I can honestly say that THIS is the Godzilla movie I’ve been waiting for since my childhood. Oh, good readers, I have spent a great deal of time waiting for this film. In some ways, I’ve waited 16 years, but after that 1998 debacle, I’ve really waited my whole life. That previous attempt at a U.S. Godzilla film was both at the pinnacle of the Roland Emmerich/Dean Devlin creative partnership as well as the beginning of the end of it. And rightfully so. It was bad. Just plain bad. And this is coming from someone that, out of pure excitement at the time, went to see it twice in a six hour period. Yes, yes, I know, lighting money on fire would have been more productive. But I was excited! I wasn’t thinking straight. Plus I was a more lenient critic then, if you can imagine that. But I can assure you, the buyer’s remorse was severe a few days later.
Now, after seeing the film Monsters, I was really excited to see what director Gareth Edwards would do with our favorite kaiju. I knew it couldn’t be any worse than the 1998 movie. What could? But I also didn’t want to fall into the same trap as before; I needed to keep my expectations in check for fear of being duped yet again.
I was not duped this time, no sir. I can honestly say that THIS is the Godzilla movie I’ve been waiting for since my childhood. It doesn’t necessarily achieve perfection, but it does great homage to Toho’s canon. And it’s just downright satisfying for a Godzilla fan.
In this new U.S. kind of origin story, Godzilla was known to some in Japan. But secrets that big are hard to hide, and the story here is that in 1954 they tried to kill Godzilla with atomic bombs. Now, because of humankind’s meddling with things we don’t understand, Godzilla appears to fight off monstrous creatures as nature’s way of telling us, “I told you so”.
This Godzilla film is an interesting combination of old and new. It has much of the classic Toho kaiju movie structure while also doing some new and less expected things. Like some Godzilla films, director Gareth Edwards only teases us with glimpes of the Big G. By the time you REALLY get the full Monty, you’re a third way into the film. But by parsing out his appearances, he makes the last act much more satisfying. And satisfying it is! Any Godzilla fan will undoubtedly be as giddy as I was with the visual monster effects. The CG is excellent, as I would expect from this film. As much as I love the “man-in-suit’ kaiju films, there is something to be said for digital effects when done well. To see giant monsters grappling with one another without the weird movements, the slo-mo, or sped-up film speed, the unnatural mobility limitations of a monster suit, is what my mind’s eye envisioned for so many years. Yeah, no wires or bobbling heads here.
There is still a true sense of an old school Godzilla film here. The way much of the monster action takes place really feels like being a kid again on a Saturday afternoon watching the big guy battle Ghidorah or Rodan – it just looks so much better. Ok, maybe just different. As in better.
The tone is definitely a more serious one here. Though, there are a few chuckles for a die-hard fan like, me. You just need to be looking closely sometimes.
The cast is well chosen, everyone seeming like real people rather than overly known celebrity types. Ok, Bryan Cranston is certianly well know now, but he plays a great regular guy and is perhaps the strongest of the lot. Ken Watanabe is also great, as is Elizabeth Olsen. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is good, as is David Strathairn and Juliette Binoche. But, alas, we come to the weak link here. Though the cast is generally great, they don’t have a vast well of material to work with. As with many kaiju films, it’s a bunch of people working against, well, nothing. Here, it’s a lot of green screen. AND we don’t exactly get enough time to dig into these people’s lives, since we have a lot of monster exposition to get out of the way. So, despite everybody doing all they can, there’s a bit lacking in the human department. (Ppphht, humans. Who cares! Look at Godzilla!)
Edward’s first film, Monsters, had the advantage of a unique story and time to develop the way he wanted it to. Godzilla comes with expectations. LOTS of them. Sure, he could have made this 3 hours long, but to what end? Godzilla runs two hours and three minutes, and it was pretty much just right. And for the most part, people want to see the monsters anyway, so all things considered, I’d say this turned out just fine. Just fine indeed.
I’ve heard some people whine that it doesn’t compare to the original Japanese film, Gojira. Uh, well, yeah, dipshits, how could it? The original was made a mere nine years after Japan had been devastated by two nuclear bombs. They’re in a unique position to have that deeply emotional well of experience to draw from. There will never be another Godzilla film like the original, so let’s stop trying to compare the subtext of the two.
I have to say, they really did right by Godzilla this time around. Easily four kittenhands. I’ll see it again in the theaters and buy the Blu-Ray as soon as it comes out. Yay!
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, telling you to go see Godzilla. Especially if you’re a fan. He looks awesome, and you’ll find that he’s very much like you remember him, except BIGGER.