Ever since I was a but a toddler I have been fascinated with Godzilla. For some reason, as many kids oddly do, I was rooting for the King of Monsters from day one. Not only day one for me but also starting with the very first movie where Godzilla was the antagonist (to say the least). My parents made a point to tell me the typical answer that he’s sleeping, and not in fact dead, at the end because it upset me.
Of course as life goes on many things come in and out of our purview and after many years of only a peripheral following (reading wiki entries in the early to mid 2000s) the resurfacing of the worlds most popular Kaiju in a western blockbuster had me salivating. Memories of the awful movie from 98 (that spawned a much better cartoon series) creating only the slightest apprehension… certainly after all these remakes in Hollywood over the last decade they’ve learnt from the mistakes of others…
[[WARNING: Spoilers Beyond This Point]]
I am happy to say that this Godzilla movie knocked it out of the park for me it had everything that it needed to have for a “reboot” movie, gave plenty of little nods and references for fans of the old and space for the future. All this while not seriously screwing with what and who Godzilla is.
Certainly his origins have changed quite a bit having been around since before man and not created by his mistakes (American nuclear testing). His being a force of nature as the Kaiju apex predator puts a bit of a different angle on his motives, sure . However Godzilla’s core remains the same, he is an uncontrollable force of terrible destruction and much like later Toho movies the hero of the story saving man.
“The arrogance of man is thinking nature is in our control, and not the other way around.”
When I first heard that line in the trailer I was wondering if they were going to go down some greenie sort of route with the power of the planet… boy did I take that quote wrong. Thinking we can control nature and that anything we do really can shape the planet deeply, yeah, that is arrogant. Godzilla is the ultimate force of nature, or nature’s God, and he exists to make sure things don’t get out of hand.
Before I go any further on this I’m going to say that there is no “global warming” message or really any abuses of man bringing down Godzilla’s wrath on us… nope. You could certainly see the messages you want to see in there if you look hard enough. Of course there is always the whole nuclear aspect but in this movie I feel it is toned down compared to the original Godzilla. No longer created by the recklessness of man but instead an ancient and powerful creature that feeds on these energies like perhaps all Kaiju will.
Godzilla goes about his business happy to ignore the human ships chasing and flanking him. He comes in, does his job and then goes home. Sure for the most part he seemed like he didn’t really mind the death and destruction happening around him but he wasn’t the ruthless creatures the MUTOs are. In fact several points in the movie I felt as though Godzilla recognised that the people were there and he was actively helping us. Sure not on a level that one human helps another but more like when you see a lady beetle struggling and you go out of your way to help it only to two seconds later swat a fly.
Much like anyone with a pair of functional eyes that saw the movie can tell you the visuals were stunning from quarantine zone that was reclaimed by nature to the destroyed cityscape of Chicago. The kaiju too are gorgeously created and rendered in a more realistic way than the beloved suits of old. Of course when the atomic breath finally happened it too was given an updated look that remained consistent with what we know and love (and was met with a round of cheers from the crowd, including myself).
Cheers and even a round of applause was not uncommon in this movie with the crowd at my viewing and apparently others too from what I have heard. Old fans cheering for something worth the name Godzilla, new fans cheering the King of the Kaiju and everyone feeling awesome at the end as he walks away from a destroyed Chicago having saved the day.
I have seen plenty of criticism from people unhappy with a few of the elements in the movie. First and foremost was the limited screen time of Godzilla himself, at least in full view. Then there is also a general distaste for the story of the human protagonist. These complaints I believe come mostly from those wanting to see Kaiju battling action after being exposed to the mainstay of the Japanese Godzilla movies and of course your general thirst for action in a modern big “summer movie”. I get this, I certainly do, but this is as much a reboot for the new generation to become invested as it is a new movie for the old fans. People generally see just a straight biff between monsters a bit boring and immature cinema as incorrect, irrelevant or hypocritical as that is.
When it comes to the human aspect to the movie I’m going to jump on the Cranston bandwagon and just say that Bryan Cranston was phenomenal in the role of Joe Brody, really making me invested in what happened to him. Sure he was the stereotypical crazy guy proven right to some degree but the man just did it so well. Unfortunately Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Lieutenant Ford Brody, Joe’s son, is indeed lest interesting but he serves his purpose well.
Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (as played by Ken Watanabe) was probably the most interesting character in the movie after Joe. Playing up on the wise asian master stereotype/trope this leader of the program Monach gets far too little screen time to really build his character beyond a massive Godzilla fanboy full of dire warnings. He was right in the end though, ironically considering it was his group which honestly stuffed up in the first place with the MUTO chrysalis. Personally I wonder if he didn’t just want this all to happen just a little too much, just so he could see first hand the object of his obsession.
Personally I probably will go see it in the cinema again which is a rare occasion for me and this time I’ll be prepared for what is coming with a list to look out for the easter eggs that I missed. This movie was a great adventure and has certainly set the bar high for the future installments and the best thing is in the next movie they almost certainly will bring in more Kaiju action.