A creature with a long history in cinemas, Godzilla suffered from a rough American adaptation in the 1998, which has gotten even worse with age. We moved on, but Godzilla did not. When I started seeing glimpses of a new Godzilla, I was hooked. This looked like a more serious Godzilla, a dark adaptation that would set things right. Bryan Cranston would lead a strong cast in a movie that would make us respect Godzilla once more.
Well, got a good movie, but it wasn’t quite what I thought it was.
Warning: This is a spoiler-filled post about “Godzilla”. If you haven’t seen it, turn back now.
Bryan Cranston, Ken Wantanabe, Elizabeth Olson, and the rest of the acting talent was a red herring. This wasn’t a movie about people living through a Godzilla attack; it was a Godzilla story told from the human perspective. The people were just there to give us a point of view. Strangely, I’m ok with the people not really mattering. “Godzilla” features a somewhat forced journey of our human hero, but that saves us the trouble of following too many plot lines.
What I found most astonishing about this movie was that the creators were able to keep the MUTO a secret. They did it. They had a great, exciting character for Godzilla to fight, and they sat on it. From what I can tell, the extra monsters were not teased until after the movie had been in theaters for a few weeks. My hat is off to the creators for surprising us.
While I’ve only seen the original movie (a long time ago), I could tell that this movie was paying tribute to series roots. We’ve seen what happens when Godzilla is treated like just another monster. In this movie, the history is recognized, and we hear of the legends leading us to our story. Ken Wantenabe’s character tells us about Godzilla’s role in the world. Godzilla is Nature’s way of putting things into balance. The legend and the lore all support our desire from the moment we learned that there were multiple monsters in this movie: “”Let them fight!”.
While the movie looked fantastic, I was struck by the sound "Godzilla". From the score to Godzilla’s roar, plenty of care was put into the sound of the film. It was big and loud when it needed to be, but it also removed sound effects and was quiet when it needed to amp up the drama. I thought of "Jaws" as Godzilla lurked, mostly out of sight. This paired well with the number of occasions where we didn’t see the monster. I was also happy to see that the HALO jump from the teaser retained the choral music also heard in “2001”. Its such an interesting choice, calling forward the fearful feeling of standing in front of the unknown.
It appears to me that “Godzilla” is the blockbuster we’ve been asking for. It surprised us by killing off the lead actor in the first act and giving us more monsters that literally eat nukes for breakfast. It tells us a monster story from the human’s perspective, like “Cloverfield” without the shaky-cam. That said, “Godzilla” knows what the audience came to see. The creators lets the human characters fade in the background so our real hero can shine (unlike the "Transformers" series). While other movies ignore the devastation left behind such battles, “Godzilla” incorporates it into the story. We see one action scene after another, and its all just good popcorn fun. Sure, a better human story could have improved the movie, but it was somehow interesting enough in its own right. “Godzilla” doesn’t seem to want you to pay too close of attention to its human characters. They help to tell the story, but you aren’y meant to care about them so much. Contrast this with Pacific Rim, which has more than a few similarities. While I can’t completely pin it down, I believe that I like “Godzilla” so much better because it ignores its humans, instead of focusing on them. “Pacific Rim” spends so much time exploring the human relationships and emotions without ever finding much of a soul.
I’m not sure how well Godzilla will age, but its a big improvement over its American predecessor. It will be interesting to see if the sequel will be maintain this level of success, considering that we know what to expect. Will the sequel embrace even more monster destruction? Will it spend time to improve the human side of the story? Time will tell. For now, I’m just very pleased that we have a summer blockbuster that seems to know what it wants to be, and delivers.