When the first trailer for Godzilla came out, I was hooked like you could scarcely imagine. Featuring spectacular imagery, the ominous soundtrack of Kubrick’s 2001, and only mere glimpses of cinema history’s ultimate Kaiju, it has become one of my all-time favorite trailers. Now, the trailers that followed weren’t quite so impressive. Not only did they succumb to the usual trailer cliché of showing a bit too much, damaging the anticipation, but they also implied that this isn’t just a “Godzilla” film. It is a “Godzilla vs…” film. Yes, there are, in fact, more monsters in this film and if you’ve seen the promos, this is no spoiler. Why they couldn’t wait with this until a future sequel I don’t know.
What I knew for sure when I heard that Godzilla‘s return to the big screen was impending, though, was that he’s in safe hands, namely those of Monsters director Gareth Edwards. Here, he has given Godzilla the bombastic and at times horrifying disaster film he has deserved for a long time. It is a blast and an atomic one at that.
There are humans in this movie. These include Aaron Taylor-Johnson as a military lieutenant, Bryan Cranston as his institutionalized father, and Ken Watanabe as a scientist who studies Kaiju remnants under the guise of seismology. Being one of Hollywood’s most marketable names from Godzilla character’s country of origin, Japan, his participation seems largely obligatory.
The basic plot is that Lt. Ford Brody (Johnson) picks up his quirky father Joe (Cranston) from the asylum where he’s been held, only to find that Joe is still obsessed with finding out what really caused the nuclear meltdown that killed his wife back when they were both working at a massive power plant. Eventually returning to the area, now quarantined, they’re soon apprehended by the team of Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Watanabe), but also witness the giant, EMP-emitting cocoon they’ve been keeping alive there for 15 years. You can probably guess where this is going.
Did you guess Godzilla? Well, you guessed wrong, for the cocoon contains another monster; one that looks like a mixture between a dragonfly, the Cloverfield monster, and, charmingly enough, something out of the Gamera movies. This beast and its female counterpart are the villains of the film, per say, whereas Godzilla only shows up to save the day. It does seem odd to do a “Multiple Kaiju” storyline this early in what’s inarguably a future franchise, but by golly is it a refreshment to see a Godzilla film – a modern one with more mature special effects, professional acting and grand action – that’s more true in spirit to the original Gojira phenomenon than that piece of crap Roland Emmerich gave us.
My dad posted a link to the leaked original script of what was going to be the American 1998 Godzilla flick before Emmerich took over and ruined everything by instead making a generic monster movie about a T-Rex that just wants to kill us all and breed. It seemed as though portions of the original script made it into Edwards’ film and that appears to be a good thing.
Much like Edwards’ Monsters, though, most of the screen time is given to the humans and their reactions to the whole disaster. Normally, I’m tired of seeing all the experts and trained military men react to the disasters, as opposed to in films like Cloverfield where neither we nor the protagonists, a bunch of everyday youngsters, have the foggiest clue what’s going on. But the characters in Godzilla are so strong and likable that their scenes help fuel the tension and excitement rather than diminishing it. True, it’s strange that the ads made Cranston out to be the main protagonist when the true hero of the movie is the slightly less entertaining Johnson, but even so.
Some will complain that there are too many human scenes and too few monster scenes, but that’s part of why the movie builds so powerfully. It teases us by having scenes such as one where Godzilla shows himself for the first time, tingling the spines of especially the longtime fans in the audience (our screening had several) with his signature roar, only for the film to cut away from it, but not in a way that makes people walk out and give up. Instead you sit there, eager to see what it’s building to.
And when the action finally does arrive, it doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. With spectacular visual effects, flawless sound design, grand fight scenes, and a smörgåsbord of fan service, this is, whilst not a perfect film, still one that I recommend. Especially to the Godzilla fans that have waited for far too long.
After films like Cloverfield and Pacific Rim have been hinting at the possibility of a triumphant comeback for the “Giant Monster Movie”, it’s about time Godzilla stomped in and showed everyone what it’s always been all about.