Those That Came Before: Godzilla (2014)
May has been a packed month on the theatrical landscape, and while we are a bit behind in our movie showings, we have been diligent in looking back at the films that came before these new releases. We started with a look at the John Wick series prior to the release of John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum, and last week we revisited the 1992 Disney animated classic, Aladdin. This leads us to the relaunch of a franchise with 2014’s Godzilla. Directed by Gareth Edwards and written by Max Borenstein, the film follows a family deeply affected by an unknown creature and the reemergence of Godzilla. The film features Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ford Brody with Elizabeth Olsen playing his wife, Elle Brody. It also features Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Juliette Binoche, and Sally Hawkins. Godzilla was well-received critically and financially, and while Godzilla: King of the Monsters is set to hit theaters this Friday, the following sequel in Godzilla vs. Kong has already begun filming with a planned 2020 release date.
What works in this film?
The Human Focus
While a lot of people complained about the lack of Godzilla himself in this iteration, I actually thought it paved the way for the audience to connect with the human characters. The audience ends up being endeared to Ford long before his adult self actually appears on the screen thanks to the tragic backstory befalling his parents, and this story is brilliantly crafted. We feel invested in the lives of Ford, his wife, his son, and his father, and we can identify with the human characters as they are faced with a larger-than-life problem.
Godzilla has a rich history as a Japanese fictional character, and I think this film continues that legacy. The opening title sequence follows the 1954 nuclear bombing in the human characters’ feeble attempt to get rid of Godzilla. They stay true to the origin, but they also enhance the story by letting this bombing end up awakening a terrifying creature instead of killing Godzilla. This intro paves the way for the story to actually pick up in 1999, and it truly sets up the rest of the story that unfolds. I already mentioned it above, but the story and direction in this film really are spectacular.
In addition to the characters and the story, this film also gets it right in terms of pacing and story beats. Edwards made the decision to delay showing Godzilla on screen to increase tension and anticipation, and this Jaws like approach ends up paying off. He also takes his time in revealing the look of the MUTO, and it ends up making the creature more terrifying in the process. The film has a steady pace, taking its time to build our attachment to the human characters and hope for someone or something to save our main characters.
Heralds of the film/franchise
One Big Monster
Godzilla has always been a monstrously huge creature looming over the skyline, and this movie stays true to that depiction. This 2014 iteration of Godzilla is actually the largest size he had been until the version releasing this weekend. He towers over buildings and planes fly close to him, and his roar still brings chills to the audience. They structure him a little more of anti-hero in this movie, but he is still a huge, formidable creature. His design in this film actually stays true to the beloved original Toho Godzilla, and I personally cannot wait to see his story continued.
I already mentioned above that the backstory in the film plays a huge part in the success of the film. However, the backstory is not the only historical aspect of the character that this film incorporated. Godzilla has always been linked with nuclear radiation, and he has symbolized a great deal in that arena as well. This film allows for that while also honoring the history of the character by having the first half of the film based in Japan. The largest action set piece might take place in California, but the long Japanese history of the character is placed in the forefront from the opening title sequence.
As I briefly mentioned above, the Godzilla franchise has always symbolized a lot more than just a large monster attacking cities. Godzilla has represented everything from nuclear weapons to Japan’s forgetfulness about their imperial past to the human condition. The 2014 adaptation continues that long tradition by having Godzilla represent the age old conflict of man versus nature.
What can we expect in this upcoming sequel to Godzilla?
-An even bigger version of Godzilla
-Humans being in perilous danger (and essentially being helpless)
-Even more monsters to battle against Godzilla
-An excellent soundtrack and score (especially after their fantastic marketing campaign)
So, are you a fan of this iteration of Godzilla? Are you looking forward to the upcoming sequel? Comment and let us know!
Also, stay tuned next week as we venture into another new blog series.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.