Following his 2010 debut feature Monsters, director Gareth Edwards moves on to the greatest monster of all, with this new reboot of Godzilla. Following the meltdown of the Janjira Nuclear Plant near Tokyo, plant supervisor Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) becomes paranoid that the meltdown was created by something other than an earthquake, as claimed by the government. However, this falls on the deaf ears of Joe’s son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), an explosive ordinance disposal officer in the United States Navy, who just wants to bring Joe back home.
However, the two come into contact with scientists Ichiro Serizawa and Vivienne Graham (Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins), who talk of nuclear activity awaking prehistoric creatures, coming from a time when the Earth was much more radioactive. Two parasites, nicknamed M.U.T.O., awaken and begin to make their way to San Francisco, which happens to be where Ford lives with his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and son Sam. As the US Navy, lead by Rear Admiral William Stenz (David Strathairn), begin a plan to destroy the creatures using nuclear warheads, a larger creature, known as Godzilla, arises from the ocean ready to hunt.
Godzilla is probably of the most famous of movie monsters, to the point of being dubbed the “King of Monsters.” The giant lizard is probably best known from the series of films produced by Japan’s Toho production company, beginning with 1954’s Gojira. Those films are probably most notable for the cheesy visuals of a guy in a rubber lizard suit terrorizing the streets of Tokyo. The movies would often have Godzilla facing off against other monsters, with names such as Mothra, Gigan, and Gabara.
Unlike Roland Emmerich’s 1998 film version of Godzilla, of which the only real connection to the original was the name, this new version really seems to be paying homage to Godzilla’s Japanese roots. Not only does the first act of the film take place in Japan, but the film as a whole is building up to a monster vs. monster fight, which is obviously meant to evoke the feel of the original films, albeit with CGI-created monsters instead of guys in rubber suits. In fact, when inevitable time came for Godzilla to spit fire, I admit to feeling quite giddy at the moment. Of course, as fun as the monster fights are, it does come with a whole lot of wanton destruction. In fact, it probably gives the collateral damage from Man of Steel a run for its money.
Of course the big monster fight doesn’t happen until the final act of the film and the first two thirds focus a bit more on the human element of the film. This isn’t that surprising coming from Gareth Edwards, who kept the creatures in the background for practically the entire length of Monsters. That said, the human characters did seem like little more than a way to get the plot from point A to B. The most standout actors in the film are probably Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe, both of whom add some acting gravitas to this summer blockbuster. Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass) is fine enough in the lead role of Ford, though Elizabeth Olsen seemed a bit wasted in what’s practically a damsel-in-distress role. Then there’s a very brief appearance by Juliette Binoche as Joe’s wife Sandra.
I suppose I should do some minor comparisons between Godzilla and last year’s Pacific Rim. Guillermo del Toro’s film was equally inspired by Japanese monster films and it would be fair to say that it might have stolen some of Godzilla’s thunder. However, I still think that Godzilla still stands fine on its own, especially since it is trying to play itself as a much more serious film (as serious as you can get in a film with giant monsters).
While I can probably say that I much preferred the smaller scale of Monsters, I do have to say that I thought Gareth Edwards did a good job with this new version of Godzilla, which is respectful to the monster’s Japanese roots.8 | LIKED IT