Personally, I can’t really think of many other movie franchises that have lasted over the course of nearly half a decade. There have been a few that have tried and failed horribly. Thankfully, Godzilla is one monster that continues kicking ass and blowing stuff up exactly the way a gigantic movie monster should. Truthfully, I can’t say that every Godzilla movie I’ve seen has been a success. The giant radioactive reptilian has had his hard fought battles with moviegoers. That being said, this new film proves to be exactly what we needed when it comes to monster movies. Finally it’s been done right.
The first Godzilla movies started being made back in 1954, exactly 50 years ago. At that time, nothing had really been seen like him on the big screen. He was/is the ultimate monster. Since he was introduced out from the depths of Japanese cinematography, daikaiju or giant monster cinema, Godzilla has been the eternal torchbearer of the genre. He has starred in over a thirty films pitting him against an onslaught of different foes including giant insects, robots, and aliens. There really isn’t much to hate. He was also created in a time when live action was the only way to get things done in film. Along with that aspect came an inherent power that grabbed ahold of audience members within multiple generations.
Godzilla is king of the monsters. He has starred in multiple films and true fans have collected a massive amount of loyalty to the beast. In 1998, Americans were reintroduced to the ever adapting, ever growing lizard overlord. Unfortunately, this version of a Godzilla was not well received and didn’t do well. This was the biggest reason I was so skeptical of a new film about him this year with the same audience. The American films just don’t have the same Japanese gusto that they deserve. However, after seeing this new film I can easily say that this is how monster movies should be made. Especially one’s involving Godzilla.
Not only did Godzilla have a huge following in the 80s but there were also cartoons and comic books that hit a massive note with the youth of that time. They remember Godzilla as a hero. While he was surely a hero you wouldn’t want to shake hands with or even be within 500 miles of, the most memorable characteristic of him was the numerous accounts of him saving the earth from terrible foes. Godzilla used his massive size, strength, fire breath, and sometimes laser beam eyes among other things. He was not to be messed with but somehow always managed to be there when the earth needed him. While he was shown more as a villain, in the 1998 version, in this one he returns to take his place as savior and protector of the planet.
It’s been discussed multiple times over that Godzilla was a metaphor for human destruction in relationship to nuclear war. Godzilla was born from radiation and he was able to put into perspective how dangerous that radiation could be, albeit in a fairly sensational kind of way. This new film continues that idea. I loved the way old, yellowed, and unfamiliar newspaper clippings, grainy oversaturated photography and film slides were used within the film to paint the picture of a time where nuclear devastation was still very real and extremely accessible. It created a very intense and chilling experience. Another quality that was lacking strongly from other films but was done successfully in this one was character development. Finally, writers and directors were able to a very relatable and tangible reaching arm into the action. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor-Johnson both were able to give the audience exactly what they needed in order to bring them close and into the film. Their characters are both well-acted and dynamic adding to the flow of the film.
Easily, my favorite part of this new film is the reintroduction of mutant adversaries for Godzilla. Mothra, King Ghidorah, Gigan, and Rogan are only a few of the foes Godzilla has faced in his past, and although Godzilla has always been the best in my opinion, the idea of protecting the world always made Godzilla what he was. In a sense, what would Batman be without the Joker? Finally Godzilla has his purpose again and this film introduces a new adversary for the green giant. These adversaries are called MUTOs or Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms. While I’m glad they brought back his purpose; the name, the look, even the behaviors of this new Cloverfield-like monster just didn’t amaze me. Besides a few other small details, this was really my only gripe. That and I felt like they were trying really hard to copy Jurassic Park. The screaming seemed to be the weapon of choice for the monsters and that got old quickly. I really wish they had spent more time on these creatures. The creators really could have used a little more animal knowledge in the film as well. They were just too awkward for my taste.
In the end, I loved this movie and think it’s exactly what Godzilla movies should be like. It just needed to be refined a tad. All in all, it is a solid monster movie; lots of action, really great emotional scenes, and solid characters. Not to mention an epic ending that was sweet, short, and to the point. Take your kids and teach them what monster movies are all about.
I give Godzilla 4 “Atom Bombs” out of 5.
by Jason Burleson