When you really think about it, it’s quite surprising that Godzilla is one of the longest lasting franchises in cinematic history. The franchise started off with a bang with Gojira but it has never achieved the same height again with silly storylines, terrible American edits and an American remake that has one of the worst reputations a film could possibly have. Yet Godzilla has returned once again to the big screen with the latest American adaptation. Godzilla is a great example of the Godzilla franchise as a whole including what has always made it so great while also including some of the things that have hindered many of the franchise’s films.
Godzilla follows Ford Brody (Aaron Tyler Johnson) as he travels to Japan to meet his father (Bryan Cranston), who believes that the cause of a disastrous nuclear meltdown is being covered up. When Ford’s father turns out to be right, a race against time begins as Ford tries to meet up with his family back in San Francisco before destruction can beat him there first. The film is directed by Gareth Edwards (who directed the solid indy Monsters) and is written by Max Borenstein and David Callaham (The Expendables).
When talking about how good this film is it is hard not to separate the film into three sections. The first thirty or so minutes is a fantastic conspiracy thriller that’s led by a fantastic performance from Bryan Cranston. While it’s considerably much smaller in scale than the other sections of the film, Edwards still finds room for the grandiose and ends this section of the film with a killer set piece.
Unfortunately, the middle section of the film isn’t as successful. I can see what Edwards and (especially) Borenstein and Callaham were trying to get away with here as the obnoxious amount of dialogue within this section feels campy in a way that it seems like its giving homage to Godzilla films of old. However, all of it doesn’t do much service to the film, and while there is some great action sequences in this section (including two involving trains) the momentum coming out of these scenes are quickly wasted with more unnecessary exposition.
Luckily, Edwards and company are able to put it all together for the final act, which really goes to show how great of a job Edwards does with directing action. Edwards shows so much restraint throughout this film and that really works wonders in this section as Godzilla ends up being one of the best monsters put onscreen (with help from some incredible visual effects work and motion capture work from Andy Serkis).
Ultimately, Godzilla is a flawed film. Despite that it is a lot of fun in a way that a Godzilla film has never been for as long of a stretch as this one is.