‘Godzilla’ Movie Review – An American Think Piece
A lot of Gareth Edwards’ (Monsters) Godzilla remake relies on keeping the viewers interested in the movie before eventually revealing the iconic monster. The audience is there for primarily one reason and it’s pretty obvious: we want to see the behemoth. While it does get a little tiresome how much they tease him, the wait is certainly worth it. In fact, I’d argue Godzilla works in more than one way, and it is exciting to see a summer blockbuster that doesn’t just sacrifice brains for brawn (cough*Transformers*cough).
The movie starts off with a significant flashback to 1999 (I can’t believe 1999 is really 15 years ago). The flashback serves two purposes – to establish our main characters Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his son (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) while also setting up a secondary, very Cloverfield-like monster (referred to as a MUTO throughout). We don’t know exactly what the monster is at that point, but it’s ultimately to blame for a catastrophic nuclear reactor failure.
Fast forward 15 years and Joe and Ford are in much different places. Joe has spent the time trying to figure out what caused the disaster. He’s convinced there is something more than just an earthquake that destroyed the plant and ruined his life. Ford, on the other hand, is a military man trying his hardest to raise a family while still pleasing his “crackpot” dad.
When a second MUTO is discovered and starts to wreak havoc, researchers (led by actor Ken Watanabe) finally realize that the two are likely trying to meet up and reproduce – something that’d obviously be pretty destructive. Their only hope then becomes an ancient, and ginormous, monster named Godzilla.
As Dr. Ishiro Serizawa says, Godzilla is there to restore order.
I am no expert when it comes to the different Godzilla adaptations. However, I do know that he was originally created as a metaphor of sorts for nuclear weapons. There is an obvious nod to this in Edwards’ film, but they also take Godzilla’s character far away from the villain part of the spectrum. From what I understand, this is one of the more inconsistent parts of the Godzilla franchise.
This is where things get tricky. The original Godzilla was created to cast light on nuclear weapons while also containing some commentary on America’s use of such weapons. If this is truly the case, I have to think it is difficult for non-American audiences to like this version.
This version isn’t exactly coy when comparing the Godzilla character to America as a whole. If the film is saying America is the monster everybody is afraid of but has truly great intentions, that can be a very dangerous message.
Just having this “message” is a good thing in my mind. Some of what I am saying is a stretch, but with the mindless entertainment we’re used to, Godzilla is a very welcome change.
Not to completely rip Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, but Godzilla is a great example of how to create some of the best visuals and provide an adequate story to go along with it. While Pacific Rim created what I’d considered the best “monsters” visuals to date last year, I’m thinking the effects and overall effectiveness of the visuals with the story are trumped here. There are some seriously breathtaking scenes that alone make the film worth seeing.
In short, this movie achieves with both the visual and the story elements. If you want to see a movie that is technically sound and visually amazing, Godzilla is for you. If you are sick of the typical summer blockbuster that devalues storytelling, Godzilla is also for you. Gareth Edwards deserves a lot of credit, but the buck doesn’t stop there. This movie goes deeper than the surface and is an interesting (if perhaps misguided by some) think piece on foreign relations that shouldn’t be ignored.
Godzilla has been available in conventional, 3D, IMAX, and IMAX 3D theaters since Thursday night. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out!
Follow me on Twitter @jmacle