Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Written by: Max Borenstein & Dave Callaham
In 1999, a couple of scientists find some pods in a cave in the Philippines. Meanwhile, Joe Brody and his son Ford Brody begin what should be just another day, that quickly turns into tragedy. Joe’s wife heads into a sealed off area of the nuclear power plant that they both work at. An earthquake sets off a chain reaction that releases radiation into the area and Joe has to close the doors, knowing that his wife is still in there, sentencing her to death. The earthquake continues, eventually collapsing the entire plant and threatening the entire area. Jump to fifteen years later, Ford Brody, now a young man with a family of his own, returns from his most recent tour with the Army. A lieutenant he is called to bail his Father out of jail, leaving his family behind in San Francisco. His father has spent the last fifteen years attempting to prove that the disaster which destroyed the power plant and led to his wife’s demise was not natural and that the Japanese government is attempting to cover it up. He drags his son along to the quarantine zone where there old house was and discover that the government is hiding one of the pods from the beginning of the film. They arrive just in time for it to give birth to a creature called Muto, which eventually begins communicating with the second pod, now located in Area 51. The two mutos awaken and begin to crawl towards each other, threatening San Francisco, where Ford Brody’s family lives. Also, Godzilla is there to fight with the Navy against the Mutos.
If that seems like I spoiled a lot of the plot of the movie, I promise that’s only the first half hour or so, and it really is about that much information. This movie has pacing issues, where all of this plot up here happens in about the first third of the film, but almost nothing of important plot relevance occurs afterwards. It’s simply Joe’s journey to return to San Francisco and do something about the monsters threatening his family.
Here’s the first gripe: Did you notice how much I talked about Godzilla in that synopsis? Godzilla is not present in the film titled Godzilla. Oh he’s there, but he’s almost an afterthought. The film focuses so much on the human level, that you forget at times that its a monster film. The entire first built up monster fight between Godzilla and a Muto is established and worked up to for an intense monster versus monster smack down and then it cuts to a scene of the fight happening in the background of a news broadcast, just for it to cut to the next morning looking at the destroyed city scape and noting that, “Yep, something really awesome just happened here, too bad we didn’t show you it.”
Which would be perfectly fine if the human level of this movie worked. But the human level of this movie suffers from consistency issues. For one, the dialogue is not well written. Nearly every line of dialogue is an explanation of the motivation or behavior of the Muto monsters. Any line of dialogue not having to do with them is going to be about Joe Brody’s beliefs about a conspiracy. Any other line of dialogue is going to be Navy men shouting orders at each other. There are several notable lines of dialogue throughout the trailers for the film. Just about every single one, when presented for us in the film, appears out of context, delivered in a conversation that makes no sense, and mostly sounds like characters spouting something for the sake of sounding cool… or appearing in the trailer.
From about five minutes into the movie I began asking myself why. Why do these characters say what they say? Why did the film cut to this specific point after the end of the last film? Twice, it appears that Joe Brody is going to or has been killed just for the film to do a jump cut and he appears again, still alive from something that logically should have killed him. Why does this character suddenly change motivation scene to scene? At one point a mother declares that she and her child are going to be staying behind while her friend evacuates. Her reasoning is that she knows her husband is coming soon. The very next shot of this woman is her placing her son on the bus alone and staying behind herself. We have no declaration of what has changed her mind, or why she changed her mind for just her son to get on the bus.
If the dialogue was already bad enough, we never really get genuine moments of the character talking to each other. There are a few tense moments between the Navy Commander and Dr. Serizawa, for the intents and purposes of the film, a slightly deranged Godzilla expert. Joe and Ford never have any tense emotional moments, despite Ford’s assertions that he believes his father is crazy and the seeming nature of him to just forget things that are too emotional for him. He then follows his father to a government quarantined island, just to humor him I suppose. He never says one emotional thing to his Father, he never tells him to let it go or move on, he mostly stares while his Father rants about the conspiracy.
So, then, if the human drama is going to be bad simply from a lack of well written dialogue resulting in a lack of good acting and suffering from consistency due to poor editing, at least we can see some monster fights, at least a really cool CGI Godzilla can punch another monster in the face. Sure, the film says, he will, near the end of the movie after we’ve teased two monster fights and not shown you either. Sure, the film says, after we establish that something tense is going to happen on the human level, and even during this climactic battle between monsters we’re going to constantly jump back to Ford who is crawling amongst the wreckage of San Francisco to disarm a nuclear device that the Navy put there because even though we changed the origin of Godzilla which told us that NUKES ARE BAD M’KAY, we want to go ahead and reassert that mindlessly using NUKES is BAD M’KAY.
I am left wondering why. Why would someone have looked at this finished product and decided it was finished? It very clearly isn’t. Nearly every scene suffers from some consistency issue or pure lack of dialogue in the space that’s provided. Nearly an hour and forty five minutes of the film is spent with the camera mostly taken up by the face of the actors in question, who are most often staring at another actor who also isn’t saying anything. There are moments where any level of emotional dialogue can take place. We are following characters that have been traumatized by the loss of important family members, who have watched their parents grow up to be conspiracy nut cases, who are now living in a world in which gigantic dinosaurs are roaming the earth and they must desperately get back to their families.
I don’t mind waiting for a monster fight in a film. I’m not complaining that the monsters weren’t there in what was advertised as a monster movie. I’m complaining that what they decided to replace monster fights with was this crappy an execution of human drama. There is an obvious lack of understanding of the mechanics of drama, character motivation, internal consistency, and on top of all of that, I only get to see Godzilla fight for like ten minutes tops? And you teased me two other fight scenes that you just didn’t show because… reasons? And I don’t even know WHY Godzilla is fighting these things without also fighting humans at any point? Why? Why did you advertise this film the way you did when it was not at all representative of the final product of this film in any way, shape, or form? Why was Godzilla not given a story in a film title Godzilla? Why is this the cut of the film that was released?
I do not recommend Godzilla to anyone. It is not satisfying for anyone wanting drama, it is not satisfying for anyone wanting an action blockbuster, it is not satisfying for anyone wanting a monster movie. There is no point in which we get any genre or any facet of what films in this day and age should reasonably provide. No one should see this movie and at the end of the day it deserves to fail.
Save your time, or go see Neighbors, I hear that’s pretty good.