Ok, first off, the bad news. The story still sucks. It’s not really an upgrade from the 1998 Godzilla movie in terms of story-telling. Some may even argue that it’s a bit slow during the first hour.
The good news is Godzilla actually looks and sounds like Godzilla, and the film at least stayed true to the Japanese originals’ premise of Godzilla playing the anti-hero and going against other monsters in the city, human drama be damned.
The movie is a hodge-podge of plots that are standard Hollywood monster-movie fare. There’s the big discovery of gigantic remains in some far-off country (the Philippines this time, of all places), the family being torn apart by a disaster which was covered up by the government. There’s the “time has passed” bit where kid in that torn family is now a father himself and has to help his dad come to grips with his “failure”. There’s the “there’s more than one monster” realization, and the heroic soldiers struggling to fight them. And then, there’s the monsters, and the destruction they cause. Then there’s a family reunion in the end as well as the realization that one of those monsters isn’t bad after all and lives to fight another day.
And of course, there’s Godzilla, and this movie shines whenever he’s onscreen. But that may have been the purpose of this second Hollywood attempt at the iconic Japanese monster.
For me, it was important that this Godzilla (and his enemies, called the MUTO), is very much tied to radiation, nuclear weapons, and the film franchise as a whole. The original Godzilla movie was shown in 1954, at a time when Japan was still coming to grips with the legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the fallout from the nuclear testing in the Pacific (the same testing referenced to in this very movie). Godzilla’s anti-hero status is a nod to his change over the course of several movies from – as what Mark Kermode from The Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/may/18/godzilla-review-gareth-edwards-reboot-mark-kermode) says – a fire-breathing scourge to savage saviour. There was no question about him being this big monster and all, but he goes from someone they are afraid of, to someone who saved the city from two really bad (and angry) MUTOs.
The script-writing fluctuates from bad to so-so, with a few good moments. There isn’t much character development among the human cast, well, except maybe for Joe Brody played by Bryan Cranston. While Joe can be annoying at times, he was able to convincingly show the distress and desperation of his character who lost his wife to an accident covered up by the government. Any man can become like a crank crusader if his wife dies on his birthday, doing the thing he ordered her to do. Aaron Taylor-Johnson was ok as Lieutenant Ford Brody, although his character is your conventional “heroic soldier” trope. That said, it would be foolish to expect any Academy Award-winning screenplay here. But for a “Monster of the Week” movie, this is enough.
As with any good monster film, the special effects and the sound shines in this movie. It gives you the sense of how big these monsters are and Godzilla’s roar is probably one of the sound effects I’ve heard in quite a while (the theater shook everytime he did it). The monsters also have expressions, like one scene that took place in Hawaii. While the MUTO is wrecking everything in its path, here comes Godzilla, with this look on his face that sort of says “Well, hello there little fella” before making his trademark roar for the first time. The whole monster fight scene was a visual treat, and the distruction wasn’t there for destruction’s sake. There are monsters fighting in the city, so yeah, everything will be pretty much ruined by the time they’re done. Although for the life of me, I can’t understand why some people could stay in their offices while the rest of the city are evacuating. I mean, what company still demands its employees to come to work in the midst of a city-wide disaster?
Maybe that’s the key to enjoying Godzilla: the unconditional suspension of disbelief and acceptance of the movie reality even just for a moment. Just as Godzilla reasserts his dominance over all humungous creatures, so do the charm of the Godzilla movies override your sense of reasoning amidst the current trend of expecting reality in fantasy, but only if you allow it to.
PS This just in, but according to this article, a sequel’s in the works. Since I doubt it will be King Kong (who, this current Godzilla will probably kill with just one stomp), I’m hoping it’s one of his “traditional” enemies. Mothra anyone?