Godzilla is a 2014 American science fiction monster film directed by Gareth Edwards and a reboot of Toho’s Godzilla franchise. It is the 30th film in the Godzilla franchise, the first film in Legendary’s MonsterVerse, and the second Godzilla film to be completely produced by a Hollywood studio, the first being the 1998 film of the same name. It stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, and Bryan Cranston.
The film is a co-production between Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures, with the latter also distributing the film worldwide, except in Japan where it was distributed by Toho. The project initially began in 2004 and was originally intended to be an IMAX short film but was later transferred to Legendary for development as a feature film. Principal photography took place in the United States and Canada in 2013.
Godzilla was released worldwide in 2D, 3D and IMAX on May 16, 2014 to positive reviews and was a box office success, grossing $200 million domestically and $529.1 million worldwide. The film’s success prompted Toho to produce a reboot of their own and Legendary to proceed with sequels and a shared cinematic franchise, with Godzilla: King of Monsters set to be released in 2019 and Godzilla vs. Kong to be released in 2020.
In 1954, Godzilla, an ancient alpha predator, is lured to an island in an attempt to kill it with a nuclear bomb. In 1999, Project Monarch scientists Ishiro Serizawa and Vivienne Graham investigate a colossal skeleton unearthed in a collapsed mine in the Philippines. They find two giant spores; one dormant and one hatched with a trail that leads to the sea. In Japan, the Janjira Nuclear Power Plant experiences unusual seismic activity; Supervisor Joe Brody sends his wife Sandra with a team of other technicians into the reactor. A tremor breaches the reactor, leaving Sandra and her team unable to escape while the plant collapses.
Fifteen years later in 2014, Joe’s son Ford, a U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal officer, returns from a tour of duty to his family in San Francisco but has to immediately depart for Japan after Joe is detained for trespassing in the Janjira quarantine zone. Joe is determined to find out the cause of the Janjira meltdown and persuades Ford to accompany him to their old home in the quarantine zone to retrieve vital data. They successfully retrieve the data but are discovered by soldiers and taken to a secret facility in the power plant’s ruins. After several power failures, a giant winged creature emerges and escapes, destroying the facility. Joe is severely wounded and dies as he and Ford are taken by helicopter to the U.S.S. Saratoga. The incident is reported around the world as an earthquake.
Serizawa, Graham, and Ford join a U.S. Navy task force led by Admiral William Stenz to search for the creature, called a “MUTO” (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). Serizawa and Graham reveal to Ford that a 1954 deep sea expedition triggered the appearance of Godzilla and nuclear tests in the 1950s were really attempts to kill him. Project Monarch was established to secretly study Godzilla and other similar creatures such as the MUTO, traveled from the Philippine mine to Janjira and caused the meltdown, and how they are connected with each other. Ford reveals that Joe had monitored echolocation signals that indicated the MUTO was communicating with something.
The MUTO attacks a Russian submarine and drops it on land in Hawaii to eat the sub’s nuclear material. Godzilla arrives, causing a tsunami in Honolulu and briefly engages the MUTO in battle, until it flees. Meanwhile, a second, larger, wingless MUTO emerges from the other spore in Nevada and devastates Las Vegas. The scientists deduce the second MUTO is female, the female was the one the male was communicating with, and that the two MUTOs will meet to breed in San Francisco. Over the scientists’ objections, Stenz approves a plan to use nuclear warheads to lure and destroy the monsters. Ford returns to the U.S. and ends up joining the team delivering the warheads by train, but the female MUTO intercepts the train and devours most of the warheads. The single remaining warhead is airlifted with Ford to San Francisco and is activated after a confrontation between the military and Godzilla at the Golden gate bridge. The male MUTO steals the warhead and takes it to the female, who forms a nest around it in the Chinatown area.
While Godzilla and the MUTOs battle, a strike team, including Ford, enters the city via HALO jump to find and disarm the warhead. Unable to access the timer, the rest of the team sets the warhead on a boat for disposal at sea. The MUTOs are eventually able to get the upper hand, but Ford blows up the MUTO nest, ultimately distracting the MUTOs enough to allow Godzilla to emerge victorious in the end, killing the male MUTO by slamming him with his tail into the side of an office building and the female by firing his atomic breath down her throat, beheading her. Godzilla then collapses on the city shore. With the rest of the team wiped out, Ford uses the last of his energy to get the boat with the warhead out to sea. He is rescued before the warhead explodes and reunites with his family at the Oakland Coliseum emergency shelter the following morning. Godzilla awakens, rising from the destroyed San Francisco, and returns to sea while the media hails Godzilla as “King of the Monsters – savior of our city?”.
Film composer Alexandre Desplat was hired to compose an original soundtrack for Godzilla. Desplat had not composed previously for a monster film, having worked on movies such as The King’s Speech, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and the final two Harry Potter films. Desplat accepted the contract after being impressed with Edwards’ film Monsters. Desplat describes the soundtrack for Godzilla as “non-stop fortissimo, with lots of brass, Japanese drums, and electric violin.” The score is also conducted by Desplat. The film score was released by WaterTower Music on May 12 and 13, 2014.
The film also features György Ligeti’s Requiem, Dusty Springfield’s 1969 recording of “Breakfast in Bed,” and Elvis Presley’s “(You’re the) Devil in Disguise.”
