In 1954 the Toho Company, LTD created a monster! Quite literally in fact. The first Godzilla film was released that year and although it wasn’t the best movie, Godzilla’s destruction of Japan (through an impressive looking set of miniatures) spawned this fantastic idea that an ancient beast could become a gigantic franchise. Originally based off of the 1952 re-release of “King Kong” and the 1953 film “Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” Godzilla has become the king of monster movies and spun off into 28 films as well as inspired other monster franchises such as Gorgo, Gamera and even the more recent films “Super 8” and “Cloverfield.” Throughout the past sixty years the United States has only released two movies; the 1998 Roland Emmerich disasterpiece and the brand new 2014 vehicle, both simply titled “Godzilla.” With the recent releases of such city destroying movies such as “Pacific Rim” and the Transformers films it was only a matter of time until Godzilla would get his chance to destroy again!
“Godzilla” begins in 1999 where a couple of scientists (Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins) are called into investigate two egg shaped pods that have been found inside of a giant skeleton in the Philippines, but when the scientists arrive they realize that one of the pods has hatched! Meanwhile near Tokyo Japan, the Janjira Nuclear Plant experiences an explosion and a radiation leak. The plant supervisor (Bryan Cranston) loses his wife in the accident which is ruled as an earthquake. Fifteen years later, Cranston’s son (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) get’s a call from Japan informing him that his father has been arrested for trying to sneak into the old Plant which has been quarantined and evacuated since the meltdown. Cranston believes that there is something more and asks his son to go back with him for one final trip. As the two make their way back to the deserted island they find that not only is the air not toxic but that the government is hiding something massive! Something that breaksfree and heads towards San Francisco where Johnson’s wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and son are located. It’s up to the scientists, the military and the legendary lizard to save California and subsequently the world!
I have always been an anomaly in that, I have loved dinosaurs ever since I was a kid but I have always found the Godzilla films to be campy and kind of dumb. Of course I loved the Jurassic Park films - Heck, I even loved the Pre-Hysteria films but I could never really get into Godzilla. In 1998 I saw the Emmerich version, mostly because I was riding high on the fumes of the second Jurassic Park film. Much to my surprise, I found myself really enjoying the ‘98 version but subsequent viewings have made me realize that the movie really wasn’t that great.
When I heard that they had greenlit another Godzilla movie, I was hesitant because I didn’t want to see another campy Godzilla flick but after seeing the trailer for it I was hooked! I figured that either these guys were really great at cutting a trailer and the movie was going to be awful or that the viewing audience was about to be in for a real treat. I am happy to report that, for my money, it was fantastic! One of the best incarnations of the character and one of the best monster movies that I have ever seen. I don’t think that anything will ever beat the original Jurassic Park in my book but this movie holds it’s own!
The film is directed by British director Gareth Edwards who has only made one movie prior to this. Typically a lack of experience and a movie as massive as this one don’t go hand in hand but this guy pulled it off! The action sequences were stunning and the design of the creatures were terrifying and fantastic! The human elements of the movie felt a little dull and forced to me. The odds that this one guy is always in the same area that the monster shows up seemed a little too coincidental, but considering that Godzilla isn’t fully shown until two-thirds of the way through the movie, it would make for a pretty dull story without the humans. There were also several nice callbacks to other movies; my favorite was a reference to the original Jurassic Park film involving a bus full of children on a rainy bridge.
This movie also manages to set a new level of destruction for all future action movies to live up to, which brings me to a question that I had a hard time with throughout the movie. How much longer can Hollywood make this kind of action movie seem so awesome? I loved this one, yes, but we will get bored by these huge over the top destruction sequences. In fact, I already know several people who are getting sick of this whole dynamic. In my opinion, no one has done it better than this movie but the sheer property damage alone means that if there is a sequel, people will still be rebuilding. It would probably take over thirty years to remove all of the debris from San Francisco and Las Vegas that this movie caused. I love a good action sequence but where will movies go when destruction becomes over-played? These are the things that I think about that take me out of a movie.
I haven’t said this since “Super 8” but if you’re in the mood for a great monster movie that will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat, then Godzilla is the movie for you! I saw it in Imax 3D, and while I normally don’t promote that kind of thing, for this movie - It’s absolutely 100% worth it! Go see it!! Be amazed! For the first time for me, Godzilla really does prove that he is the king of the monsters!
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