The days of miniatures and guys in rubber creature suits are long since past. Back in the previous century, this was a long-standing way of making an entertaining monster movie. It didn’t really need much of a character development story to make for a great film. The people who saw this, were here for the monsters and city destruction. That was enough to make the Japanese monster Godzilla such a cultural icon for over fifty years. If you do your homework, you’d be surprised to find out that there are more then thirty Godzilla films, ranging from having him as a terrifying force to saving the world from other monsters to even making him a children’s idol to look up to.
The Godzilla series was something else I loved as a kid, though it wasn’t easy for an American like myself. The movies are very hard to find (these were the days before we had the convenient Netflix) and rarely show in theaters (I saw Godzilla 2000 in theaters), making hard to persuade my friends that wanted modern special effects and better story telling. Today’s movies can’t work on special effects alone, often needing that griping story that for something like giant monsters, is hard to pull off. The American Godzilla gives the famous monster a second round at combining action and a western setting.
The story begins in 1999 in…where else but Japan where scientists Ishiro Serizawa (played by Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (played by Sally Hawkins) discover a giant skeleton and a hatched egg where one of the creatures as escaped into the sea. At the same time, a power plant supervisor Joe Brody (played by Bryan Cranston) nearly escapes a meltdown when seismic activity destroys the place. The disaster, written off as an earthquake, results in an evacuation and quarantine of the Japanese area.
Cut to fifteen years later where Joe’s son Ford (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is an officer in the Navy living in San Francisco with his wife Elle (played by Elizabeth Olsen) and son Sam. He finds out that Joe has been arrested for trespassing in the quarantined area, forcing Ford to go back to Japan. Joe and Ford return to the quarantine zone to collect disks that reveal a cover up. They are arrested and taken to a facility where an egg hatches, unearthing a winged creature called a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) destroys that place and flies off to the United States. The scientists and the Navy reveal another creature, Godzilla, as the only thing that can fight off the MUTOS as Ford tries everything in his power to get back to his family.
To combine a tragic story around a monster like Godzilla in today’s time is hard to pull off. Does it work? It does in many areas. Last years Pacific Rim perfected the combination of having good human characters in a giant monster movie. Godzilla took a lesson by applying the same idea of good actors playing good characters.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s story of getting home was good, reminding me of War of the Worlds. Brian Cranston steels every scene as a broken man attempting to expose a conspiracy, even if we’ve seen this before. Even the story of the military trying to kill the monsters is good. What’s missing is Godzilla himself. He doesn’t show up until an hour in, but when he does, it brought me back to my childhood. The creature is given a modern, CGI look that is defiantly worthy of the title “GODzilla”. I just wish there could have been more of him. He’s in about twenty-five minutes of the entire movie, giving th story to the people. This is like getting a taste of a gourmet chefs food without getting the full dish. I guess it’s better to have a little of something that great rather then to have too much of it.
I’ll give this four rubber suit Godzilla’s out of five. Had their been just a little more monster action, this would have been one of the best of 2014, but I had fun. I was satisfied with the new American Godzilla. Lets just hope that if they make sequels, we get to see Mothra, Mechagodzilla or King Ghidorah fight the king of the monsters. Oh, and more Godzilla would be nice.