If you're a fan of the badly dubbed, yet drenched in awesome, Godzilla pictures that were a staple of Saturday afternoons in your childhood, prepare to be happy. With apologies to Matthew Broderick et al, 2014's [Godzilla](movie:45291) gets everything right that the early reboot got horribly wrong. [MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW, YOU WANT TO SEE THIS!]
First off, Godzilla is KING of monsters, not the queen. He's a dude again. It's as if the Emmerich/Dean picture never happened. Which is how it should be.
Second, Classic Themes: about nature v. technology, man's arrogance, and Godzilla as a force for balance are back. This is a cornerstone of the original movies and this script presents them in a respectful fashion that works.
Third, understated performances. Lots of popcorn flicks go for the obvious... Very broad characters, moments of comic relief, actors chewing scenery. This Godzilla takes itself very seriously, in a good way. Expecting to see a cigar-chomping military official screaming about how his bomb will "blow this critter to KINGDOM COME!!!!"? Not gonna happen. If anything, the military guys act with a startling humility that is a very reasonable response to giant monsters that are taller than skyscrapers. The actors don't overshadow the monsters like in some movies about oversized, alien robot creatures I might mention.
Fourth, OTHER MONSTERS. Godzilla isn't Godzilla without some nasty kaiju to battle. The King of Monsters needs those other monsters to assert his badassery. He's got 'em... and it's no walk in the park. Enough said.
Fifth, LOTS of buildings get smashed. There's Japanese carnage to be sure, but American hotspots bear the brunt of the damage. It's unreservedly awesome.
Sixth, the roar is PERFECT. There's a scene early on where we hear a good long roar from our King. It made me feel like a kid again.
- Seventh, Godzilla is BIG. Like scary big. The biggest Godzilla yet. Like striding among skyscapers big. And he is VERY faithful to the original designs. Bulkier, less man in a suit, but very in line with the Toho originals.
Eighth, THE BLUE BREATH IS BACK. I don't consider this a spoiler because OF COURSE Godzilla breathes blue energy beams out of his mouth (also, I teased it in the Headline). They wait before giving up the good stuff, but when those back spines started to glow,
Lastly, this isn't a critique, just a suggestion. See this in a packed house. The audience energy added SO MUCH to the experience. After the above-mentioned roar, the whole crowd ERUPTED in a satisfied cheer. Simply amazeballs.
The non-monster "family story" holds together well. Bryan Cranston is introduced as an American engineer working at a Japanese nuclear plant. His life was changed forever after a devastating accident 15 years earlier. As a result Cranston's become obsessed with the accident and is convinced secrets are being withheld (DUH!). Accordingly, he's become estranged from his now-married son, his lovely young daughter-in-law and his grandson.
Of course, his suspicions are proved correct and the son is drawn into the mystery after his dad's theories are vindicated. This sets up the main human story of the film. There's a tandem path of the Japanese researcher (and Godzilla fan) who insists that Godzilla is seeking to bring balance to nature.
Thankfully absent are sleazy corporate interests attempting to somehow capitalize on the monsters. NOR are there any shady government officials trying to weaponize the kaiju. It's really straightforward and clear cut. Monsters are here, we need to protect folks, let's hope our plan works.
I had a blast at Godzilla. In fact, I could easily imagine the big guy existing in the Pacific Rim universe. Seeing Godzilla go toe to toe against some of those monsters assisted by a Jaeger or two would make a great sequel. I'm looking at you, Guillermo del Toro!