Story by Dave Callaham
Screenplay by Max Borenstein
Directed by Gareth Edwards
We were all a little apprehensive when we learned that there would be a second American Godzilla movie. After all, once bitten, twice shy. And while the memories of Matthew Broderick battling a preggers dinosaur that loves fish while things go all Jurassic Park are scarred in memories forever, Gareth Edwards brought American Godzilla movies full circle into actually good. Godzilla is big, fights monsters, has atomic breath, isn’t taken out like a punk, and becomes a realized character despite being a CGI construct. He’s the real deal. Just saying that makes me so happy I had to recalibrate my breakdown of the film because it does have its flaws. Nothing that we haven’t seen before in major tentpole films, but I’m not above pointing them out again and again.
I had my problems with Gareth Edwards, I found Monsters interesting when it had anything to do with monsters, and not when it had anything to do with people. Edwards brings his monster affinity to full load with Godzilla, the monsters are just so huge, so out of scale, that people are just running around trying to survive beneath their feet. The sheer enormity is a stark contrast to how helpless everyone is when the creatures are around.
Edwards trades two hours of monster destruction porn for an array of different effects of the destruction, from news clips to destructive aftermaths to monsters fighting it out in the background while humans run for their lives. But there is plenty of fighting going on during the climactic scenes set in San Francisco. They play tribute to the monster fights of old, but allow at CGI Godzilla to do a few moves that wouldn’t quite work with people in suits. Overall, the fight sequences are fun, but the meat of the monster appearances are just showing them so huge and destructive, and the people struggling to survive. The sequences with the monsters on rampage become a mix of giant monster, horror, and nature run amok all rolled up into one, and pulled off perfectly.
Gareth Edwards still has problems making interesting people, but he’s compensated by using incredibly awesome actors who turn those people interesting despite what they are given. Bryan Cranston is amazing as the obsessive dad who jumbles from one tragedy to another. Aaron Taylor-Johnson had good chemistry with Elizabeth Olsen (which will be important as they’re siblings in Avengers 2!), but when by himself just became a less charming Channing Tatum. Moments like when he was suddenly guarding a shoehorned in random Japanese kid gave him more depth than all his running around while covered in dirt scenes combined.
Godzilla here is part of a large conspiracy to cover up that there are large monsters in the world, and he’s the apex predator. The problem is when the other ones start popping up, because they begin destroying cities and causing all sorts of destruction. Things can no longer be hidden away, and soon Godzilla leaves his Pacific Atoll to destroy these new idiots. No one challenges the king.