Blockbuster season is gearing up, Evil Geeks and so far this summer has been kind to us as our first popcorn flick of the season, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, was UNBELIEVABLY good. Godzilla is up this week and with the bad taste of this Summer's second blockbuster, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, still in my mouth, I've been hoping beyond all other hopes that the grumpy green giant wouldn't let me down after plunking down $18.50 to check him out in IMAX. Can this once great cinema icon stomp his way back into our hearts and movie-going wallets once again? His loathsome last reboot was dead on arrival in the theaters, so with that failure still behind him, if this movie doesn't deliver, then Hollywood just might finally manage to kill off Godzilla once and for all. Sure the citizens of countless Pacific adjacent cities would be grateful, but damn it; do we really want to live in a world where poor box office returns can accomplish something King Ghidora never could?
The story of the film is an epic in scope as the titular character is in size. It starts off in 1999 where we meet Bryan Cranston and Juliet Binoche as Joe and Sandra Brody, two nuclear technician types who happen work at a power plant in Japan; where they lived at the time with their son Ford. At the same time Joe and Sandra are playing Burns and Smithers, just a few island chains over in the Philippines, some miners have quite literally fallen ass backwards into a cavern with some mysterious fossils and some even more mysterious eggs. Stranger still, one of the eggs has recently hatched and whatever was inside has smashed through the wall of the cavern and made a bee line straight for the ocean. The cavern is being investigated by a Dr. Serizawa, in a nod to the original film. I'm not sure if it's just a name check or if Ken Watanabe''s character is supposed to be related to the original Dr. Serizawa, but either way it's still a great reference. Cut back to Japan, where Joe has been tracking a series of earthquakes that have been heading towards Japan from the direction of the Philippines. Moments later, the nuclear plant where Joe and Sandra are, suffers a catastrophic meltdown and is subsequently destroyed by something incredibly powerful and unseen. Sandra is killed in the "accident" as it's classified, leaving poor Ford with a raving loon for a father.
Cranston plays the Ahab role in this story, chasing one hell of a big ass whale. He's spent the last 15 years chasing the truth about what happened to the plant that day and he's gotten pretty close to solving the mystery. He knows that the area of land around the plant hasn't been closed off because of the accident at the plant and the subsequent radiation, but instead it's because the area is being used to hide something. That something isn't Godzilla though, it's another giant monster that's been in hibernation since it attacked the plant. The monster has been gestating and now it's ready to emerge from its cocoon, much like a butterfly would, or I suppose in this case it'd be more appropriate to say a MOTH! We don't necessarily get Mothra out of that cocoon, it's more like Roach-thra, but it's still a cool looking giant monster. Joe and a now grown up Ford (who's now a nuclear ordinance tech in the US Army), end up in Japan together as Ford finally gives in to his father's ravings and decides to accompany him on a trip to their old house in the quarantine zone to pick up some information Joe had stored on his computer related to the plant accident. While on the trip, the two men are picked up by the security force guarding the quarantine zone and are taken back to the destroyed plant, where Serizawa has been studying the cocoon instead of destroying it when he had the chance and saving thousands of lives in the process. Because of that, the Earth now has a giant Palmetto bug wreaking havoc across the globe. Thanks science.
Roach-thra has a counter part as well , that's also been dormant since it's discovery along with Roach-thra. I called this one Roach Kong since it couldn't fly and wass way larger than Roach-thra. Roach Kong was taken in by the US Army and has been placed in the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in the Nevada Desert. When Roach-thra awakens, he sends out a long distance mating call to his sister/bang buddy, Roach Kong and the two decide to meet up in San Francisco to mate, catch a Giants game and maybe grab a burrito or two at a local taqueria. Sadly though, the mating call is overheard by the world's largest cock-block, Godzilla. You know how back in the 50's and 60's the US would every once in a while just kinda decide to blow up a Pacific Island or two in order to "test an A-Bomb"? Well it turns out that what they were really trying to do was kill this Godzilla chap, but sadly the elusive gent wouldn't relent and has since been MIA. Serizawa has figured out that Godzilla and the Roach Twins are from a race of creatures that predates the dinosaurs. The lived when the planet was far more radioactive than it is today and as a result of that, these massive creatures have gone underground in order to be closer to the Earth's radiation, which they feed off of. So basically what you're telling me Doc, is that the Earth is basically a gargantuan Rice Krispie treat, but instead of marshmallows inside, it's got giant monsters living in there? I suddenly feel like we live in a perfect world. Serizawa believes that Godzilla is something of a planetary guardian, who is there to keep nature in balance, meaning that since these spawning roaches are about to litter the world with their inbred offspring, Godzilla is going to show up with a massive can of Raid to kill these bugs dead. The ensuing battles between the behemoths leave a trail of destruction from Japan to Hawaii and eventually Las Vegas and San Francisco.
As much as I loved this movie, I think that there are some people who are going to be let down by it. Director Gareth Edwards takes something a Spielberg on Jaws approach to the battles, where we really never get a view of the fighting until nearly the end of the movie. Just like we never see the shark until later in the movie, we get teased with flourishes of the action until the end when we get to see an all out war of the monsters. I thought this approach made not only for a better movie, but it made me appreciate the epic battle we did get to witness that much more. Think about it: in real life, you'd never get to see every moment of the melee. You'd be too busy trying to save your own ass and those of you family members to stand around and take in a brawl. The film takes the same approach, focusing on Ford and his journey to be reunited with his family as well as battle the menace that is now tearing apart the city where they reside. I can't stress enough the need to see this film in IMAX as the larger format really captures the immenseness of the creatures and destruction they leave in their wake.
Aside from stressing the human aspects of the story of a giant lizard beating up on two massive roaches, Edwards manages to get the audience to see Godzilla in a more human, even somewhat heroic light. Once his task his done, Godzilla stomps off into the sunset like a huge, scaly, Clint Eastwood, just waiting for the next time he will be needed to protect the planet. The look of Godzilla and the Roach Twins is spectacular as well. Godzilla's fighting style falls somewhere between a brawling wrestler and a ferocious apex predator. He's a biter and he goes right for the neck. The first time you see Godzilla full on, the blast of his bellowing roar will shake you right to your soul. The onscreen battles are truly something any fan of giant monster movies will eat up and be ready to plunk down another chunk of cash for the sequel immediately. Edwards, Cranston, Johnson, Watanabe, Olsen and the rest of the cast have finally delivered on a solid Hollywood made Godzilla movie and this fanboy could not be happier. Let's all just pretend the Matthew Broderick Godzilla just never happened. We'll keep that in the same vault where we keep Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I'll always have a place in my heart for the classic rubber monster we've seen crush Tokyo a thousand time, but this new guy is pretty impressive as well. Head out to the theaters today and catch this impressive monster movie!
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