Godzilla is a genre unto itself. There’s an art to crafting the perfect giant monster movie. It’s a delicate balance between creating a believable human story and generating an air of suspense around the monster that few have managed to achieve since the Kaiju films of the 1950s and 60s. For the first time in decades, this rebooted monster movie hits that balance, telling an engaging story with gripping action — albeit with a few concessions needed for some contrivances.
If you haven’t seen the film: light spoilers, and also spoilers for every other Kaiju movie, too. Monsters we thought fictitious arrive, feasting on nuclear power after being dormant for millennia. These two giant bug things are trying to rendezvous to reproduce. Godzilla, nature’s great equalizer, awakens to balance the equation. They fight. Guess who wins.
Again, the main element that makes this work is the human story. The writers nailed it, focusing on Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Ford, and his father, Joe (Bryan Cranston). Seeing how the initial encounter affected the two was heartbreaking. The setup for Cranston, putting him in a situation where he must choose between saving either his wife or his son (in a roundabout way) was smartly done. This drove his ambition for the next 15 years, eventually roping his son back in. The entire first act was incredible. I honestly forgot what movie I was watching it was so well done.
The next two acts delivered the type of action I was expecting, setting it apart from the opening, but not in a negative way. This is where a few leaps in logic needed to be made, but, considering the genre, it’s easy to make some compromises. Taylor-Johnson (who looked freaking huge), was fantastic throughout. His occupation made some sort of movie sense as to why he’d still be around. But it did seem to be a little too convenient that the monsters would follow him. “I’m just going home from Japan, stopping in Hawaii … oh look.”
A few other negative notes to get out of the way. No way they’d live in San Francisco — too expensive. The interior of the aircraft carrier was stupid, and I’d know: I lived on one for 4 years. Why didn’t they evacuate sooner? There’s more ways out of SF than the Golden Gate bridge, and why was it pushed down to one lane? Ford’s wife (Elizabeth Olsen) felt wasted, especially with them having only two scenes together, both reunions. I know it seems like nitpicking, but when most of these were used as setup for larger plot points, their weaknesses in the overall story standout more.
The final act, though, was fantastic. The battle was gripping, with an eerie atmosphere. The H.A.L.O. jump, featured in the first trailer, was amazing. The thick clouds and red sky looked apocalyptic. The images are still fresh in my mind. Honestly, the best accolade was the audience reaction, specifically my fiance. There is not a nerdy bone in her body. During the battle, when it looked as though Godzilla had fallen, she audibly exclaimed “Oh no!” I can’t think of a better testament.
Quick question: Were the villain monsters new or something from the old films? They look like a cross between Rodan and the Cloverfield monster, but I’m not sure.
Godzilla is a fantastic movie. Transformers — and its subsequent sequels — is an example of how easily the human/larger-than-life creature genre can go wrong. This shows how to do it right, with solid acting and effects throughout. While some minor points stick out, the overall package is definitely worth the price of admission.
Did the first act sell you? Surprised a sequel has already been green lit? Comment below!
Tony writes for his own site, thecredhulk.com, about comics, video games, movies, TV and more, six days a week. You can follow his updates on Facebook or Twitter. Drop by and tell ’em hi.
There goes Tokyo.