When that first roar hits you know they did this thing right. There’s a chill that will go down your spine if you’re a Godzilla fan. As he moves you’ll wonder at how they found that perfect balance between rubber suit and actual monster. This is Godzilla.
Godzilla‘s previous American outing was a sin against all things good in the world, but this one, this one knows what’s up. Well, at least when it comes to giant monsters knocking the sh*t out of each other in the middle of cities. That’s what really matters, right?
There’s plenty to be said about the new film, and it isn’t all positive, but in the crucial aspects — the ones that have always made Godzilla fun — it succeeds.
Director: Gareth Edwards
Release Date: May 15, 2014
Godzilla does the half reboot, half remake thing pretty well. The plot pushes the monster into modern times, but doesn’t ignore his historical roots by starting off with the nuclear bombing of Godzilla back in the 50s — a reimagining of the original Godzilla’s story. From there we jump forward to the late 90s where the skeleton of a massive creature is discovered by Ichiro Serwizawa (Ken Watanabe).The skeleton isn’t alone, though. There’s something else. That something else attacks a nuclear power plant in Japan where Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) works and lives along with his wife and son, Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Flash forward to today and that something wakes up, setting off a chain of events that of course lead to some hot monster on monster, city destroying action.
That may seem like a lot of jumping around in time, and it is. In fact Godzilla‘s biggest flaw is its opening where far too much time is spent setting up the characters and not delivering monsters. To be fair, part of the charm of Godzilla movies is the inane plots that run along with them. Let’s not pretend that even the original’s story is anything grand with its horribly veiled commentary on nuclear proliferation and truly terrible love story. The new Godzilla actually does a great job of capturing that campy feeling with a story that almost shouts to the skies that it was simply made to get monsters to destroy San Francisco. The issue is it revels in it far too much, pretending like we actually care for the characters when all we want is more action.
The first third of the film is thus devoted, along with setting up Godzilla’s origins, which is something that doesn’t need to be done. Not even the great Brian Cranston can save the lackluster human side of this film as his part is too small. Also too small is the amount of times we actually get to see Godzilla fight. The movie suffers from missing another solid action sequence and thus relies on the disappointing humans once again.
But, oh, those action sequences. Director Gareth Edwards knows how to direct monsters, as his previous, and aptly named film, Monsters, showed. When Godzilla is on screen duking it out with a M.U.T.O. (a new Kaiju designed for this film) it’s almost magical and well worth sitting through the dull portions of the film to get to. Edwards has a fantastic knack for pacing the battle and it’s easy to rank the fight in this film above those in Pacific Rim. What’s really impressive is that with all the technology and money behind this Godzilla still feels like Godzilla. It’s in part thanks to the fact that they’ve perfectly created a monster who is alive and yet still recalls a man in a giant rubber suit and partly because Godzilla somehow feels more human than any of the humans in the film.
You’ll recognize that feeling from the original films along with a ton of Easter eggs. Unlike the last Godzilla remake this one actually knows where it came from. I like to believe the stupid plot was almost entirely intentional and just unfortunately too much of it got into the movie. When the movie clicks (just for a reminder that’s when Godzilla is on screen) it’s tough to do anything but be excited. Alexandre Desplat’s score helps with this immensely as it hearkens back to the original Godzilla without directly ripping from it. This is reflected equally in the rest of the film. The closest thing to relate it too is the nerdy joy you can clearly see in Sam Raimi’s direction of the first two Spider-Man films. This was clearly made by fans.
That’s why, in the end, despite the flaws Godzilla works. It works as a reboot/remake because it’s still a Godzilla movie despite the bigger budget and lack of rubber suits. The magic behind it is that it truly loves its past. Godzilla might miss out on the perfect film it could be, but it’s definitely the film it should be.
No need to see this in 3D, but it is stunning on IMAX.