written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
I’m all for reboots when the reboot is needed, it was one of the reasons why I was such a supporter of the first TASM (The Amazing Spider Man for those that don’t know the acronym). One film series that needed some real rejuvenation was Godzilla. Back in 1998, Sony Pictures had the chance to do that… even going so far as dedicating it to Tomoyuki Tanaka, the man who directed the original 1954 classic. Even the blessings of the Gods couldn’t make it great, so this truly rotten (Rotten Tomatoes has it at an abysmal 25%) film with a bombastic in all the worst ways Puff Daddy song (Google “Come With Me” by Puff Daddy) firmly sits on many a film buff’s “worst of” list.
Fast-forward 16 years; Godzilla is back again… this time coming from Warner Bros. Pictures. With an absolute zero in the Diddy-quotient, it was looking better already. Starring; Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, and Ken Watanabe. Godzilla is choked full of talent, from principle actors to the supporting cast.
The story is simple enough, Godzilla smash… Godzilla fight… Godzilla save humanity. Massive tremors shake different parts of the world, and after one of these tremors decimates a nuclear power plant in Japan, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) discovers that is wasn’t just a simple earthquake. After losing his wife in the destruction, he devotes the next 15 some odd years to finding answers. Joe’s son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has moved on, grown up to become a father… a husband… and a US Navy explosive ordnance disposal officer. Coming home to his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and their young son, Ford is just as swiftly taken away when he discovers his father was arrested in Japan after trespassing on the site of his former employer, now deemed a quarantine zone.
Where the veritable shit hits the fans, Ford and his father get caught up in the destruction when a winged beast, dubbed by the government as a Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism (MUTO for short), hatches from an egg left behind at the same power plant Joe worked at 15 years ago.
What the 1998 picture got wrong was making Godzilla a destroyer. Sure he destroys the city he’ll rampage through, but not without purpose. What I absolutely loved about this movie was how the titular monster became somewhat of an unlikely hero. Godzilla was the protagonist, Godzilla was the hero, Godzilla just left massive destruction in its wake.
As far as the human element is concerned, Bryan Cranston stole the show. I wish he was utilized more in the movie because scenes where he wasn’t on screen felt noticeably less engaging. Overall, the human element was the weakest link of the film, sure I cared whether the main characters lived or died, but all I kept thinking was “hurry up and get back to the monster fights dammit!”
I felt the monster design for Godzilla and the MUTOs were breathtaking, drawing lots of inspiration from the Toho Godzilla films while firmly trying to solidify the monster’s place in a real world. Despite Japanese critics complaining this Godzilla looked fat (dammit Japan! stop fat-shaming my Godzilla!) I absolutely loved this modern design. As far as the MUTO designs go, I wish they drew more inspiration from Godzilla’s classic adversaries. While the flying MUTO did seem like an amalgamation of Mothra and Battra, the other MUTO felt more like an original villain than one of Godzilla’s primary adversaries. It may be a small gripe but I was hoping for more than a flying monster that could be Mothra or Battra as an homage to the original.
While the pacing of the narrative was spotty at some points, the blockbuster special effects, a truly awesome Godzilla, and a stand out performance from Bryan Cranston make this reboot an absolute must watch! Thank God(zilla) that someone finally got a modern Godzilla film right this time, and especially after the 1998 Matthew Broderick debacle… going forward let’s keep Diddy away from Summer Blockbusters