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May 16, 2014

Godzilla: Bigger, badder, and better than ever

Godzilla finds director Gareth Edwards (who coincidentally made his directorial debut with Monsters) at his most diverse, and combines phenomenal acting performances and really fun special effects—driven action to form an extraordinary monster movie.

Edwards, very familiar with the invading-monster genre and its history, seems eager to create an homage to Ishirō Honda’s 1954 film of the same name. Sure, Godzilla is just another entry in the genre’s recent revival, but by focusing on the more human elements and character development rather than rampant destruction, Godzilla sets itself apart.

This diversion manifests itself as a character study with engineering expert Joe Brody (played by Bryan Cranston, of Breaking Bad fame), the film’s main (human) subject and a former physicist at the Janjira nuclear plant. While many other monster movies suffer when the monster is off-screen, here Godzilla excels: Its exploration into Joe’s psyche is directed and acted extraordinarily well, even by the astronomically high standards Cranston set for himself with Breaking Bad.

After a tragic accident at the nuclear plant, Joe becomes embroiled in an enduring quest to find the truth behind the disaster. Disregarded as a crackpot professor, Joe secludes himself in a cabin—the interior design of which resembles John Nash’s shed in A Beautiful Mind. Fifteen years after the nuclear meltdown, Joe’s son, Lieutenant Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson of Kick-Ass 1 and 2), comes to bring his father back to reality and drag him back into the fray of society. When Lieutenant Brody gets sucked into his father’s search for answers, the viewer recognizes Cranston’s remarkable proficiency as a performer. Joe is too focused on his work to even ask about his son’s well-being. Yet, even through the worst stages of his near-psychotic determination and almost inhumane disregard of his son, the immense love Joe has for Lt. Brody is still evident in his weathered visage. It’s a remarkably nuanced performance by Cranston, and his execution of rookie screenwriter Max Borenstein’s over-the-top lines is masterful.

As much as the first segment of the film is a well-directed character study, the latter portion is an equally well-crafted action movie. Godzilla’s fight scenes are well-orchestrated and extremely fun. As with most other monster or action movies, the plot holes are evident, but as is the case in all of the great ones, the inconsistencies don’t matter because you’re having too much fun to care. Godzilla thrives on this.

Of course, this does not mean that the action-packed portions of the film are without cinematic merit. There are countless sequences displaying Edwards’ expertise behind the camera, including a memorable shot of parachuters barreling down through the clouds with red smoke trails streaming from their feet. The film’s indulgent action, in conjunction with skillful cinematography, makes for some fantastic viewing.

Edwards’ ability to make a remarkable yet intelligent film out of the classic monster movie Godzilla truly is a testament to his competency as a director. Anchored by Cranston’s dominating performance and extraordinary special effects, Godzilla proves itself a must-see movie this spring season.

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