Out of all the famous monsters from Hollywood history, no one has captured people’s imaginations and inspired awe (and terror) quite like Godzilla, a massive, prehistoric creature that even nukes can’t stop. Although Godzilla has been around for decades (and even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!), the last American Godzilla movie wasn’t well received and failed to launch a franchise.
Director Gareth Edwards appears to have changed that with his new movie, “Godzilla.” The film was released in theaters on Friday and opened to an impressive $93 million, all but guaranteeing a sequel. However, is the new film a worthy reboot for the character?
“Godzilla” begins with a nuclear plant supervisor, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), raising concerns about seismic activity at the plant. His concerns go unheeded, and tragedy results. Although time passes, Brody won’t give up, convinced the truth about the accident is being covered up. Brody’s hunch turns out to be correct, and he and his estranged son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) discover officials have been hiding the existence of a giant monster in the ruins of the plant.
Needless to say, that monster — known as a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) — breaks out, in search of radiation to feed on, as well as another MUTO that has escaped from a nuclear waste repository. Humanity doesn’t have weapons powerful enough to stop them; it will take an even mightier monster — Godzilla himself — to take down the MUTOs.
“Godzilla” has had one of the best marketing campaigns of the films released this year, using trailers that teased more than they revealed. With the level of hype built around the movie, it was perhaps inevitable that the final product, while definitely a fun summer popcorn movie, does feel like just a little bit of a letdown. I liked the tone and look of the movie; it has a gritty, military feel without any of the camp or cheesiness sometimes associated with the Godzilla franchise. The Godzilla character design also is great; he has a prehistoric look, with uneven, jagged spikes along his back, and conveys a sense of primal power.
However, the human characters surrounding Godzilla aren’t quite a deep as they could have been. Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe (as a scientist) do add a sense of gravitas to the proceedings, but the script doesn’t allow viewers to connect with the characters on an emotional level. The movie also is missing the sense of over-the-top, gung-ho giddiness of last summer’s “Pacific Rim.”
Still, the moments of monster mayhem make “Godzilla” a fun trip to the theaters, and the highlight of the movie is the action set pieces featuring Godzilla versus the MUTOs. The film’s best line — from Ken Watanabe’s scientist — also sums up the best parts of the movie: “The arrogance of man is thinking nature is in our control, and not the other way around. Let them fight.”