40) Godzilla [7.0]

In Summer 2014, the world’s most revered monster is reborn as Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures unleash the epic action adventure “Godzilla.” From visionary new director Gareth Edwards (“Monsters”) comes a powerful story of human courage and reconciliation in the face of titanic forces of nature, when the awe-inspiring Godzilla rises to restore balance as humanity stands defenseless. (2014)

For all the flat out of awesomeness of the third act, Godzilla has a bit of a human problem.

To be fair, that has always been the case with The King of Monsters movies. Gareth Evans has assembled a very talented cast who–with the exception of possibly Bryan Cranston–all act as if they’re in a different movie. Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s stoic soldier character is incredibly flat and he has virtually no chemistry with his wife, Elizabeth Olsen, who is given very little to do. I’ve been impressed with Olsen’s prior performances, but big action tentpoles do not serve her talents well (perhaps she’ll fair better in next years Avengers sequel, where she’ll be reunited with Taylor-Johnson again). Ken Watanabe carries every scene with a “my God” expression on his face, and is unintentionally awful.

Am I being hard on a movie that’s about giant monsters fighting? Perhaps, but consider this: though Gareth Edwards took a very respectable approach to making a blockbuster by pacing the reveals and the overall structure akin to Jurassic Park, the audience is stuck dealing with humans we’re not invested in for the majority of the runtime. I appreciate that he made an effort to make the non monster scenes have some weight to it, but I just wished the tone was more consistent throughout the performances.

There are instances where it feels as if Evans is just being a tease with showing Godzilla, but it really makes it all that more impactful when he goes full out in the final half hour or so. I especially enjoyed how almost every monster shot was from the human’s perspective. As silly as it sounds, it added a dose of reality to a monster movie. Without cameras zipping around in every which direction, we remain tethered to one perspective for the fights, and that goes a long way from setting Edward’s film more interesting than a lot of the other maniacally shot and edited blockbusters.

In this version of Godzilla, a lot of buildings get smashed but it’s not an overly excessive amount of city damage. Edwards seems aware of the Michael Bay ADD explosion-fest that has dominated action movies over the last decade, and wants to maximize impact when something does go down. The manner in which the fights are staged is likely my favorite thing in Godzilla, as it feels like a throwback to the originals in stunted movement while also being damn near perfect CGI.

And how about Godzilla as a hero? I know it’s been done before, but it’s just flat out great. We’ve seen so many times an us vs. them scenario where the military is going in to take down something they don’t understand, but when Godzilla shows that he’s on our side, he becomes a genuine badass. I was actually more invested in him as a character than any of the humans. I just have one request when they make the next one: give me Mothra!

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