Out of all the blockbusters coming out this summer, few seem as essentially pointless as Godzilla.
After all, the proto-monster has been in over 30 movies since its 1954 debut, as well as as appearing in multiple novels, TV series, video games, videos and even a Blue Öyster Cult song.
The last attempt to reboot the franchise as a summer tent-pole attraction was Roland Emmerich’s 1998 blockbuster reimagining, a movie that was universally panned as a creative and box office disaster. Emmerich himself recently told Empire magazine that the film was a huge mistake, one that he really hadn’t wanted to do in the first place.
Before that they tried to kick-start the franchise back in 1985 – even bringing back the original film’s star Raymond Burr and giving the film the catchy title Godzilla 1985 – and that film was also met with massive apathy by the movie-going public.
Even in the 14 years since Emmerich’s Godzilla became an infamous bomb, in Godzilla’s native Japan there has been five additional films featuring the gargantuan lizard. (Best title of those: Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack.) However, in 2004, even Japan seemed to give up on the big guy, closing out his story with the last film in the series, Godzilla: Final Wars.
In the meantime, tons of generic Godzilla-like movies such as Cloverfield, Pacific Rim, Battleship, theTransformer films and many more had taken over the mantle – for better or worse – of crazy-big-monsters stomping on major metropolises.
I know he’s supposed to be a force of nature, but if Godzilla won’t go away, how are we supposed to miss him?
Therefore, it was kind of a surprise that Warner Brothers green-lit the idea of going to the Godzilla well yet again. It was even more surprising that they handed such an expensive, effects driven franchise launch off to a mostly unknown director, Gareth Edwards, whose only previous film had been the low-budget indie horror Monsters.
Good news, it mostly works.
Godzilla the movie is probably still unnecessary, but it is a rather good example of a summer blockbuster and it’s miles better than Emmerich’s take on the tale.
Edwards’ Godzilla actually takes its cue from many of the other Godzilla movies over the years, in which the big guy comes out to save the Earth from the dire threat of another monster.
This particular threat are called MUTOs, two creatures that look a hell of a lot like giant stink bugs. One of the MUTOs first appears in Japan. The other in the middle of the United States. They move to get together in San Francisco to mate and make lots of little(r) MUTOs, flattening cities and towns as they go.
In the meantime, Godzilla sightings are happening in the Pacific Ocean, where he too seems to be heading towards San Francisco. Most humans assume that he is trying to get in on the city-flattening action, but a few scientists and military sorts believe that the giant monster is trying to save the world. However, can they afford to take that chance?
You may note that I have barely mentioned the humans in Godzilla, and there is a reason for that. The movie has some great actors and complicated backstories for the humans – Bryan Cranston is the brilliant-but-crazy scientist certain that monsters are coming, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is his estranged son who has to leave his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and family to help fight the monsters, Ken Watanabe is the smart Japanese doctor who realizes that Godzilla just wants to help us.
However, these back stories, while nuanced and front and center through most of the film, really don’t matter at all. They are a mere distraction from the real purpose of the film, huge monsters creating havoc.
Needless to say, with today’s CGI, the monsters look stunning. We’re far from the original guy in a lizard suit territory which is such a huge part of this franchise, and this is even a quantum leap from the 1998 state of the art monster.
Therefore, while the return of Godzilla is still probably not needed, at least they did a much better job this time around. Godzilla is better than you had any reason to expect, and it is a new state of the art of dumb-yet-smart blockbuster fare.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2014 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 16, 2014.