Godzilla will smash his way into your heart
Godzilla is absolutely everything you could, or should, expect from a movie titled Godzilla. That is monstrous amounts of fun. Any serious complaints I could make bounce off the subject matter as if Godzilla really could not give less of a damn what anyone thinks. He is like a pre-historic irradiated and mutated gargantuan honey badger. So in that light, I am going to strive to be more Godzilla-like and critique it anyway.
First, I want to answer a question I have been asked at least a dozen times now, but I want to answer it in the most convoluted way possible. Is Godzilla better than Pacific Rim? Maybe. The visual effects of each film are on roughly the same plane of existence. While Pacific Rim is unquestionably in a more fantastical universe, Godzilla is rooted in the present, in every respect. Pacific Rim is homage, or a love letter, to an entire genre of film, Godzilla is a literal resurrection. In these respects, the two films are very different, and there is no comparison. In the respect that they are about giant monsters smashing stuff, they are siblings, fraternal twins. I believe traditionalists will be head-over heels in love with this new Godzilla, while new recruits may finally understand why the genera was so appealing to so many for so long. In other words, it is all subjective. They are pretty close, but if forced to take a side, I think Godzilla is a stronger film.
Godzilla is not a reboot of the franchise, it would be more appropriate to call it a resurrection. The source material was altered only enough to provide a cohesive story, and to update the continuity. The true nature of Godzilla is kept intact in that (spoiler for those unfamiliar with Godzilla/Gojira) Godzilla is not the bad-guy. Meaning if you are in the right theatre, there will be cheers, a lot of them.
Godzilla begins in the Philippines where a new potential uranium mine collapsed into an unfathomably large cavern, inside which they find the fossilized remains of something monstrous beyond imagination. When Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) examined the fossilized remains, they discovered what appear to be two eggs, or cocoons, one of which appears to have very recently hatched. Fast-forward a few years and nuclear engineer Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) struggles to understand a series of tremors affecting his nuclear power plant in Japan. Tragically he understands the danger too late and the plant is attacked from beneath and trapping and killing countless people including Brody’s wife. Fast-forward another several years Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Joe’s son, is coming home from a 15-month deployment with the U.S. Navy. The night he comes home, he gets a call that his father was arrested in Japan for trespassing inside the quarantine zone erected around the devastated nuclear power plant where he worked and lost his wife, and Ford’s mother. When Ford travels to Japan to bail his father out of jail he is pulled into investigating the conspiracy his father feels he is close to uncovering. When they re-enter the quarantine zone they are soon arrested and brought into the compound built around the former plant. In the center of this compound, they are studying the dormant cocoon that now stands where the nuclear reactor once stood. After a brief interrogation Dr. Ichiro Serizawa realizes what Joe Ford unknowingly discovered years before, the cocoon was about to hatch. From the cocoon emerges a devastating creature that consumes radiation, and is capable of producing electromagnetic pulses neutralizing all electronics in the vicinity. The monstrous creature appears unstoppable when they realize it is only one of two creatures. The second cocoon they believed dead, disposed of in Yucca Mountain in Nevada. To make matters worse, these two creatures, now on an unparalleled path of destruction toward each other, have woken Godzilla from the depths of the sea.
The narrative presented is actually very clever. The basic explanation of the existence of these creatures is that they always existed, and were driven deep beneath the surface, eons ago, to feed on the radiation deep in the earth. This coupled with the lumberingly destructive benevolence of Godzilla almost push the filmmakers into outsmarting their own film. I know Godzilla’s origins, but I don’t really care. Like King Kong, we don’t need to know where they come from, or even that they always existed. It was always enough that they are here now, and they are smashing all our stuff. They also launched a self-resolving narrative in which humanity is simply a spectator and victim. In short, Gareth Edwards, Max Borenstein, and Dave Callaham made a movie that should successfully satisfy fans of wanton destruction, and thoughtful narrative.
Godzilla should leave just about everyone with a childish grin, and some intriguing afterthoughts. 9 out of 10