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ford Brody:
The son of Joe and Sandra Brody. After the nuclear plant’s collapse, he grows up in the United States and becomes a Lieutenant in the United States Navy as an explosive ordnance disposal technician. When Taylor-Johnson first met with Edwards, they talked for six hours about the archetype of the character. Taylor-Johnson stated that Edwards brought a level of “intimacy” to the film and praised him for treating it like a “big budget art film”. He stated, “I think he went for the right balance of sensitivity and testosterone. I’ve probably been more emotionally challenged in this film than in any independent drama or thriller”. Taylor-Johnson went through training to achieve military etiquette, and said he performed “quite a lot of the stunts”. The role of Ford was reportedly offered to Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 2012, but he declined. By 2013, Henry Cavill, Scoot McNairy, and Caleb Landry Jones comprised the shortlist for the role before Legendary took interest in Taylor-Johnson. CJ Adams portrays Brody as a young boy.
Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa:
The lead scientist for Project Monarch. Watanabe was initially skeptical about a new Hollywood Godzilla film but changed his mind after a meeting with Edwards, stating, “If you are telling the Godzilla story, you cannot separate it from the nuclear element, and the first thing I asked was whether there was going to be the nuclear element, as that now, in Japan, is a really sensitive problem. I was worried about how I could use that and how I could make that okay, but Gareth understood those feelings.” Watanabe’s character is named after the director of various Godzilla films, Ishiro Honda, and after the scientist who killed Godzilla in the 1954 original film, Dr. Daisuke Serizawa.
Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody:
Ford’s father and former lead engineer at the Janjira nuclear plant until its destruction in 1999. Cranston has said that Edwards’ approach to the film and to its characterization is what drew him to the project. He stated, “The most important thing about this version of Godzilla is the characterization. The characters in this are real, well drawn. (Edwards) takes the time to really establish who these people are, that you root for them, that you invest in these characters, and that you care for them. That’s the best part of it.” Cranston additionally added, “I wouldn’t be here if it was just, ‘Look out, this monster is crushing everything!’ Instead of trying to humanize the beast what this film does – and, I think, rightfully so – is humanize the people. You root for them and sympathize with their plight”. Cranston also joined the film because he has been a fan of Godzilla since childhood, stating, “Godzilla was always my favorite monster when I was young. He was unapologetic.” Cranston had to wear a wig for his scenes due to finishing Breaking Bad days before joining Godzilla. Cranston was initially ready to decline the offer after being approached, assuming the film was going to be “silly”, however, director Edwards’ passion for the film and his previous film Monsters impressed Cranston enough to read the script and join the film. Cranston, despite his positive opinion on the film, would later opine that killing off Joe Brody so early was a “narrative mistake”.
Elizabeth Olsen as Elle Brody:
A nurse at San Francisco General Hospital. She is married to Ford Brody and is the mother of Sam Brody. Olsen agreed to join the film after being impressed with Edwards’ previous film, Monsters and Edwards’ enthusiasm for the film and Godzilla’s history.
Sally Hawkins as Dr. Vivienne Graham:
A scientist with Project Monarch. She has been Serizawa’s “right hand” for many years. Hawkins was the last actress to be cast while the film was undergoing principal photography.
Juliette Binoche as Sandra Brody:
A nuclear regulations consultant at the Janjira nuclear plant. She is married to Joe Brody and is the mother of Ford Brody. Binoche agreed to join the film after reading a “beautiful” letter from Edwards and because she wanted to “please” her son, who is also a fan of Godzilla, however, Edwards has stated that her character’s death scene is what convinced her (and Cranston) to join the film. Binoche later revealed that Quentin Tarantino admitted to crying during her character’s death scene, Tarantino stating it was “the first time I’ve ever cried during a 3D blockbuster.”
David Strathairn as Rear Admiral William Stenz, USN:
An Admiral in the Seventh Fleet of the United States Navy. He is the commander of the United States Navy task force in charge of tracking down the escaped MUTO.
Carson Bolde as Sam Brody:
The young son of Ford and Elle Brody.
Richard T. Jones as Captain Russell Hampton, USN:
The commander of the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, the flagship of the MUTO task force.
Victor Rasuk as Sergeant Tre Morales, USAF:
A sergeant of the United States Air Force. He becomes friends with Ford after the battles at Honolulu.
Additional roles include: Patrick Sabongui as First Lieutenant Marcus Waltz, USAF, Jared Keeso as Jump Master, Luc Roderique as Bomb Tracker, Al Sapienza as Huddleston, the head of security at the Janjira MUTO facility, Brian Markinson as Whalen, a scientist at the Janjira MUTO facility, Catherine Lough Haggquist as PO #1 Martinez, Jake Cunanan as Akio, Warren Takeuchi as Akio’s father, Yuki Morita as Akio’s mother, Ken Yamamura as Takashi, Garry Chalk as Stan Walsh, Christian Tessier, Anthony Konechny, James D. Deaver as Captain Freeman, Primo Allon as a member of the mine team, and Jeric Ross.
Godzilla franchise actor Akira Takarada was cast as an immigration officer, but his scene was cut from the final film. Edwards stated cutting the scene was his “biggest regret”. Despite cutting the cameo, Takarada is still listed in the closing credits of the film.