Wednesday, May 21, 2014

[Review] Godzilla

2014's Godzilla is one of the most welcomed remakes in recent memory. Director Gareth Edwards proves to be a strong force, and his contemporary imagining of this gargantuan reptile tale is full of technical prowess. Although the film doesn't really expound anything new conceptually, it manages to be more than just another try at resurrecting an iconic monster. The film pays faithful homage to the original 1954 version, and it often recalls Jurassic Park and Alien (in fact, the structural template is significantly similar to Jurassic Park when you think about it). And those influences work in its favor. But most importantly, this film respects the beast.

Bryan Cranston holds the plot's earlier weight, wielding some of his serious post-Walter White chops as an engineer caught up in seismic shifts and disasters at a nuclear plant. Things flash forward 15 years to his son, Ford (Aaron Taylor) a soldier coming home to his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and their young child. A pair of scientists, played by Ken Watanabe and Sallie Hawkins help frame the details and history. Basically, disruptions are brewing. Big ones.

Edwards is masterfully strategic in not showing his cards too soon. Things warm up when a couple of giant insect-like creatures (MUTOs) emerge to wreak havoc, leading to some teases and glimpses of the main event. Much of the film is shrouded in haze, as if the ultimate dark cloud is hanging over continent, appropriately aiding the disaster flick mood. Even when Godzilla is fully revealed, Edwards never lingers on the beast too long, which makes the payoffs of roaring mayhem all the more powerful, superbly capturing the massive scope and the thrills people came for. And most of the film is fittingly presented from ground/human perspective, making for some spectacular POV angles that are greatly enhanced in IMAX 3D. The money shots are delivered on both large and small scales. Edwards carries over some of the intimate details and careful compositions from his debut Monsters into this world. My nominee for #PerfectShot is the medium close-up of a gas-masked Cranston on a boat, while a panoramic view of the dilapidated nuclear plant lurks directly behind him.

The film flaunts some impressive CGI. The monsters are meticulously detailed, from the mountainous back spikes - to the skin flaps of the terrifyingly opened jaws. They genuinely seem like fully-volumed, texturally consistent objects meshing with the surroundings, rather than thin products of unconvincing computer graphics. The visual exhilaration is at it its finest during the film's many memorable action setpieces--a tranquil Hawaiian luau that is disastrously cut short, absolute chaos on the Golden Gate bridge, an eery scene on an elevated railway track where everything that can go wrong - does.

Sure, the film isn't without flaws. The characters are bland (aside from Cranston's), and some of the story's early establishments are ditched--raising some missed opportunities in later acts. The dialogue is stale, but when there's such a colossal and furiously entrancing beast destroying everything in sight, no one is really going to care what people are saying.


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