“Sight Unseen” – Godzilla Mini-Review

Director: Gareth Edwards

Writer: Max Borenstein

Actors: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche. David Strathairn, CJ Adams

Producers: Legendary Pictures/ Warner Bros. & Thomas Tull

Budget: $160 million

Running Time: 123 minutes

Review: I like the 1998 version of Godzilla because it was fun. I was 5 at the time it came out, so in seeing it despite it being a bastardization of the original Toho character with cartoony characterization and ripping off Jurassic Park, it has a safe nostalgia coating for me that this movie, my most anticipated of the summer didn’t. I will say the Roland Emmerich version felt more lively than this dark adaptation, which tries to adapt the film in a modern ‘Dark Knight’ way which I don’t believe it should be.

Told entirely from the human point of view, the movie loses some energy after the perspective shift from Bryan Cranston’s Joe Brody to his on-screen son Ford played by Aaron Taylor Johnson. As an audience avatar, Johnson acts as if he’s just reading line for line. While it’s not unbelievable for an Army veteran to be disconnected from the audience he does make for a poor audience surrogate when he can’t match up to Cranston’s gravitas, nor does he bring any rhythm of his own. He is as flat as always and I hope he finds a better career elsewhere outside of blockbuster leading man roles. Initially not minding him in Kick-Ass he is the only actor I can think of who I’ve grown to dislike more and more with each film.

The script does the film next to no favours. All these characters are one-dimensional. Joe Brody is the fanatical scientist, Elizabeth Olsen is the mother awaiting her husband’s return, and scientist and army general characters Strathairn and Watanabe provide supporting exposition through dynamic viewpoints. The most frustrating thing is that these actors are capable of so much more but the script doesn’t do them any favours.

Godzilla’s leading men, ‘unbalanced’ is the right word here for the performances, as also in the photo.

It is as if two movies were being made here; a Godzilla movie and a spin-off about human characters within Godzilla. Max Borenstein in his first major movie effort was probably thinking the monster CGI spectacle would fill in the giant character void in his script, while director Gareth Edwards was thinking the opposite, opting for cutaways and taking a conservative approach to showing his title character, similar to his much better directing debut, ‘Monsters‘. It is a frustrating fumble that you hope they’ll correct in the recently announced sequel.

The movie isn’t a total loss however. A night-time railroad sequence calls to mind the quiet tension of not only Edwards’ previous films but best captures the Spielberg influence he was going for. The movie also has quite a few surprises in it, one of which was ruined in the marketing push, but not enough of it has to do with Godzilla in a movie that’s called Godzilla. And that’s the film’s biggest problem. It keeps playing coy with Godzilla so much that there is no a worthwhile payoff. Nor, and this is perhaps the film’s most accidentally impressive achievement is there ever a serious sense of doom or danger to the film’s proceedings.

This is one of those films like Iron Man 2, (but a bit better) that most people will like upon its release, particularly critics and then as years pass severely deflate its quality until its considered somewhat a letdown. Then when the dust is settled on its planned sequels it will be revisited as the franchise underrated gem. I call it the Hollywood cycle of recreation, destruction, re-creation.

Rating: “C-” or 5/10

–Spoiled Territory–

Multiple monsters. Who never once actually directly attempt to kill the humans. The only danger and destruction the MUTO’s pose seems incidental. It lessens the conflict. Do I really care if they’re multiplying if they’re not chewing anyone up?

So Godzilla and the monsters were sleeping underground this whole time? Okay, I’ll buy it.

Major character death doesn’t actually heighten the stakes of the film, nor does it really serve a major purpose, though you would think that Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe’s character) would have made time for a face to face with Joe Brody as soon as possible considering the apparent vital information he had that is quickly forgotten about.

The army like most law enforcement in movies can’t do shit cliche. Though I did like how the General actually wanted to listen if the Scientists had better ideas.

The Bomb plot doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. You think they would have at least tried to have woken up Ford enough to attempt to disarm a nuclear bomb, no?

This movie cost 160 million dollars? You think they could do it on half that considering what was achieved with Monsters, or that this movie seemed to get a late mass audience push.


Though his style works against the film, I imagine if the director were to write the film as well it would correct the film’s inconsistencies.

The cinematographer mistakenly walked on the set of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes while filming as the two were shooting in Vancouver. He described the confusion of not knowing anyone as rather surreal and dreamlike.

All these actors were first pick.


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