Godzilla Film Review

Film Review by Jon E Clist

The Premise
Godzilla is an American science fiction monster film featuring the Japanese film monster of the same name. This epic rebirth to Toho's iconic Godzilla pits the world's most famous monster against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity's scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.

The Review
Okay so let me point out up front that this is not like the 1998 film of the same name that really was kind of atrocious. Matthew Broderick as a leading man? Not sure about that really in any situation other than Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. So you could be fooled into believing that the Americans were out to finally kill of Godzilla with another overly American-ized cinematic pile of dung. This is not the case here in any stretch of the imagination. Before we head in to the 2014 world of Godzilla let's take a little time to learn the history of the whole thing...

So how does the new film sit in the whole world of the giant lizard monster from Japan? Well I have to say that overall I really enjoyed it. There was plenty of drama and intensity along the way and the general back-story helped to add weight and sense to the current action. Director Gareth Edwards described Godzilla as an anti-hero: "Godzilla is definitely a representation of the wrath of nature. The theme is man versus nature and Godzilla is certainly the nature side of it. You can't win that fight. Nature's always going to win and that's what the subtext of our movie is about. He's the punishment we deserve."

Of course I know you are wondering about how the modern look of Godzilla works? We have all heard the noise out of Japan that a lot of critics and people from there think that he is too big, however I disagree. We are talking about the new media world where everything is bigger. In fact think about phones. They used to be massive and then they got smaller and now they are getting a bit bigger again. Gareth Edwards and the design group reviewed all the previous incarnations of Godzilla's design for influence on the final design for the film: "The way I tried to view it was: imagine Godzilla was a real creature and someone from Toho saw him in the 1950s and ran back to the studio to make a movie about the creature and was trying their best to remember and draw it... and in our film you get to see him for real. It was important that this felt like a Toho Godzilla."

Godzilla's appearance shows him covered in keloid scars. This feature was taken from the original Godzilla in 1954, who was heavily scarred to evoke the gruesome marks borne by the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings; this enhances the concept of Godzilla as a monster created by nuclear weapons. Making this all work visually is no easy fete. There are 960 visual effects shots through the whole film, 327 of which are of Godzilla whose 3D model is made up of 500,000 polygons. Had the computer graphics been designed only on a single computer, it would have taken 450 years to render.

Of course for a monster such as Godzilla, it is not just about how he looks but also how he sounds. Sound designer Erik Aadahl was provided with the original 1954 recording of Godzilla's roar from Toho Studios. He upgraded the roar into a more organic, contemporary sound. The sound designers used a 12-foot-high, 18-foot-wide speaker array to blast Godzilla's roar at a hundred thousand watts, to get a good idea of his vocal power and strength.

In regards to the story-line there are a few sub-arcs that flow around and plenty of relationship issues thrown in to create a little emotional tension. There is even some romance and in a bit of a cheesy format that you get the feeling it has been put there to appease a female skew. The cast do a pretty solid job adding to the drama and even Aaron Taylor-Johnson does a good job by doing very little. That sounds like I might be mocking him however for a film like this, that is exactly what is required, few words and brooding looks.

I think that director Gareth Edwards is a rather brilliant film-maker. In his 2010 masterpiece Monsters, he managed to bring to life something rather awesome on a very low budget through some clever means. Click here to read a little of how he made the magic on a tight budget. However often it is the case that when a clever director gets a real big budget they lose their creativity… not the case here in the slightest.

The Verdict
For me it’s a great monster movie from the guy who brought us something rather new and well created on a low budget. Proof for me that sometime when you give a big budget to someone who can make magic on an extremely smaller budget you can get something good sometimes without the industry over-producing the magic out of it.

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 15th May 2014
Rating: M - Contains violence
Duration: 123 minutes 
Genre:  Action
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins and Juliette Binoche
Director: Gareth Edwards (Monsters)

The Extras
While shooting this film, cinematographer Seamus McGarvey accidentally went to a lakeside set of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), which was also shooting nearby in Vancouver and looked very similar to the set for this film that he was set to shoot on that day. He described walking around with his light meter, not recognizing anyone, as a "surreal, dreamlike experience" until he realized his mistake.

For the 1950s scenes, cinematographer Seamus McGarvey wanted "a peeled look with muted colors and diffused highlights". To achieve this, he shot those scenes with vintage 1960s camera lenses and additionally had the shades of black in those scenes digitally tinted in magenta.

The monologue heard in the Comic-Con teaser trailer belongs to J. Robert Oppenheimer, a nuclear physicist who worked on the atom bomb, which in the Godzilla canon led to the creation of the monster.

According to Gareth Edwards, Godzilla's design is inspired by bears and komodo dragons; his face in particular is influenced by the heads of bears, dogs and eagles (Edwards said the eagle "has a lot of nobility, it made him feel very majestic and noble").