(Warning – Spoilers Ahead! – If you have not seen the 2014 Godzilla film and don’t want to know details about it please stop reading here]
Since it’s release on May 14th, the 2014 version of Godzilla has earned close to $375,000,000 worldwide. On Rotten Tomatoes Godzilla is enjoying over 70 percent of both fans and critics recommending the film. Those numbers are both in the 20 percent range for the 1998 American version of Godzilla in case you were wondering.
I finally saw Godzilla this weekend, in San Francisco which was it turns out very appropriate, and four major things stuck out to me as reasons this movie has been so successful and has people excited about Godzilla again.
1. It didn’t try to be funny.
Now I am totally open to a great campy Godzilla movie. But camp is surprisingly hard to pull off. What usually happens in big Hollywood summer movies is that the filmmakers TRY to make the film funny, and fail. We’ve all been in the theater and heard the groans from the audience at the “maybe it seemed funny in the writers room or on the set but it’s really just a lame line” moment in summer blockbusters. The makers of Godzilla spared us from this because they didn’t even try to be make it funny or feel the need to have “comic relief” characters to lighten the mood.
The film is a thriller, slowly building to its climax, and is better off for knowing what it is and sticking to it.
2. The film had good actors and the dialogue (shockingly) wasn’t excruciating
The cast in Godzilla does a great job. I found myself immediately rooting for Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche at the beginning of the film, and I admit part of that was probably because I was already fans of them from their previous work. I thought Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen did fine jobs as the couple in crisis. There were a lot of cliche moments in their roles, but that wasn’t their fault or a huge problem for me overall because this is a monster movie, not Shakespeare. And I enjoyed seeing the very talented David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe, and Sally Hawkins in the film as well in their respective supporting roles. Which I think just proves (the somewhat obvious point) that a good actor can help you immerse yourself in a film’s world much easier than a bad one. Why not hire these guys if they are up for the adventure? And how much fun is it for many of these “serious” actors to be in a monster movie, especially when the dialogue isn’t as embarrassing as it is in so many other summer blockbusters.
3. There was more than one monster in the film.
There’s a reason a lot of the most beloved Godzilla movies have ‘vs.’ in the middle of their titles. It’s fun to see Godzilla fight other monsters. In Godzilla he gets to fight two of them. Which is why Ken Watanabe’s line “Let them fight.” is the best line in the movie. Because yes it’s fun to see monsters destroy large buildings but it is way more fun to see two monsters fight each other. And Godzilla really did a great job with the monster fighting scenes.
4. Godzilla is a good guy
The only thing better than seeing Godzilla fight another monster is actively cheering for Godzilla during the fight. In Godzilla we got a big scary fire breathing monster who is happy to leave the humans alone and take a dip back in the ocean once he’s taken care the other monsters. Any time a movie gets you to consider shedding a tear for the well being of a CGI creature they are winning the battle of the summer movies in my book.