Gareth Edwards bursted on the scene with his debut film Monsters in 2010, which was good enough for Warner Brothers to trust a film about the king of the monsters: Godzilla. Godzilla’s special effects are dazzling and Edwards’ directing at times is chilling. Although the script is barely passable, the films works in large part due to the directing style of Edwards and his minimalist technique.
Steven Spielberg perfected the art of the unseen and Gareth Edwards was taking notes. Like in Jaws and Jurassic Park, a lot of what makes those films work are the ideas that something else is there, something large, scary, and possibly deadly. The in-between moments of peril are where those movies thrive. The rustling of the trees, the shaking of the ground, the noises of the creatures. Although Godzilla is not nearly on that level, its approach of showing the hidden elements of the monsters gives this film a unique monster feel. Edwards excels in the “less is more” department. Monsters is also a very good example of this sort of filmmaking.
The build-up of the first scene we see Godzilla was flawless. You know he’s coming, but where is he? The beach emptied its water and the people scattered in fear of a tsunami, but no Godzilla. Not until the soldiers on the ground start shooting at it and it is only then that you see the massive monster walking through the city. And even then it is really only bits and pieces we see of the giant monster. Again, less is more in films like this.
But do you know where the “less is more” mantra doesn’t work? With the writing. I enjoyed Bryan Cranston’s Joe Brody and his search for the truth. But then Ford Brody, Joe’s son, played by Aaron Taylor Johnson, does not pick up where his father left off once Joe abruptly dies. The search for the truth ends. Okay, he did discover part of the truth, but Ford simply tells Dr. Serizawa (played by the always stellar Ken Watanabe) the one thing his dad told him and then every aspect of Joe Brody’s life is gone. All I’m asking for is that a part of him was carried on by his son. That’s all. Instead, his death seemed almost irrelevant.
And I hate the excuse that this was just a monster movie, so why should I expect a compelling storyline? Um, it’s been done before, even as recently as last summer with Pacific Rim, which developed characters enough for their actions and deaths to mean something. What I would like to see is for Edwards to write the script for the sequel (and beyond, since apparently he’s directing Godzilla 2 AND Godzilla 3. He is also signed on to do a Star Wars spinoff, which is due for release on my birthday in 2016!!! December 16th for those who don’t know my birthday. Shame on you for not knowing). He already proved his penmanship with Monsters, as he made the movie more about the characters than the monsters. We don’t need a meta script with deep themes and extravagant characters. We just want something with a little more care. Some people hated on Aaron Taylor Johnson’s performance. Okay, he wasn’t great, but there was nothing in the script where he needed to be great. He just had to be present.
However, as far as Godzilla movies go, this one is still probably the best. Edwards did a fantastic job of giving homage to the lore of the king of the monsters. From his trademark roar, to his swimming in the ocean, to his sweeping tail, and to his fire-breathing prowess, Godzilla has never looked better. The best homage to Godzilla had to be his departure back into the ocean after the battle. Classic.
All in all, Godzilla has enough action and directing style to make it entertaining. Sequels (plural) are already being planned, so there’s hope for better scripts. Also, it will be interesting seeing what monsters Godzilla will be summoned to fight. Since this world treats Godzilla and the MUTOs as real, then the monsters Godzilla fights will need plausible story lines. Now if only the characters could be more plausible . . . then we’d really be onto something.