again. Jaw drops, eyes widen, head tilts, you are trying to take it all in aaaaand cut. Time and time again until this third act where the sleeves are rolled up. All in all, the final fight could have been slightly longer also although what we do see is certainly worth the wait.
The sound design was unfortunately rather lacklustre. The explosions, the footsteps and collisions are all rather muffled. The only thing that isn't is the legendary Godzilla roar which you can hear in the trailers also. Much like Godzilla's head, this was also NAILED.
If you go into Godzilla expecting Pacific Rim you will be disappointed. This film is not about bonding and the man/machine struggle. It is about humanity dealing with tragedy and forces way above its capabilities, the consequences of which can only be dealt with by lowering our heads and accepting fate. Humanity is powerless here and that's why the film isn't called Humanity but is instead named after the King of the Monsters. And he most certainly is.
For what it's worth, a true Godzilla film.
- Frixos Masouras 2014
(Godzilla 2014 belongs entirely to Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures)