Rating: **** 1/2
"The arrogance of man is thinking nature is in our control and not the other way around."
Subtle? No way. If you want a feel-good tale about the importance of humanity in the face of disaster, Gareth Edward's take on the most famous of movie monsters isn't likely to be your cup of tea. "Godzilla" offers poignant human moments, but most are of the unpleasant variety; focused on loss, pain and how we move forward.
Frankly, that's not what the film is about. That's a common complaint of the 2014 film. I call it a feature. Where so many films choose to overstate the importance and impact of its human characters, "Godzilla" allows us to feel a true sense of awe at the power of the titular monster.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson's Ford becomes nothing more than a spectator in the third act as Godzilla battles the pair of MUTOs. Edwards delivers the spectacle the King of the Monster deserves with a tremendous fight scene in a spectacular setting.
For once, an American take on Godzilla works because the monster is treated with a modicum of respect. Time helps, but this feels like the final brushstroke over the putrid 1998 film that sought to turn Toho's creature into nothing more than a souped-up dinosaur.
This is much more than that in part because Edwards and company helps build a compelling universe before giving us a stellar third act. Casting Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe lend legitimacy to the proceedings. We need both to lay the emotional foundation for the entirety of the film: Cranston gives Ford a reason to keep going, while Watanabe is a sort of crunchy-granola Ahab. Please write a movie about this character.
It would be nice to see Edwards steer the film more directly towards the themes he allows Watanabe to wax poetically about. I like to believe he allows viewers to discover these themes for themselves, but if I'm honest with myself it's more likely he ran out of real estate in terms of runtime and screenplay. That's okay; I don't mind filling in the gaps when given the opportunity.
The classic monster movies are collections of set pieces more than a screenplay with a story. "Godzilla" rises slightly above that to give a theme, too. I love this film as a statement about the lack of importance of humanity on this planet; throw in some excellent action and a good cast, and this is a criminally underrated film. Fight me.
Better yet, I'll let Godzilla take care of the fighting for me.