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Godzilla (1954) Review

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Godzilla (1954)

Time: 96 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Some scenes may scare very young children
Cast:
Akira Takarada as Hideto Ogata
Momoko Kōchi as Emiko Yamane
Akihiko Hirata as Dr. Daisuke Serizawa
Takashi Shimura as Dr. Kyohei Yamane
Director: Ishirō Honda

When a seemingly indestructible fire-breathing monster is created as a result of the testing of American nuclear weapons, the government takes help from a reclusive scientist to kill the monster.

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I liked the American Godzilla movies from the 2010s with Godzilla and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. However, Godzilla has a very long history of films, and I did want to go back to the very beginning and see how they used to be. With 1954’s Godzilla I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I didn’t think it would have aged all that well. However, it actually surprised me how great this movie is and mostly holds up to a degree.

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While other Godzilla movies has Godzilla fighting other monsters, 1954 Godzilla keeps things simple by having it making it just Godzilla occasionally pop up to terrorize and destroy the city. You don’t actually see a lot of Godzilla, and that played a big part of making his presence so effective. Once you see him fully for the first time, you feel his presence in the movie even when he’s not on screen. The movie is actually darker than I thought it would be, and that makes sense given that it comes from a place of real life horror. For those who don’t know, basically Godzilla symbolizes nuclear holocaust from Japan’s perspective, nearly a decade after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the 1940s. It touches on social issues and provides commentary on Japan’s current society in general at the time, and the moral debate about the use of deadly weapons is ever present. There’s a lot of weight to the story, everything is played seriously, and you really feel the impact of certain moments and even dread throughout. Godzilla is 96 minutes long, which is a pretty good length for the movie, and it spends its time effectively, not a minute is wasted. It doesn’t rely on the destruction or the monster to drive the film (even though Godzilla is sort of the focus of the movie), and it takes its time with the plot. Thankfully, I was invested in the story quite a bit.

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The cast are quite good. The most surprising things was that the use and focus on the characters are at the right level for the movie. Most monster movies have stock human characters that either distract or feel obligatory and just to be there, and are usually the weakest part of each of these movies. Although I wouldn’t call them among the best parts of this film, these characters actually feel human and they fit the story fine enough. The highlights were Takashi Shimura as one of the scientists investigating Godzilla, and Akihiko Hirata as another scientist who has potentially created something that could be used against Godzilla.

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Godzilla is directed well by Ishirō Honda, and I was surprised at how well it mostly holds up. No doubt you’ve at some point seen glimpses of the old Godzilla in the earlier movies using miniatures and a stunt actor in a Godzilla suit, and it looked goofy. While it of course doesn’t look as good as the more recent Godzilla movies, considering it’s the 1950s, in this movie it actually looks quite impressive. The black and white definitely helps, while no doubt there were multiple reasons for filming it in this way, it fits the tone quite well.

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Godzilla is a dark, impactful and thematic monster movie, that’s greatly directed, written and acted. It was innovative for its time but even now there’s a lot to appreciate about it. If you liked the more recent Godzilla films, I highly recommend going back to the 1954 original at the very least, it is well worth the watch.

Godzilla (2014) Review

Time: 123 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ford Brody
Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishirō Serizawa
Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody
Elizabeth Olsen as Elle Brody
Juliette Binoche as Sandra Brody
Sally Hawkins as Dr. Vivienne Graham
David Strathairn as Admiral William Stenz
Director: Gareth Edwards

When mankind found an ancient spore, they began to preserved until nearly 15 years, it hatches. Now with malevolent terrestrial organisms threatening the existence of man kind, an ancient creature from the depts of the ocean, will rise again to fulfill natures order to restore its balance, while also making sure mankind never makes the same mistakes again.

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I remember watching Godzilla back in 2014 and really liking it, it was the first Godzilla movie I watched (and to this date is currently the only one I’ve seen). With the sequel, King of the Monsters coming very soon, I just knew that I had to go back and give it another look, and I’m glad to say that it still works really well.

One of the main criticisms was that for a movie named Godzilla, he doesn’t appear a huge amount. I don’t personally have that problem, I feel like some parts of the human aspect could’ve been a little stronger, but you don’t exactly want to be all out with Godzilla very early on, especially considering how he plays such a large part in the climax. They take time building up to him, teasing you with brief shots of him. Maybe they are a little forceful with how much they hid him, just as he appears they cut away and then there are news people talking about it or you suddenly see the aftermath, so I can’t entirely blame people for feeling slightly cheated in how they handle some of his early scenes. On the whole though, the slow build up to Godzilla never really bothered me. The human side of the movie wasn’t bad and was fine, however it felt like it could’ve been stronger. You don’t really have an emotional connection to what’s going on or the characters (except for Bryan Cranston, and even then it’s because he played the role so well). The movie is 2 hours long and that was a fitting length for it, every scene feels necessary and furthers the plot and the pacing is pretty hood. Even some of the more familiar scenes such as the exposition scenes (mainly explaining Godzilla) and military people talking about important things are handled in such a way and given such weight that you don’t really mind it, they actually legitimately work. And it all culminates in a big monster showdown of a climax and is just glorious to watch.

The human characters aren’t that good but the cast play them as good as they can. The actor who steals the show is Bryan Cranston, he adds so much to this movie. He puts so much into his performance and elevates things (including the whole movie) to a whole new level. Unfortunately, he’s not on screen as much as you think he would, despite the trailers featuring him heavily. I don’t like to be all “the movie would’ve been better if…” but honestly the movie would’ve been stronger if Cranston was at least one of the leads throughout the movie. In the end the human lead character is really Aaron Taylor Johnson, who’s unfortunately not that good here. He’s not a bad actor, he can actually be great (as evidence by his performances in films like Nocturnal Animals and Outlaw King) but for whatever reason, he’s not strong as a lead here and largely falls flat, even though he wasn’t necessarily terrible. The rest of the cast consisting of the likes of Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Elizabeth Olsen and Juliette Binoche were pretty good and played their roles as best as they possible could.

The direction by Gareth Edwards was great and was a large part of why this movie works as well as it does. Something that he proved with this and Rogue One is that he’s great at making things feel on such a large scale. The monsters were really good and were designed really well, they really felt like large titans with great power. And of course there’s Godzilla, it takes a while before you get to see him in his full glory, but it’s well worth the wait. The visual effects were also really great, same with the action, the destruction is among the best when it comes to recent blockbusters. There are some moments that are just stunning. One of the standouts was a HALO jump scene and it is great, the music, the look of everything, the POV shots, it just looked like a real jump into hell, and is by far one of the highlight moments of the film. The final action set piece is reason enough to see this movie, with Godzilla and the rest of the monsters going at it. The score by Alexandre Desplat was also quite good and really added a lot to the movie.

Godzilla 2014 doesn’t quite get the love that it deserves, it’s got some minor problems but it’s not enough to take away from how strong this movie is on the whole. Gareth Edwards has really made Godzilla into a large scale and entertaining blockbuster, and was just really handled well overall. I’m definitely on board for whatever the sequel is bringing us.