Remember that 1998 movie starring Matthew Broderick. Yeah, that one called Godzilla. Let’s pretend that never happened. Now that we’ve erased that from your memory, we can focus on what a Godzilla movie is supposed to be.
If you’ve ever seen an old Godzilla movie or are remotely familiar with the character, then you know that Godzilla isn’t about a giant T-Rex/Iguana hybrid thrashing through New York City for no reason while the military panics. Instead, throughout the course of the character’s lengthy film history, the creature has always been essentially a good guy. He is supposed to be a giant monster fighting against even more terrifying giant monsters while we, the people, are caught in the middle. Director Gareth Edwards and writer Max Borenstein seem to get that, and seek to return the series back to its roots in this reboot.
The character originates from Japan, which makes it fitting that the film opens with an American family living there. Bryan Cranston, of Breaking Bad fame, plays a nuclear physicist who is witness to the first onscreen disaster. He spends the next 15 years attempting to prove that the event was not a natural disaster as the government says. Cranston is brilliantly emotional when he is onscreen, but the majority of the film follows his son Ford, played by Kick Ass star Aaron Taylor-Johnson. The audience’s eyes follow Ford, a military lieutenant and bomb expert (go figure) as he treks from Japan to mainland California in hopes of getting back to his wife (Elizabeth Olson) and son, safe and sound. Ken Watanabe (Inception, Batman Begins) plays a Japanese scientist who fittingly understands the creatures and trusts that Godzilla is not the true enemy. With the exception of Taylor-Johnson, whose acting ability cuts on and off like the power in each damaged city, everyone in the cast is magnificent.
But perhaps the biggest fault in the film, is that it pays too much attention to its human characters. After all, the movie is called Godzilla. And yet, the creature itself is onscreen less than the villainous monsters (carefully kept secret throughout the film’s promotion) it faces off against. These movies are supposed to be about the destruction and monster fights, but the first half of the film barely contain either. Several creature battles are teased, only to have the narrative cut away to whatever the people are doing. Luckily, when the eerie moments and high octane destruction sequences do hit, they are as captivating as you’d hope. You just wish there was a bit more of it. Maybe they’re saving it for a sequel?
FINAL GRADE: B, Not bad. Worth seeing at least once, but no rush.