Sometimes you just have to watch a monster movie and, let’s face it, it’s been a while since there’s been a good monster movie on the big screen. Godzilla is, potentially, the greatest monster of all time. He’s certainly the most famous (not including the Loch Ness monster. C’mon, Godzilla isn’t real). The last time we saw him/her/it on the big screen was in 1998 in a film starring Matthew Broderick as a scientist and Maria Pitillo as a reporter (why are women always reporters?) and the monster itself was an asexual lizard mutated by nuclear testing into the monster known as Godzilla.
It was a little different from the original storyline.
It seems fashionable these days for reboots to hark back to the original storylines. The upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sees April O’Neil as a scientist’s daughter instead of a reporter (see!), going back to the comic book stories that have been forgotten. Similarly, the 2014 Godzilla is not of a mutated lizard, but a prehistoric monster inspired by a world living in fear of nuclear bombs.
Directed by Gareth Edwards, who has recently been pitted to direct a Star Wars spin off, and starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass and the upcoming Avengers 2), Elizabeth Olson (also the upcoming Avengers 2 as Aaron’s sister – exciting stuff!), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) and Ken Watanabe (Inception, Batman Begins), the latest rendition of Godzilla promised to be amazing.
Ford’s (Taylor-Johnson) parents work at a nuclear plant in Japan. Away in the Philippines, a colossal skeleton is found along with two egg pods, one of which is empty. There is a supposed earthquake at the nuclear plant and Ford’s mother is killed. Fifteen years later, Ford’s father knows it wasn’t an earthquake that killed his wife, and he’s determined to prove it.
And prove it he does, uncovering a strange prehistoric looking creature that feeds off radiation, named a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). It’s soon discovered that the other egg pod, taken to a holding facility has also hatched and now they’re searching for each other in order to mate. Nuclear weapons have not proven successful in destroying these monsters in the past, and the worlds only hope is Godzilla, a prehistoric radioation feeding monster who will hunt these MUTOs until they are killed.
So Godzilla isn’t a mutated lizard. Instead he’s a dinosaur who came into being when there was a lot more radiation on Earth, which he and the MUTOs fed from. As the radiation faded, they moved further underground and disappeared. The MUTOs presumably dying out apart from these two egg pods, and Godzilla into the depths of the sea until he was awoken by deep sea expeditions in 1954. Nuclear ‘tests’ are done to try and kill him, but of course they fail.
The star of the show, the 2014 Godzilla truly does reflect the original 1954 Japanese Godzilla. Both a land and sea animal, Godzilla not only breathes underwater and absorbs radiation but he can also melt opponents with a nuclear atomic breath. Something which is brought back in the 2014 film. There’s something wonderfully classical about the styling of this modern Godzilla. You can almost see him made out of modelling clay in full stop motion glory.
I was excited when the film started in Japan. Could it be that an original Japanese concept is going to be taken truly back to its roots?
The first MUTO appears there, yes, but soon all three monsters are in America because, apparently, things only happen in America.
I found the characters of Joe (Bryan Cranston) and Dr Serizawa (Watanabe) the most interesting, but of course they’re not the main characters. Nor do they have much of a role. In fact, I found the trailer very misleading although I can’t say why without a massive spoiler. Instead, the main character is Ford and his wife, Elle (Olson). An American soldier and a nurse. It’s fitting, I suppose. Godzilla was created at a time when the world was shaken by nuclear incidents, so maybe it makes sense that the human protagonists be in roles that are at the forefront of current affairs (in health care and the military). It is also different from past films, which is good and original, but still, the scientist and the engineer set in Japan might have made it more interesting.
I also feel the need to point out that despite a nurse and Dr Serizawa’s female colleague, there are no noteable strong female characters. Saying that, I can’t honestly say much about the male characters either. This is a monster film, after all.
All of this I can put up with. It means that Godzilla is not the greatest film but it is certanly watchable. Some people have criticised that Godzilla takes a long time to show up, but I actually think he’s in the film just the right amount. The one aspect that I can’t get my head around is Godzilla’s motives. This is a creature who feeds off radiation, yet instead of seeking out nuclear nutrition like the MUTOs do, he seeks out the MUTOs. He fights them in glorious battle scenes, but doesn’t devour them. In fact, he doesn’t devour anything. So why does he do it?
Speaking of glorious battle scenes, the visuals of this film are spectacular. The cityscapes with the monsters, the mist on the railway bridge, the soldiers parachuting down leaving trails of red smoke are all breathtaking.
Tell me honestly, how do you feel about the noises the velociraptors in Jurassic Park make? If, like me, they send thrills through you then the monsters in Godzilla make the most beautiful sounds.
The monsters are definitely the best part of this film, particularly after the action moves from Japan to America. They are developed as characters in their own right and you find yourself rooting for Godzilla and even feeling sorry for the MUTOs. They steal the show, and they reveal humans for the stupid creatures we can be. Fighting nuclear eating monsters with nuclear weapons, indeed. More importantly, the development of their characters reflects a resemblance between us and them, as the MUTOs fight to preserve their young and Elle and Ford fight to save their family.
The concept of the 2014 Godzilla is original, considering the 1998 version, and more in line with the first Godzilla stories. The human characters are also fairly original but I feel so much more could have been done to make this an incredible film instead of merely enjoyable. Set it in Japan, with Joe and Dr Serizawa as the leads, no romance required other than Joe’s lost wife, and this film could have been mind blowing.
As it is, it’s worth watching. Although whether you want to spend cinema money on it or wait to see it on a smaller screen is really up to the monster lover in you.
“The arrogance of men is thinking nature is in their control and not the other way around. Let them fight.”