MPAA Rating: PG-13
(4 Reels out of 5)
films can be placed in two camps. The first involves Godzilla as a
destructive force of nature leveling retributive justice on humanity
for the sin of nuclear proliferation. These Godzilla films, such as
the original Godzilla (1954) and Return of Godzilla
(1984), are better loved by film critics, historians, and
college-aged theologians who need to write a paper but want to do it
on something entertaining. The second camp presents Godzilla as an
almost messianic figure who marches in to trumpet fanfare, saving the
day when the Earth is threatened by other monsters. These Godzilla
films, which make up the majority, are better loved by eight-year-old
boys consuming bags of sour patch watermelon candies in the theater.
The 2014 American reboot, directed by Gareth Edwards, begins
in the first camp but lands squarely in the second by the middle of
the film. Godzilla is a fantastic monster brawl with some
important ideas. At the very least, it’s incredibly better than the
previous 1998 American version, starring Matthew Broderick, which I
will not mention again in this review and which will be, hopefully,
eventually wiped from the collect consciousness of mankind.
reveal of the monster is one of the film’s great strengths. A
mining team in the Philippians accidentally awakens some large
creature, which promptly makes its way to a nuclear plant in Japan.
One of the nuclear engineers, Joe Brody (the always amazing Bryan
Cranston) detects a biological signal shortly before a large seismic
disruption destroys the plant, killing his wife in the process.
Fifteen years later, Joe and his son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson),
sneak into the remains of the plant, only to discover an
international organization hiding a deadly secret. This secret isn’t
what might be expected based on the American trailers, and it’s an
buildup, the middle section of the film is rather dull, mostly
because it involves a lot of talking, planning, more talking, more
planningall while remaining surprisingly calm in the face of the
greatest natural discovery of all time! The bottom line is that
Godzilla is best when we see lots of Godzilla, and the end,
thankfully, has lots of Godzilla.
film such as this carries a sixty-year history, and it would be
impossible to appreciate Godzilla without looking at the big,
big picture. The 1954 film was so arresting because it
squarely faced the fears of the Cold War. Godzilla was a product of
nuclear radiation who came back to haunt those who split the atom.
Subconsciously, it was also a cathartic way for Japan to deal with
its responsibility for the Second World War.
Godzilla was to be topical, he would have been a product of genetic
engineering. Instead, howevrer, he isn’t created by anyone but is a
remnant of the very distant past with mythological overtones similar
to the Titans or the Nephilim. He is a reminder that the Universe is
very, very big, and we are very, very small. Most of the traditional
elements of Godzilla are preserved, and there are even a few small
homages to the other films, although Akira Takarada’s cameo was
removed, unfortunately, from the final cuta sign that whatever may
have come before, this film stands on its own two monstrous, clawed
fear of imminent nuclear war has died down in recent decades, there
are still monsters under our collective bed that Godzilla
manages to tap into. Godzilla stands 300 feet high, nearly three
times his size in the 1954 version. He overshadows mankind's
technology, architecture, and artificial hubris. A Japanese scientist
remarks that “the arrogance of man is thinking nature is in our
control and not the other way around.” In classic fashion, the
military tries to solve the situation but succeeds only in
endangering innocent citizens.
Godzilla who saves the day. While nature can bring destruction, it
can also provide life-giving resources. Forest fires may destroy, for
instance, but they allow new life to grow. There is even a moment
when Godzilla shares a brief yet compassionate gaze with a human,
providing a brief, if vague, insight into his own psychology.
Action/fantasy/sci-fi films are not always known for their profound
moral content, but every story has a message, intended or not.
Popcorn movies emphasize general values rather than specific ideas,
values including kindness, loyalty, endurance, faith, hope, and love.
Ford, for example, acts selflessly at tremendous risk to himself to
save someone else’s child. Mankind is taught humility in the face
of nature. Above all, courage is needed to face the monsters outside
towers over both humans and this film like a vaguely divine force
reflexive of his name. He may be only looking for his next meal, but
there is a sense that he cares about the plight of humans and only
kills them accidentally due to his size and clumsiness. The film also
reinforces the sense that although God seems absent, he will show up
when needed. However, God is neither under man’s control nor
dependent on him; he has his own divine plans and mysterious
isn’t the perfect reboot it could have been but feels like an
excellent precursor to an even better film, a Batman Begins to
The Dark Knight. If there is one major flaw, it’s that there
was no post credits scene setting up Mothra, Rodan, or even King
Ghidorah. There will surely be more films on the way, and that is a