This a companion piece to my spoiler-free review, so make sure to read that before reading these spoiler story details.
Spoilers... So many spoilers.
As much as I loved Godzilla a few elements held me back from thinking it was a perfect film. I gave it an 8/10 and it really is a good film, but the potential for an even greater film would have been possible with a few tweaks.
Juliette Binoche's Character Dies Too Early
Established in a couple of quick scenes Sandra Brody (Juliette Binoche) wife of Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and mother of Ford Brody (CJ Adams and Aaron Taylor-Johnson) dies in the first 10min of the film. 15 years before present day, Joe and Sandra both work at a nuclear power plant in Japan that comes under attack from a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). Joe detects the approaching MUTO via a seismic pattern but only after it's too late to do anything like evacuate his family. Sandra — sent by Joe to check on sensors in the deeper parts of the power plant — dies of radiation poisoning. The dynamic between Binoche and Cranston is so surface level due to her short screen time that her death feels inconsequential when it really should be emotionally devastating.
Soldier Ford Brody Unnecessarily Returns Home
After an unspecified time abroad doing unspecified soldier things, Ford Brody returns home. A few hours later he gets a phone call that his father has been detained in a Japanese prison, and he (re)packs his bags and leaves for Japan. In my review I say that Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen as Elle have zero sexual chemistry. The emotional dynamic of returning home after a long absence might have been a conscious choice to squash the chemistry, but it doesn't endear us to the characters. I'd have cut this whole sequence and instead really established Ford by showing his bomb tech skills in action. To give Olsen some screen time, Ford could be looking at a photo taken before he left, cue flash back to weepy wife and child. More people can connect with the feeling of leaving your family for a long time and how painful that can be.
Bryan Cranston's Character Dies Early
Joe Brody has spent the last 15 years obsessed with finding out the truth about what happened at the power plant. After his estranged son Ford bails him out of jail, he convinces him that the seismic pattern from 15 years ago was happening again. They return to the plant and encounter the MUTO. They escape, and a fatally wounded Joe is transported to an American command ship where Ford meets Admiral William Stenz (David Strathairn). Joe dies of his wounds, and Ford tells Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) about the seismic patterns. After the screening I went to, I overheard one of my colleagues say that Cranston was underused and died too early. His character has nothing to add in the second and third acts of the film, and I think his death was earned, but I agree he's underused.
From here on out it’s just spoilerish things I found interesting:
Godzilla Dies At The End
Just kidding, he does not die, there needs to be sequels. But I'm expecting some people to only read the headers, skip to the bottom, and ignorantly fire off a comment, so let’s see if someone falls for it.
They Don't Show the First Fight
Ford is taken off ship and brought to an airport in Hawaii to take civilian transport. The airport comes under attack from the flying MUTO. Godzilla's entrance is teased and teased until we see the full Godzilla, he belts out his signature roar and... cut to young Sam Brody watching the news. We never really see the fight.
Godzilla and the MUTOs Eat Radiation
We awakened Godzilla in 1954, and all of our bomb testing over the years was us trying to kill Godzilla. Little did we know, that’s what the monsters feed on.
The First MUTO Is Not Godzilla
What attacked the power plant 15 years ago is not Godzilla but a flying MUTO and part of a pair that battle Godzilla at the end of the film.
The second MUTO Is in Yucca Mountain
Believed to have been hibernating or dormant, this MUTO's egg is transported to Yucca Mountain, which is the United States radioactive waste storage site in the movie. This second MUTO does not fly and is the female of the species. She is twice the size of the male and equal in size to Godzilla. The destruction of Las Vegas is caused by her traveling toward San Francisco.
The Main Character Is Ford Brody
He's always in the perfect place at the perfect time to have encounters with Godzilla and the MUTO's. He's a bomb tech whose skill set is conveniently established to be part of the military effort. What he does is mentioned a few times, but we never get to see him in his element, which seems odder the more I think about it.
The Eggs seen in the trailer are destroyed
Thankfully avoiding the mistakes of the 1998 film, these eggs are destroyed with a conveniently placed fuel truck used by Ford.
Godzilla Has Atomic Breath
Fans will be happy when they see Godzilla's spikes glow right before he uses his atmoic blue fire breath as a finishing move on the last MUTO.
Godzilla Is a Hero
While his motivations are not fully clear, he does kill the MUTOs and leave mankind in peace.