In 2010, Gareth Edward’s feature-length debut “Monsters” was released. In spite of its title, the film shows very little of the monsters that have occupied Earth and left devastation in their wake. Instead, the film follows the humans trying to make it across the border and remain undetected by the monsters and immigration officials. Putting the primary focus on the human drama instead of the monsters allows the characters to exhibit growth as they continue along their arduous journey. Additionally, whenever the monsters make an appearance, their presence serves as a necessary punctuation between the scenes of travel, and their purpose is not exhausted. Four years later, Edward’s most recent film sees the resurrection of another monster, the mighty Godzilla.
Because of how Edwards handled his last film, it is easy to have similar expectations for “Godzilla.” One of the key differences between this film and “Monsters” is that Edwards wrote the latter film, while Max Borenstein acted as screenwriter for the “Godzilla” reboot.
Additionally, bringing an international icon back to the big screen is a different task than creating your own beasts. But, because Edwards remains at the helm, one should expect him to accentuate the human drama within the script. Just like “Monsters”, “Godzilla” gives most of its attention to the human drama. We see some of the characters wear their emotions on their sleeves and struggle with the circumstances, which often provides compelling drama aside from Godzilla fight sequences. As much fun as watching Godzilla fight monsters and cause destruction is, he is a familiar face to anyone, so the film must focus on the characters to offer the audience respite and keep the fight scenes exciting. Unfortunately, the human drama in the film is not always as effective as it should be. While there are a few scenes that hint at some emotional depth, the script often only goes skin deep and chooses not to explore the complexities of those emotions. Additionally, the scenes of emotional depth are sometimes not complemented with strong enough performances or dialogue. This may be one of the film’s major weak points, but a certain creature comes to the rescue.
Similar to “Monsters”, “Godzilla” does not give its titular creature as much screen time, comparatively, as its human protagonists. Like the former film — for which Edwards did the special effects — Godzilla serves as a break between the human drama. In many Godzilla films, his appearances are often reserved for the film’s final act. But when he enters the screen, he looks magisterial, even regal, within the frame. He was born in 1954 in the first film of the Godzilla series by Toho, and after starring in 27 successive films, he has become one of the more famous creatures to grace cinema. In many of the later films, though, he transformed from a revered monster, serving as a metaphor for the effects of nuclear weapons, to a cheesy action hero with little to no substance as a character. Fortunately, Edwards’ film restores Godzilla’s former glory and produces a sympathetic character that transcends his name recognition. Godzilla, along with the other creatures, are pretty to look at, as well. As expected, the special effects in “Godzilla” are very well conceived, but there is more to the film’s visuals than stylish special effects. Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey delivers quite a few spectacular shots that capture the beauty in the destruction. Many other shots are, quite simply, artistic in their appearance. Between the cinematography and visual effects, it really is impossible to look away from this film.
Without a doubt, “Godzilla” is a fun movie to watch, but I could not help feeling like it should have been something more. On some level, you can not fault a summer blockbuster film for being a little shallow when it comes to emotional depth and character depth because of its purpose to entertain, but the film was advertised in such a way that not only promised devastation and creature-on-creature battles, but also some exploration into the complex emotions of the characters.
Overall, the film’s simplicity may have been disappointing, but that does not stand in the way of its entertainment value. All hail Godzilla, King of the Monsters. Hear him roar.
Rating: 2 ½ stars out of 4