Directed by Gareth Edwards
I called it months ago: Director Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla is the definitive modern iteration of Ishiro Honda’s 1954 classic, not only capturing the raw essence of the original but imbuing it with a needed current sensibility. Some missteps aside, this is the Godzilla you’ve wanted to see, and he, all 100 meters of him, is absolutely spectacular.
I’ll keep this short and sweet in an effort to not spoil the joy you’ll find in the Big G’s 2014 re-imagining (courtesy of Warner Bros., Legendary and Monsters director Edwards) and do little to spoil the narrative. The marketing push has more than likely already done that for you, but before I dive in, here’s a quick recap.
This is not Roland Emmerich’s 1998 Godzilla.
Edwards’ Godzilla takes place in three separate time periods: the 1950’s (in which the U.S. Navy discovers the last surviving member (Godzilla) of an ancient radioactive amphibious species surviving under the waters near the Marshall Islands and metes out a failed attempt to kill it with nuclear weapons), the 1990’s (in which a nuclear disaster dispatches the mother, actress Juliette Binoche, of star Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s character, ‘Brody,’ and later his father as well, a scientist portrayed by Bryan ‘Breaking Bad’ Cranston) and in 2014 (in which the appearance of creatures known as ‘M.U.T.O’ [Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms] appear, which in turn elicits the return of Godzilla himself from the depths of the ocean).
It’s simple in metaphor for nuclear proliferation having unintended results (as the original Godzilla was for the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings). It’s relatively clean (in that it eschews many of the, let’s be honest, ‘cheesy’ narratives of many of the Godzilla films which preceded it). And while Edwards draws out audience expectation in the reveal of the character of Godzilla for nearly an hour (he holds dear to the tried and true approach of such films as Alien, Jaws, etc.), when Godzilla hits, it really hits. And it hits hard.
Does the film contain logic gaps? There are a few. Does it make questionable narrative choices? Sure. Are there occasional and questionable dialogue choices? That happens. Does it for some reason not feature the classic Godzilla score? Yes.
But what it delivers in sheer tone, scope, intensity and realization makes up for these things in spades. Godzilla has never looked this good. He is the sheer embodiment of what we have come to love and of what we have hoped he would eventually become. He’s real. He’s fire-breathing. His roar is intact. He’s dedicated to the sheer destruction of the M.U.T.O (which means unadulterated and epic kaiju brawls). He pays little to no attention to the U.S. military (he has leisurely swims while aircraft carrier battle groups stream in his wake). He creates tsunamis just by arising from the Pacific. He’s omnipotent yet organically real, and you will stand up and applaud on many, many occasions and with utter fan geekdom, for he is entirely that awe inspiring.
Oh, and yes, there’s an interesting Easter egg concerning another famed creature for the fans that need such a thing (like me).
Warner Bros. and Legendary accepted a daunting task, in that they needed to please not only fans of the cinematic character of Godzilla, but also a demographic perhaps unaware of his iconic place in cinema and, for a summer tent-pole, youthful audiences as well. This was a lot to juggle, and while without question there will always be those that would have wanted it ‘darker’ or ‘man in a suit’ or (insert whatever here), Edwards’ realization of filmdom’s most iconic monster is as spot-on as we’ve ever seen.
Get your ass into the theatre. This isn’t Pacific Rim. These are your childhood dreams come to life (or nightmares, if you happen to be a resident of San Francisco, Hawaii or Las Vegas).
Here’s hoping that Edwards tackles the eventual sequel… and to more Godzilla screen time. My only real complaint is that I wanted more.
4 out of 5