Gareth Edwards has found himself in the same situation as many young filmmakers today. Direct a successful indie film and be immediately booted up to a big budget action film as their second. Many of these filmmakers flop. Look at Marc Webb. His indie flick 500 Days of Summer is to this day something of a masterpiece in the romantic comedy world. Then he directed The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel which I didn’t bother to write a review for because, well, it wasn’t that good. Not a great example, because the new Spidey flicks aren’t terrible by any means, and those films have that Marc Webb touch woven throughout the Peter-Gwen plot line, but overall it seems Webb’s true talents were lost within the mix. We now deal with Edwards, who directed the incredibly impressive film Monsters in 2010. A monster movie with a heavy message, Monsters was written and directed by Edwards, as well as scored and edited, all on his laptop in his bedroom… literally. Quite frankly, I loved Monsters as it had a strong message and an ironic title as the movie itself begged the question of whether the extraterrestrials are really the monsters at all. After coming off of Monsters, there was no question that Godzilla was right up Edwards’ alley, but I feared because something so large and crucial was to be taken on by someone with little experience. I feared for naught.
But let’s not get into Edwards’ direction just yet. Let’s just digest the cast. Despite what certain marketing campaigns would have you believe, Bryan Cranston is not the main character. Nevertheless, Bryan Cranston is in the movie, so expect to be moved to tears when his voice cracks as he screams lines with fierce emotion. I want to rewatch Breaking Bad right now. The main character, human character that is, is played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. He kind of sucks, but we already knew that. He was great in Kick-Ass, and I’m anticipating his role of Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but in Godzilla, he is a like a cardboard cutout. But that’s okay. We’ll move on. Elizabeth Olsen plays his wife in the film, which is strange because she will star alongside Taylor-Johnson as his sister, Scarlet Witch, in Age of Ultron, and she is actually very good in the film. Cardboard acting doesn’t go well with really good acting, unfortunately. But it’s okay. We’ll move on. Ken Watanabe delivers his typical role in a completely appropriate film here. He was awesome on screen as the Japanese character who really cares about this creature. And then of course there’s Godzilla, and my god. My. God.
Now there are a lot of people saying that Godzilla is 90% buildup, 10% Godzilla, and to be completely honest that is so far from the truth. Yes, there is quite a bit of buildup before you see the monster, but Edwards and company do a fine job at weaving the creature in and out of scenes throughout the film, even if you only see a leg or an arm. Gareth Edwards seems like he made this movie after studying the Spielbergian Handbook. Jurassic Park and Jaws are clearly inspirations here, as well as other monster movies that came after them like Cloverfield and even Monsters. No spoilers, but there is a scene in this movie involving the MUTO’s that really feels a lot like the closing scene of Monsters at the seven eleven. I found it to be quite beautiful and it’s something I love about this movie. Edwards has made it his own.
Now concerning Godzilla, I have to say this: he is huge. I unfortunately didn’t get to see this movie in IMAX, but from what I saw at my theater, I know I have to at some point. Sure, you can think too hard about the story line building up to the monster, but when you finally see Godzilla it doesn’t even matter. He is enormous, and the way Edwards decided to tease us with various shots of him was brilliantly achieved. Godzilla has never looked this good. There were three moments in this movie that brought tears to my eyes, just because of the care they put into the character and the sheer awesomeness of what was unfolding on screen. It was great to see so many nods to the original 1954 classic. This time though, looks real and completely unnerving. Don’t wait for the blu ray. You have to see this on the big screen. I won’t say any more.
With Godzilla, Gareth Edwards pulls off a tremendous feat. He takes hundreds of millions of dollars from the studio, and still manages to make the movie his own. This feels like Monsters, only on a bigger scale. The build up is intense and fascinating, and when Godzilla shows up, it’s balls to the wall awesome. Things get smashed. Buildings crumble. Monsters are fighting. Godzilla is roaring. The theater is applauding. It’s an imperfect film, but a colossal one. It’s a great time at the movies. Bring on this Star Wars spinoff, Edwards. I’m sure you’ll nail it.