I was nervous for weeks on the lead-up to this movie — the memory of Roland Emmerich’s last abominable attempt to make an American “Godzilla” movie is still a fresh wound on my brain. Therefore, I hope it will give more credence when I say that this movie is different from what some people may expect, but still entirely worth your money. It only took 10 minutes for this movie to reduce me to a squealing fanboy, hanging onto my seat, forcing my eyes ever more open to see what happens next.
“Godzilla” comes to us from Gareth Edwards, a director found desirable by Legendary Pictures for his other giant monster movie, “Monsters.” While anybody who knows the “Godzilla” franchise or has seen the trailer knows the movie is about — big surprise — Godzilla being a kaiju (a giant monster), specializing in wrecking cities, there is also a greater plot to the film. “Godzilla” begins with background about the existence of kaijus on Earth and their history with mankind, right before rapidly shifting gears, introducing us to Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his family. One thing you’ll notice about the movie is that right from the beginning, it hits the gas pedal with a lead foot. As soon as characters are given motivations, the movie flashes forward 15 years, and the audience meets Brody’s now mature son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who must go to Japan to retrieve his father from jail.
In an attempt to avoid spoilers, I will say that the movie’s character development and exposition happen primarily in the first 40 minutes or so of the film, and the rest is spent following Ford through a repeated series of events as he attempts to save his family with the help of the military and Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe). Though this is mostly to the movie’s benefit (because plot in a Godzilla movie should never overshadow a giant lizard punching stuff), it also puts the amazing talents of Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe to waste. In this aspect, the trailers leading up to this movie are potentially harmful to any audience looking for a fix from Bryan Cranston after the ending of “Breaking Bad.”
It’s also important to note that anybody going into this movie to see a deep story is buying a ticket for the wrong reason. Character motivations and pivotal moments of plot are somewhat cliched, and few will shock the audience. However, this is not entirely bad, as the story seems intentionally contrived at times, fulfilling cliches that only became that way because the “Godzilla” franchise made them popular. Keeping this in mind, don’t think too hard about where the narrative is headed at any given moment, because you might not only ruin the movie for yourself, but the person sitting next to you (who is now also convinced that you’re psychic).
The special effects in this movie are outrageously good, and there are noticeable influences in the kaiju fights from Legendary’s previous foray into awesome, “Pacific Rim.” While the action doesn’t feel like the original Toho films’ men-in-rubber-suits, the movement of the monsters still welcomes the eye of the viewer. Godzilla and anything comparable to him move slowly, and effect a weight in every step and punch that convinces the audience of their size, and lets you revel in every glorious detail of the kaiju combat. The attention to detail in the monster effects is also heartbreakingly good, to the point that, if you chose, you could count every scale and skin-flap on Godzilla’s body.
While the movie is determined to wow the audience with eye candy, it’s also very aware of its roots, and the things that made “Godzilla” a lasting success for over half a century. Little jokes are sprinkled throughout the movie (such as references to Mothra and old Toho movie posters) that are intended as little winks and nods to old fans of the franchise. Additionally, the movie acknowledges Godzilla’s origins as a message about the dangers of nuclear weaponry, though it chooses to do so in a scene with all the subtlety of Godzilla himself … doing jumping jacks … on your face.
“Godzilla” is definitely a movie worth seeing in theaters. Despite its flaws, as long as you go into the theater knowing what you’re getting into, you’ll walk out far from disappointed. This movie was made by fans of Godzilla, for fans of Godzilla. Now it’s possible for us to forget that Matthew Broderick abomination ever existed.
Rating: 4 stars