Godzilla attempts to stomp his way back into our hearts


Everyone’s favorite giant Japanese monster is reborn in the new ‘Godzilla,’ but can the film ever live up to the hype?


When you’re of a certain age and you hear a movie is being made of either one of you favorite classic TV shows or one of your favorite classic movies, you think one of two things – “This is going to suck” or “This is going to be awesome!” When you finally begin to see teasers and trailers that just hint at the movie’s awesomeness, you set yourself some impossibly high expectations for what the full movie will be.

And that is the situation many Godzilla fans may find themselves in when the newly updated, revived and rebooted Godzilla stomps into theaters on May 16. The teasers, the trailers and the TV ads have done their job very well, heavily featuring Bryan Cranston and fleeting glimpses of the big guy and something else big. But the trailers are also a bit misleading, making it seem like Cranston is on some kind of quest to uncover a large government conspiracy that leads to the reveal of Godzilla (and I do love the fact that Ken Watanabe’s character refers to him as Gojira). That is Cranston’s role in the film, but it turns out to not be as big a part of the story as expected.

What the story turns out to be is a son’s (Ford Brody, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) journey to honor his father (Cranston), whom he always thought was just a guy who went a little nuts after his wife died (Juliette Binoche bites it very early in the proceedings), and then to get back to his own wife and son before Godzilla flattens San Francisco. Luckily, he’s an Army bomb technician who is always in the right place at the right time.

The main story does involve a government cover-up, but not really of Godzilla. Turns out the Japanese have had some creature under surveillance at a former nuclear facility (which it destroyed in 1999), and now that thing which they have dubbed MUTO has come out of its dormancy and is on a mission. The US military takes over, of course, and they want to blow the MUTO and Godzilla to Kingdom Come, but Watanabe’s character, Dr. Serizawa, is convinced Godzilla is not the enemy but the defender of the earth against these other monsters. Will the military leaders take heed, or will they nuke San Francisco Bay before Godzilla can show them what a great guy he is?

Like last year’s Pacific Rim, I left Godzilla feeling just about the same amount of meh.

I had really, really, really, impossibly high expectations for Godzilla, so perhaps nothing would have given me that rush that I expected while watching the movie. I had the same high expectations for last year’s Pacific Rim, and I left Godzilla feeling just about the same amount of meh. It’s not that the movie is bad by any means, it just left me wanting more – more plot, more Cranston, more Godzilla. The movie is more about the MUTO than anything else! The plot is all set up very early on and then it just plays out with one action/disaster/fighting monsters scene after another … until it comes to a dead stop to watch characters basically do nothing before the action starts again.

Without a doubt, Bryan Cranston give the best performance in the film.

Watanabe does a lot of standing around, squinting and grimacing at the sights in the distance. Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins, as Serizawa’s right hand, gives most of the expository dialog and also stands around gawking. Elizabeth Olsen, as Ford’s wife Elle, is separated from her husband and their son for the bulk of the movie, and Cranston isn’t in the film as much as we’ve been led to believe. Which is a shame because I thought he gave the best performance of anyone, actually bringing a tear to my eye almost every time he got emotional about the loss of his wife or while trying to convince everyone that he’s not mad. Godzilla also shows up about midway into the movie, and then almost every time he starts to fight the MUTO, the scene cuts away to people talking, staring or looking forlorn. But mostly looking at things. There really seemed to be very little actual dialog.

There is a little Easter egg for the longtime Godzilla/kaiju fans early in the film.

The biggest mistake the filmmakers have made, besides not featuring the star of the title more, was trying to separate this film from all the other Godzilla movies that have come before (unfortunately, one subplot with the MUTO is a little too close to the events of the horrid 1998 version, and also reminds one of a plot point in Aliens). If you look real closely in a scene at the Brody home, there is a little Easter egg for the longtime Godzilla/kaiju fans, but that little nod to the past should have been a more important part of the new movie. Instead of trying to introduce new monsters into the Godzilla canon, they should have started off with new versions of the classics like Rodan (which the flying MUTO sometimes resembles) and then save the new monsters for the inevitable sequel. The other problem with a movie like this is that you know the “hero” isn’t going to really be in danger of dying, so all we’re left with is the spectacle of the fights and the destruction of the cities.

Godzilla left me wanting more – more plot, more Cranston, more Godzilla.

Of course, the special effects are the best that can be expected. Godzilla is certainly not a man in a rubber suit, and the destruction of cities is also spectacular. But in the end it just didn’t have the heart that it should have, especially for people like me who have been watching Godzilla movies since I was a kid. I certainly am happy to see Godzilla back up on the big screen and done right, but in the end the movie failed by not making me care if there is a sequel. It’s not a bad movie, but this re-introduction to a beloved character was just not as exciting or interesting as it should have been.

Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

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