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Godzilla (2014): King Of The Series

GodzillaWell, I’m 36 years old, and never in my life did I think that I would have not one…but TWO conversations in one day that were over the same topic:

Is Godzilla good or evil?

The answer is not as easy as you think.  Godzilla began his movie career in 1954.  In Godzilla, Godzilla was a horrible monster that showed up to destroy stuff.  It. Was.  Awesome.  Sure, there was a little story line thrown in warning about the use of nuclear arms and the dubbing was quite horrible.  But it was a fun film.  Godzilla continued his destructive (and some may say evil…) path for a few films.  Then, Godzilla begins a transformation in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster.  In that film, Godzilla says (through a “translator”) that he refused to help mankind as they “have always had trouble with men and men hate [him]”.  

And, just like those damn humans, parenthood begins to soften him up.  Godzilla is depicted as a neutral tool of destruction for a few films until 1967’s Son of Godzilla.  It is here that he begins his ascent to anti-hero stature.  In fact, that’s when the threat to earth comes not from humans or monsters, but from alien species that forces Godzilla to team up with the humans.

After Godzilla dies in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995), junior takes over the family business of destruction.  Junior (now Godzilla depending upon whether you believe there is continuation in the story line) takes a very similar arc to his old man, but it takes him 6 films to “evolve”.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that discussing 2014’s Godzilla is nearly impossible without referring back to all those other films (and even the crappy Matthew Broderick one).  If you love Godzilla, you will love this film.  It is beautifully shot, and the reimagining is perfect.  It understands and expresses the central themes of the series.  The special effects are just awesome, and it’s just a great watch and a great addition to the franchise.

In 1954, the world created a secret organization that is supposed to track and (possibly) destroy a large creature in the ocean referred to as Gojira.  The nuclear tests conducted during this time were not tests, but in fact, they were attempts at destroying this creature.

After learning that something big has escaped a mining expedition in the Philippines, the film opens in 1999 as we are introduced to Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston).  He is a supervisor at a nuclear power plant in Japan, and has been tracking tremors that seem to be approaching from the ocean.  His wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) also works at the plant, and he asks her to investigate the stability of the core.  A massive earthquake happens while she is down there, and she is sealed below.  Their son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) watches as the power plant’s buildings disintegrate from his classroom window.

15 years later, Ford is returning home to San Francisco.  He defuses bombs for the Navy.  His young son and his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) are happy to see him, but they know he will ship out soon again.  That night, they get a call saying that Joe has been arrested in Japan for trespassing in the quarantined area they used to call home.  Ford immediately goes to Japan, where he learns that his father believes there is a cover-up to the incident that changed their lives.

After convincing Ford to go with him, the two end up in the quarantine zone and realize that there has been no nuclear fallout from it.  In fact, there is no detectable radiation at all.  They see something going on where the plant once stood, but are arrested immediately.  They are taken to the plant, where a giant glowing pod sits in the middle of the carnage.  It is being studied, but has been emitting charges and sounds for some time.  The pod opens, and out pops a giant bug that attacks the humans before escaping.  It is impossible to track as it emits an EMP that immediately renders electronics dead.

The MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) makes its way to Hawaii where it is confronted by the US military…and GODZILLA!  The two battle, and destroy the resort island.  Unfortunately, MUTO gets away.  Even worse, a second one has hatched in Nevada and is making its way to the west coast.  While the military preps for possibly its greatest exercise ever, one scientist believes that Godzilla has appeared to destroy the MUTOs.

So, spoiler, Godzilla is good in this film.

While originally conceived as a “neutral” being that “cannot be held to human standards of good and evil”, he quickly morphed into a tool that was used by humans and their enemies.  He battled against common enemies, but I’m not sure if he ever existed solely as a protector (which he is portrayed as in this film).  It definitely takes away from his anti-hero status, but I can’t say I disliked where this film went with it.  I liked the idea, and the film does a good job of sticking with this idea without becoming too sappy.

Godzilla looks downright sick in the film, and the design is reminiscent of the plastic suit (but with today’s FX touch).  It’s not a large T-Rex like in the 1998 film.  He walks on 2 legs like a man, and he even stands like a man (which I found to be a perfect combination of old school and new school innovation).  He had the killer fire breath, and is the largest scaled Godzilla to date.  His enemies are great as well, and the only thing that had me laughing was the one looked like it had a large glowing nutsack between its legs.

One of the faults of the film is that there just aren’t enough scenes of Godzilla battling.  The MUTOs get descent destructive time, but Godzilla is introduced twice before we get to see a prolonged battle.  Instead, we are treated to the Cloverfield-esque shot from the news copter on television.  We are shown the aftermath.  I wanted to see the action.  When we do see the action, it’s great but it can be hard to see.  In the old films, