Being a proud lover of the Matthew Broderick 1998 Godzilla spectacular, when news broke about the remake of the story, I was needless to say, excited. As more information about the upcoming film was released, the more I became apprehensive as Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen were cast in some kind of leads. Including an unheard (for me at least) of director in Gareth Edwards. Regardless the trailers had the inner child of mine screaming out, ready for a big, spectacular monster movie.
The inner child of mine was pleasantly surprised with what actually happened in the film. I was expecting a similar film to the 1998 version, with a battle between monster and men with an added storyline including the oriental side of Godzilla that I had gathered from the trailers. It was very hit and miss with my original view. In all honesty, I was about 20% correct.
The film opens excellently with ‘archive’ footage that shows Godzilla swimming in the ocean, it’s echoes showing on sonars and tracking it’s movements. Inevitably, bombs are sent to try and kill the monster and that remains unclear whether it worked. (Who are you kidding Gareth? Come on).We then are transported to the Philippines in 1999, where two investigators, Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) from Monarch discovers bones in a chasm, with a radioactive pod. Then we meet Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody in Janjira, a Japanese city, in charge of the power station there and after a discovery of regular patterns picked up on the radar, the plant suffers a radioactive leak and subsequently destroyed. This kills his wife, in what is quite a sad scene I must admit.
Fifteen years have passed and the little Ford Brody, whom Joe neglected when growing up (which can be picked up from the later scene with his father), is now in the army and with a family of his own with Elle (Elizabeth Olsen). As Ford tries to get comfortable, he has to go to Japan to release his detained father who has grown crazy trying to figure out what caused Janjira’s destruction. They discover that operations are still happening under Monarch’s supervision and are trying to find out what is inside this pod they discovered at Janjira (Similar to the one in the Philippines). Out comes an robotic looking arachnid with hints of Starship Troopers and flies away after destroying most of the area. Now I was expecting Godzilla. Or at least a baby Godzilla.
Either way, this thing feeds on radioactivity and somehow harnesses it for an EMP like attack rendering electronics useless within a certain radius. In a hunt for a radioactive sources, it finds one in a Russian nuclear submarine, anyway Godzilla comes out the sea and decides to fight this thing Serizawa calls Mutos. Fragrances of iconic images of Godzilla fighting giant moths came to mind. The narrative comes out not all pointless as the Muto calls out for a mate, which turns out to a wingless female that’s 300 feet taller, buried in Nevada. It hatches and destroys Las Vegas on a trip toward it’s mate, as this one cannot fly.
The directors initially set out to make the story as a force of a nature represented by Godzilla (of course) and it worked on many levels. The whole issue of trying to fight the Muto’s and their EMP blasts disabling the armies best efforts echoed this. Their only hope turned out to be Godzilla who fought the Muto’s which was surprising considering the trailers made it seem like a similar situation to the 1998 version. Dr. Serizawa mentions that Godzilla serves as a purpose to restore the balance that has been shifted, hence Godzilla’s awakening.
What I did like was the paddle footing around the original story of waking up the beast with the nuclear tests in the pacific oceans. Echoed by Joe’s suggestions that the nuclear bomb ‘tests’ were efforts to try and kill the beast. Whereas the first, original Godzilla has the nuclear tests by the Americans waking up the beast from a long slumber.
The film is a typical monster movie, and there is simply no avoiding that. The big showdown in Chinatown between Godzilla and the Muto’s is as spectacular as we always dreamed it would be, with many buildings being destroyed in the process. (But who cares about that, seriously?) And the acting ability of the cast was apt, although Bryan Cranston’s in his short screen time was probably the better part of the cast.
I realise I garbled on at the start on the plot, but I wouldn’t say the plot is unique, but rather takes some explaining. It’s not as simply as nuclear blasts creating Godzilla, Godzilla goes on a rampage and Godzilla dies (1998) there is more anticipation to the build up of Godzilla, and the fact a Muto is revealed in full before we even catch a full glimpse of Godzilla in all his glory was a great tactic by Gareth Edwards.
As I said, the narrative was loose, but enjoyable. It carried the story over the sections without the giant battles in Hawaii and San Francisco. With the added spice of family tragedy and lost love trying to reunite. A grievance of mine was that Elle Brody, I feel sometimes just on screen to heighten the sense of loss and family, when she was trapped in the Subway, but other than her encounter with Ford at the start when they are reunited, there isn’t much screen time to be had with her.
It’s been difficult to write this review without being too spoilerific. So I’ll leave it to your guys imagination. If I had another grievance, and this is a spoiler, but Joe Brody, Bryan Cranston’s character was killed relatively early on, which spurred on Ford’s attempts the kill the arachnid type creature anyway possible. But the film was very, very good. And really enjoyable. I enjoyed the whole Muto’s being left out in the trailers (that I saw anyway) for the added suspense in the film because it worked for me, it kept me intrigued. And with Gareth Edwards using elements of original, Japanese Godzilla movies was really enjoyable, including Godzilla’s fire breathing attack. Even the music had a subtle oriental tinge to it I thought. That could be just me though.
I would definitely recommend it to everyone, and it is spectacular on the big screen. If you loved the 1998 version, its just as good. (maybe not, 1998 did have Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno..)