I have good news! Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures pretty much nailed it with the new Godzilla. Unlike the one Roland Emmerich tried to pass off as Godzilla in 1998 this one feels like Godzilla. He looked like (for the most part) the original, had the atomic fire breathe and wasn’t taken out by missiles like a chump. On the surface this seems perfect. But when you dig deeper there are definitely some flaws I couldn’t get over but we’ll get to that.
Starting in 1999 we are introduced to the Brody clan, a family living in a small part of Japan. We watch when one fateful day the nuclear power plant the parents (A great Juliette Binoche and Bryan Cranston) work at literally combs crumbling down. Seeing his wife die in front of him Joe Brody goes on a quest to find out the truth. Flash forward 15 years and their son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is now grown up. Living with his wife (Emily Olson) and son in San Francisco Ford has to return to Japan to get his father and discovers the truth of what happened. Needless to say monsters are released and chaos ensues.
To me the human plot is perfect for a series reboot. With a stellar crew of actors (although I’d like more of Binoche and Cranston) help carry the bulk of the story. While it doesn’t necessarily go anywhere new story wise the cast is able to keep us invested the whole time. They are helped by a good script from Max Borenstein. Borenstein is able to do the original justice with its depiction of the of nuclear power without it coming off as cheesy like some other Godzilla movies. And while something minor and only concerning nerds like me he seemed to get in quite a few of the tropes of Godzilla movies that I love (Godzilla really seems to have beef with bridges). Gareth Edwards (Monsters) also does a fine job behind the camera of his first major feature. Not only is he able to film the Kaiju action well but he builds up the full reveal beautifully (obviously taking tips from Jaws/Alien). By the time you get your first view of Godzilla you are hyped. Unfortunately, at least for me, we don’t get enough of Godzilla. I understand that the humans are going to be the main focus but until the end I found the focus was on them a bit too much.
But more importantly how is Godzilla? Is he as cool as we all want him to be? Well, almost. I’m sure watching Godzilla movies all week has eschewed my view of the creature but it didn’t feel quite right to me. Godzilla has the same general look but it looked a bit chubbier (fat shaming monsters is a thing right?). It has the classic roar but it didn’t sound quite like the sound I’ve learned to love. Godzilla fights the evil monsters but it’s more to be some sort of balancing force as opposed to a pure force of nature. I know these are relatively minor and not something to bother me but Godzilla comes off as a good guy when it should be an anti-hero at best. This is a giant lizard destroying cities not Obi-Wan Kenobi bringing balance to the universe. That nerdery aside Godzilla is quite a sight to see in action. They really got it right when it comes to little things like the mannerisms and actions of the classic Godzilla. I also didn’t mind the altered origins for Godzilla. While a bit out there it was a fun change that makes sense all things considered. I just don’t think the whole “humanizing the monster” bit they try to pull later works. There’s one shot in particular that really felt like it was ripping off King Kong with trying to pull off this “Feel sorry for him!” bit that just didn’t work for me. Still when it comes down to the things Godzilla should be doing (ie. fighting monsters because it’s awesome) it totally works.
Pulling in $93 million at the box office Godzilla has not only become one of the big hits of the summer but also that Godzilla is still a viable franchise and with good reason. Despite a cliché story and a lack of actual monster fights this is a promising reboot that leaves a lot of potential for future movies. As long as they avoid Minya we’ll be alright.