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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Godzilla (2014) remake review

Overall verdict: 8.5/10

The Good: Returns to darker roots, immaculate special effects, intense build up to finale, nostalgic Akira Ifukube inspired score, powerful new Godzilla design, combines the best elements of all the past movies, Bryan Cranston.

The Bad: Aaron Tylor Johnson, lack of chemistry between 2 main leads.

3D Readiness: Post filming 3D conversion.
IMax-ability: Wide angle shots lends itself well to imax viewing

A king had once reigned supreme. But in 2004, Godzilla the king of monsters hung up his crown after a disappointing Final War. But soon, giant monsters started returning to screen; 2005's KING KONG, 2006 korean movie THE HOST, 2008's CLOVERFIELD, all vying for the title of king. Now 2013 comes up with PACIFIC RIM But No king is going to let a kaiju army reign supreme! So up from the depths steps GODZILLA to show these usurpers how a monster movie is really done.

In shaping Godzillas future, the creative team look back on the big G's past, digging deep into the earlier, darker themed Showa era godzilla movies and combining the best elements of 60 years worth of sequels. Like the first 1954 original, the monsters' appearance is teased and glimpsed through the human focused tale. This is slow build up and reveal calls back to classic monster movies like JAWS, ALIEN, and the original GODZILLA. Yet director Gareth Edwards successfully builds the tension right up to the big payoff clash of titanic proportions.

With No oxygen destroyer, masers, mutant soldiers or  other wonky scifi stuff from the Japanese movies, this new godzilla movie is grounded firmly in contemporary reality. GODZILLA 2014 opens with a discovery of an ancient monster fossil in a cavern in the Philippines. But something awoke from centuries of stasis, making a beeline for Japan's janjira nuclear plant, destroying it and killing a number of employees including Ford Brody's mother. Fast forward years later, Ford is a explosive disposal expert who has a family of his own. He is reunited with his estranged father Joe who believes a conspiracy is in the works over the janjira incident. Eventually, they uncover not just a conspiracy, but two ancient creatures of destruction hell bent on replacing humanity as the earth's dominant species. Their only hope lies in an equally ancient apex predator, GODZILLA.

Godzilla's design raised mixed reactions from viewers, but when seen in full motion, this bigger, meaner but definitely not leaner Godzilla is amazing! The design just screams "power" and makes sense for a creature of that size; thick skeletal structure, low centre of gravity, tough meaty exterior and smooth streamlined shape makes it believable that this creature can survive the ocean pressure near the earth's core, swim from Hawaii to San Francisco in a matter of hours yet support it's weight out of water. In motion, this is not the awkward lumbering japanese rubber beast, but a menacing massive yet graceful Titan with an intelligent spark in his eyes. This wearied, bulkier looking Godzilla feels like an old champion wrestler forced back into the ring to reclaim his title.

Perhaps this was what the creators were going for. The feel of an apex predator who, aside from some pesky atomic bombs giving him a mild sun burn once in a while, has not had a decent giant monster challenge in eons. Godzilla is aching for fight and when a couple of mating obsessed MUTOs wander through his turf........let's just say nobody lays eggs in the King's back yard. Director Gareth Edwards eschews frantic close ups for wide angle, full view cinematography, allowing every monster appearance on screen to be seen in its full glory. Special effects by "moving pictures company" and "amalgamated dynamics" bring the king of monsters to life, rivaling that of the more renown ILM or Weta.

As mentioned, this new movie just oozes with the best elements of 60 years of GODZILLA movies without any of the goofiness. The two enemy monster MUTOs resemble Orga and Megaguirus, two kaiju created in the millennium era godzilla movies, in their fighting style and design. This bigger, bulkier godzilla takes design cues from the Heisei era and Godzilla: Giant monsters All Out Attack, while his almost human-like intelligence recalls the "heroic" Showa Godzilla movies. Even Godzilas nuclear breath is a burning blue stream of irradiated particles like the Showa ear, rather than the dragonball Z styled giant laser beam of more recent godzilla shows.

But enough about Godzilla. How do the mandatory human characters fare? Well Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody is magnificent. He brings gravitas to his character and a heart wrenching emotional touch. Sadly, he is under utilized as the script focuses on Ford Brody. Aaron Taylor Johnson's performance is a little disappointing considering his character is a soldier. He mumbles his way through the movie in a wimpy little voice, sharing only a passing chemistry with his wife, played by Elizabeth Olsen.

Fans of all action monster mash ups like GODZILLA FINAL WAR or DESTROY ALL MONSTERS would no doubt find the slow burn build up boring. But fans of the 1954 classic and the more serious Showa era movies would have much to cheer about. With a nostalgic score by Alexander Desplat clearly inspired by the late great Akira Ifukube, GODZILLA serves as a harrowing metaphor of nature's supremacy over mankind. Where the 1954 classic was an analogy for the atomic bomb, 2014's movie brings to mind the tsunamis and nuclear plant meltdowns that shocked the world. A clever, emotionally engaging and powerful tribute to 60 years of Godzilla.

*****************************Review End***************************

Entertainment: A
Story: A
Acting: B+
Characters: A-
Music: A-
Replay value: A
"Brains": B-

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