When I was a wee lad, I used to get up on Saturday morning and begin my day watching Saturday morning cartoons (RIP) from 5:30a until 11a when they ended. Afterwards, I’d spend another two hours watching Kung Fu Theater (RIP) and then head on outside to play. One day, instead of going outside to play, I stayed back and watched a movie my mom seemed unusually eager for me to see and my life was changed forever. It was the 1956 cult classic, “Godzilla: King of Monsters” with clips of Raymond Burr inserted in Ishiro Honda’s 1954’s original film to make it more palpable to American audiences. I was awestruck. I couldn’t believe such a creature could ever exist in reality and the movie terrified me, but electrified me at the same time. I was forevermore a Godzilla fan and have ingested every Godzilla (good and bad) since that day.
When I learned that they were trying to start up the franchise again after the much maligned 1998 Godzilla craptastrophe, I was a bit skeptical. However, after the first teaser trailer with the paratroopers jumping out of the plane and diving into the cloudy cover, opening up to the giant behemoth that is Godzilla – I was sold.
What I appreciated about this movie were two things: One, it gave you a sense of history and purpose for the Big G. What I mean by that is up to now, Godzilla has been either a rampaging monster from the unknown, the monster-stomper on a rampage or some variation of a comical character with a heart of gold. In this movie, you get a sense of Godzilla’s greater purpose and how fits into the greater scheme of things. Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanbe) became almost the in-character narrator of this story. In fact, you could say that he provided the needed exposition that lead into the specific motivations of Godzilla and MUTO event. Now that isn’t to say that at times some of his dialogue didn’t strike the cornball chord, but in all – he served a valuable purpose to move the story along. For you new fans of the Big G, the doctor’s name was a nod to Dr. Daisuke Serizawa, creator of the Oxygen-Bomb in the original 1954 (e. 1956) movie.
The other thing was that there was some really good dramatic tension built up that it served as a great catalyst for some cathartic moments during the movie. Joe Brody (Bryan Cranstan) and Sam (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) served as the protagonists of the main story. Fifteen years ago, there was a tragic “accident” at the nuclear power plant that Joe (supervised) and his wife worked at. The accident caused a radiation spill and Joe’s wife was killed in the process. However, Joe is convinced that this “accident” was something much more – more sinister than was reported to the world and is on a crusade to get answers. Sam becomes an Explosive Ordinance Disposal Officer in the Navy and has a wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and son in San Francisco. Their story line serves as the main story line of the movie, but that’s not a bad thing. It doesn’t distract too much away from the main character everyone has come to see.
What is Godzilla? Well, in short – he’s a force of nature. But is he a force for good or ill? This movie delves into this discussion and ultimately provides an answer. That answer drives many of the events in this movie that serve to set the stage for the final showdown at the end of the movie, but also the point of contention for the military as it tries to contain a situation that is increasingly becoming uncontrollable. Godzilla has a specific mission and that mission may lay waste to the world as we know it, but can also save it.
One thing’s for sure, you get to see some serious Big G action and earned rounds of applause from spectators in the theater with me. One little kid a couple of rows from me began to cheer so loudly, everyone in the theater had to turn around and cheer for him. There were people in the seats of all ages and the vast majority were so excited they couldn’t sit still.
I have two criticisms (if you even want to call it that) of the film. My main criticism is that in (what I believe) the effort to not blow the budget, they had to imply certain fight scenes in the movie that you wished they’d have show. I believe I shared this concern by the exasperated sighs of some audience members around me at certain scenes when the fighting started. I get it – they needed to spread the love and the CGI budget, while I’m sure was massive, had to be used sparingly and strategically. I’m sure the budget will be vastly increased in the next flick, but I wish a few scenes had been played out. I give Gareth Edwards, director of one of my favorite independent films of 2010, Monsters a lot of credit. For his first big budget film, he did a TREMENDOUS job.
My second (and minor) criticism is that I wish I had about 5 more minutes of MUTO on MUTO action. When Big G started really cutting loose, it was a sight to behold. Having mentioned the budget constraints, I understand what Gareth had to work with, but it would have tipped this movie from awesome to legendary (pun intended).
With all of that said – WELCOME BACK, GODZILLA! We’ve missed you and can’t wait to see what adventures they have in store for you.