MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as FORD BRODY
Ken Watanabe as DR. ISHIRO SERIZAWA
Elizabeth Olsen as ELLE BRODY
Juliette Binoche as SANDRA BRODY
Sally Hawkins as DR. VIVIENNE GRAHAM
David Strathairn as ADMIRAL WILLIAM STENZ
Bryan Cranston as JOE BRODY
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
BY KEVIN CARR
Ever since seeing “Godzilla” in IMAX this summer, I have been conflicted. On one hand, I think the movie looks fantastic – which is apparent in the Blu-ray transfer but seriously smaller in scope than what it was on the IMAX screen. The production design is slick, and the monster effects are top notch. There’s also a pretty strong and traditionally sound backstory for the monsters themselves which lets them fall in line with the Japanese originals.
However, revisiting the movie on Blu-ray brings back a lot of the problems I had with the movie in theaters. I will say, however, that this movie played better on the home screen because you didn’t have to worry about audience distractions with the unexpectedly low-key plot and quieter moments. I also knew what to expect in terms of what disappointed me the first time around, so it didn’t disappoint me as much this time.
In this American reboot of the classic Toho monster movies, director Gareth Edwards tells the story of giant monsters awakened by the radiation exposure from modern nuclear power. These were encountered in the 50s after the atomic age began, but most recently the rumbling of these monsters were felt in 1999 when their presence wiped out a nuclear facility in Japan.
Now, fifteen years later, the signs are appearing again. Giant insectoid kaiju monsters known as M.U.T.O.s hatch from cocoons and threatened to destroy cities. However, another kaiju known as Godzilla erupts from the sea, instinctually hunting these creatures down to destroy them.
The strong points to “Godzilla” are what I’ve mentioned before: the scope and the effects. The entire film looks fantastic, and there’s some quite brilliant sound work done to go along with the creature design. When you actually do see Godzilla, he’s awe-inspiring and as realistic as you’ve ever seen.
However, the movie still suffers by not actually being about Godzilla. It was a poor decision to make the title character a secondary role. It was a poorer decision to write the human characters (from whose perspective the movie is painstakingly told) as two dimensional as they get. With the exception of Bryan Cranston (who has only slightly more screen time than Godzilla himself), none of the actors are interesting to watch. In fact, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is the antithesis of interesting, yet the entire movie rests on his shoulders.
Otherwise compelling actors like Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe are not given much to work with, so their skills are squandered. Add to the fact that Edwards gets a kick out of specifically not showing the monster action that it kind of becomes a joke for the movie itself.
Fortunately, the movie is saved with the special effects, the grand look and a final battle that delivers too little too late (but still can be entertaining). This results in a pretty good “Godzilla” movie that is easily superior to the 1998 version, but that’s like saying the pretty average “Batman Begins” was better than the previous installment of “Batman & Robin.” I’ll take a pretty good “Godzilla” movie, but I still wish it had been a kick-ass “Godzilla” movie (which it had the potential to do in the hands of a more competent director).
Like the other Warner Bros. tent pole discs, the “Godzilla” Blu-ray comes with a DVD and Digital Copy. The Blu-ray disc includes two sub-menus in the special features. One is “MONARCH: Declassified,” which highlights in-character contextual historic elements from the MONARCH files. These include “Operation: Lucky Dragon” about the history of the project, “MONARCH: The M.U.T.O. File” about the giant creatures from the film, and “The Godzilla Revelation” which talks about the King of the Monsters himself.
Unlike some in-character content I’ve seen over the years, these “MONARCH: Declassified” items work better than character interviews simply because they give a history and background to the creatures in the film rather than just an opportunity for an actor to stay with his part for whimsy’s sake. In other words, there’s cool behind-the-scenes information buried in these featurettes in the form of backstory and monster creation, and that’s pretty cool.
The standard behind-the-scenes featurettes are found in the second sub-menu, “The Legendary Godzilla.” These featurettes include “Godzilla: Force of Nature” which is a 20-minute overview of the production, “A Whole New Level of Destruction” which looks at the development of the Godzilla aftermath, “Into the Void: The H.A.L.O. Jump” which looks at the development of the skydive into San Francisco, and “Ancient Enemy: The M.U.T.O.s” which looks at what went into the development of Godzilla’s new nemesis in this film.
The only real thorn in my side in terms of these featurettes is the tail-end of “Godzilla: Force of Nature” where director Gareth Edwards giggles and pats himself of the back for the not-very-brilliant idea of cutting away from the monster battles. His smug demeanor made me more irritated at that technique, which in my opinion was part of the reason the movie topped out with a disappointing $200 million domestic box office. It also proves my point which I’ve stated before that Edwards was out of his depth with how to fill the film with monster battles, feeling there was only the final battle to choreograph. However, a more experienced big budget director with a grander vision (cough, cough, I’m looking at you, Guillermo Del Toro) doesn’t feel intimidated by diversifying his action.
Sigh… I guess that’s what you get when you hire the director of “Monsters,” a good film in its own right but one that was saddled with standard low budget constraints that forced him to choose his monster shots judiciously. Hopefully Edwards grew a pair after this film and can deliver a little more meat in the upcoming sequel.