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Return of the King: Godzilla

I wasn’t a fan of monster movies as a kid. I fell asleep on Jaws when I was nine and Cujo ruined my relationship with dogs. Godzilla was the first monster movie I liked because they were fun movies to watch with my siblings on a weekend as we sorted through my dad’s old VHS tapes and munched on popcorn. The humans were usually supporting characters to the monsters, who controlled the action of the movie with their larger-than-life battles across cities that ended up as piles of rubble by the end.

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment

I was both excited and worried when I saw the first trailers for the new film from Gareth Edwards. Kaiju monster films are either hit or miss with die-hard fans and casual moviegoers and Edwards had a twofold task in making this movie: could he make a film that could please the cult fans from the past while drawing in new fans who want to watch monsters smack each other around for two hours? Roland Emmerich tried it in 1998 and made a movie so terrible that it still gives everyone who thinks about it nightmares. The cast lessened but didn’t eliminate my worries. Even with a stellar cast there is a lot of room to ruin the concept of Godzilla for both first-time viewers and long-time fans.

Thankfully, this take on Godzilla manages to avoid the pitfall of ruining the kaiju for viewers.  The film is very aware that it is both honoring tradition while forging a new path. The opening credits gives the audience some old-school footage of the main character to establish Godzilla as a force of nature while exploring the original idea of Godzilla as an allegory for the hazards of super-science and atomic weapons.

The dangers of super-science illuminate the plot of the movie: our love of atomic weapons and science has awoken and unleashed brutal and primal creatures upon our world. Our technology can’t save us when the enemy can wipe it out in seconds. Enter Godzilla, a terrifying and unexpected hero to the humans (because he’s less interested in us and more interested in the bad guys.)  The film re-imagines one monster of the Godzilla mythos and brings it into a contemporary story while leaving the door open for future installments or a hoped-for crossover with Pacific Rim. It also gives several nods to the Godzilla’s abilities (hello, atomic breath!) to make the modernization comfortable and interesting.  While the humans aren’t completely inept, some of the ideas they come up with to deal with the issue are head-scratchers but Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe and Aaron Taylor-Johnson make up for it with a few heroic moments of their own. Still, that’s kind of the point: our arrogance has put us in a precarious position that only the epic kaiju Godzilla can save us from.

This version of Godzilla is a fitting reboot to the series and washes away the horror that was the 1998 film. Godzilla and his antagonists were well-rendered and developed better than the humans in the cast. Bryan Cranston’s time in the film was short but well used; Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen did their parts but weren’t very well developed. I’m curious on how they’ll go from playing husband and wife to brother and sister in Avengers: Age of Ultron but I’ll give them a shot.

Rating: Three stars for a decent story, excellent special effects and a larger-than-life feel.

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One Comment on “Return of the King: Godzilla”

  1. Rob Stephenson May 22, 2014 at 8:19 pm #

    Just watched this with my family on Sunday. You know the movie is good when a five year old boy would rather sit and watch the action instead of romp around the seats. The way they portrayed Godzilla was nearly perfect, his movement range was viable and the was a cleverness in his eyes without outright intelligence. The fight scenes were dynamic and fluid, while the creatures responded to the world in a manner that suggested they ruled it once upon a time. Well written post sir, keep it up.

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