Much like last year’s Pacific Rim, if you walk into Godzilla looking for an Oscar-worthy performance (well, unless it’s from Godzilla himself), please move along. There’s nothing for you to see here.
If you’re looking for a decent popcorn movie that’s all about giant freakin’ monsters stomping around our world while we helplessly watch with a bit of an “arrogance of man” message, then Godzilla is your movie. It’s not a great flick, but it’s a good movie that follows more in the tradition of the original movies and makes up for that 1998 disaster of a flick by the same name.
For me, the most depressing thing about this movie was the opening scene. It’s a flashback to 1999 (which, I think, is the second summer movie that has a 90s flashback – Spider-Man 2 being the other). I saw the “1999” title and sat there thinking, “1999? That wasn’t that long ago” …before quietly doing the math in my head.
The flashback introduces an incident in Japan where a mysterious series of earthquakes takes out a nuclear reactor as well as sets up our main characters. The main character, Ford, is a boy at this point, and his parents work at the reactor.
Flash-forward to present-day, and Ford is an adult and a demolitions expert in the Navy who has just returned home to his wife and son in San Francisco.
He has to race to Japan to bail out his father, who, after losing their mother in the accident, has become a conspiracy theorist chasing a theory that the accident at the plant was not a natural occurrence. He believed something caused those quakes and the government has been covering it up ever since.
Cut to Japan, Ford bails his father out. Dad (played by Bryan Cranston) is determined to retrieve data disks from their old home, which has been quarantined because of the radiation from the reactor, because it will give him the definitive proof about his theory.
For no apparent reason, Ford goes with his dad, and that kicks off the wild ride of the plot involving the humans.
Every aspect of the human story is pretty forgettable. Ford goes to help his dad, then spends the rest of the movie trying to get home to his family. Along the way, he continually manages to be dragged into the conflict with the monsters. Ford could have handed the story off to another couple of characters and we could have followed them from point B to C. They could hand the story off to other characters to go from points C to D, and it wouldn’t have mattered.
The plot isn’t anything you haven’t heard of before: Stupid humans unwittingly awaken something they have no hope of controlling or understanding. Big monster starts leaving a trail of destruction. Although presumed dead (because the humans awoke something else back in the 50s and then immediately tried to kill it), Godzilla suddenly shows up and is now somehow aware of and in pursuit of the “bad” monster.
The big difference is that instead of tearing up Tokyo or New York, the big battle ends up heading for San Francisco. So, at least ,in one sense, we at least get to see massive destruction of a different city.
There are a few scenes that dwell on the arrogance of man and argue that despite our bumbling of mankind to destroy our world, nature will find a way to restore the balance.
Ironically, in a summer full of super-hero movies, Godzilla really plays out a lot like another super-hero movie…
“Because Godzilla’s the hero Gotham… er, San Francisco deserves, but not the one it needs right now…and so we’ll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he’s not a hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector…a dark grayish green knight.”
I kid, but let’s face it – We’re here to watch giant freakin’ monsters duke it out – and they do. Sort of.
That’s probably the most disappointing part of the movie. Just as we start to see the big fight scenes between Godzilla and the bad guys, the director decides that’s a good time to cut over to see what Ford or the other characters are doing.
The creature itself is also back to the one we know from our childhood and not the oddball super-big yet somehow also super-stealthy creature from the 1998 version. This Godzilla isn’t all that concerned about all of the military hardware following or attacking him.
Overall, though, it’s still a decent homage to the original movies from the 60s. Like Pacific Rim, it’s a fun flick to see in IMAX. Like disaster movies? Like giant monster movies? Godzilla is your movie.