Release Date(s)2014 (September 16, 2014)
Studio(s)Legendary (Warner Bros. / Toho)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: C
[Editor's Note: This review contains spoilers for the film. Read at your own risk.]
Godzilla returned to theaters in 2014 with quite a big roar at the box office. Director Gareth Edwards, who was mainly known for his work on the film Monsters, slowly built up a campaign for Godzilla, revealing small pieces of information at a time until the film’s trailers came along. The film was successful and there’s a planned series of sequels coming in the years ahead.
Here’s something that you ought to know about me: I am not a Godzilla fan. Yes, I admit freely. I’ll hand in my nerd card and go back to where I came from. The truth is, I just appreciate Godzilla more than I am a fan, the original film specifically. I understand its place in film history and I don’t have anything incredibly personal against it, but I am not a fan. That’s ok though. There’s a big enough fan base out there that my opinions don’t really matter in that regard... but just for kicks, let’s get into some of my opinions anyways about this new incarnation of the big radioactive fellow.
To be honest, when the trailers and the TV spots for the film started rolling out, I just couldn’t have cared less. It looked like all of the other big budget Hollywood movies to me, despite the insistence from others that Gareth Edwards was out to make a summer blockbuster that was actually good. Godzilla 2014 certainly isn’t a big pile of shit like its 1998 counterpart, but it’s definitely not a solid film. It has some positives to it, mainly that the visual effects are pretty good, but special effects don’t make a movie good. You’ve got to have a good, solid, emotional core to story, as well. One could argue that Godzilla movies have never really had that and why start now? And it’s true, to some extent, but for a modern-day movie of this type, you need to get your audience on board with some human connections. This is where this new Godzilla fails, in my opinion.
There isn’t a strong emotional connection with the audience as the story kicks in and the big events start to happen. We start to have that with Bryan Cranston, but he is quickly killed off, which is the biggest mistake that this movie makes. And it’s not just that he’s the best character and the best actor in the movie, because he is, but it’s because we’re invested in him at that point. After his departure, we’re left with his son, his son’s wife, and their little boy, all of which are thinly-drawn, boring characters. You cannot cast an actor of Bryan Cranston’s caliber in a role where he’s set up as the lead and then pull the rug out from under the audience. His emotional ties are set up early with the death of his wife and his reconnection with his son. Later on, he’s out to find out why his wife died and what the military is hiding from everyone. That should have been the movie, right there. It may be on the clichéd side, but it’s what the movie needs to be engaging and interesting.
The next problem is that for a movie that’s called Godzilla, the monster isn’t in it all that much. Godzilla has almost no screen time and he doesn’t show up in the movie until about an hour into it. And this isn’t me being impatient about seeing the monster. I don’t mind build up in a movie to create some tension and set up some characters and character dynamics, but there’s never any real build up in this case. The characters talk about Godzilla and the other monsters early on (and show the latter a couple of times), but it’s already been established that there’s no emotional connection or anything of intrigue to make things more interesting for the story to expand. Godzilla just sort of shows up, and he’s in the movie for a little over six minutes. Even when he IS on screen, they still try to hide him most of the time and not show him off so much.
Some could argue that “less is more” when it comes to a monster movie, which is certainly true. On the one hand, the filmmakers didn’t go overboard with showing off Godzilla, or for that matter, spend a lot of time with silly and useless characters who have no purpose like in the 1998 film, but on the other hand, they went too far in the other direction. A middle ground was never reached. They barely show off their monster with little to no emotional investment. My point is that we need something more to latch onto, and we need to see the monster more. That’s all I’m asking for. The makings of a good monster movie are there, but not enough is done with it.
Even with all of its problems, the Blu-ray presentation of Godzilla looks fantastic. It’s a top-notch presentation from top to bottom, and I don’t have anything negative to say about it. Image detail is quite abundant, colors are vibrant, skin tones are very natural-looking, blacks are inky deep, there’s plenty of detail in the shadows, and both brightness and contrast are perfect. I didn’t notice any signs of digital enhancement either. The audio is of equal caliber, being presented in three channels: English 7.1 DTS-HD and Spanish & French 5.1 Dolby Digital. The 7.1 presentation just rocks your speakers out. Dialogue is always clean, clear, and prioritized, ambience fills the surround speakers, sound effects have a lot of boom, and the score is spaced out perfectly. There’s plenty of dynamic range and lots of low frequency activity, as well. It’s a very loud and booming soundtrack with plenty of envelopment to it, carrying a real sonic punch. It’s a perfect presentation, overall. There are also subtitles in English SDH, French, and Spanish for those who might need them. [Editor’s Note: A Blu-ray 3D version is also available here for those who may prefer it.]
In the supplemental section, you’ll find that it’s kind of light with mainly promotional featurettes. The MONARCH: Declassified section contains three featurettes (Operation: Lucky Dragon, MONARCH: The M.U.T.O. File, The Godzilla Revelation), all of which treat the events of the movie as if they were real, while The Legendary Godzilla featurettes (Godzilla: Force of Nature, A Whole New Level of Destruction, Into the Void: The H.A.L.O. Jump, Ancient Enemy: The M.U.T.O.s) discuss the actual making of the movie. There’s also a DVD copy of the movie, as well as an insert with a code for Ultraviolet access.
When all is said and done, Godzilla 2014 will likely be a favorite amongst fans and certain audiences, but for someone like me who likes better characters and more of the monster in a monster movie, it’s only a passable film. It’s nowhere near mediocre, but it’s certainly not in the top rankings for me. However, if you’re fan of the movie, you should be more than pleased with the visual and aural presentation of Godzilla on Blu-ray. It’s quite excellent.
- Tim Salmons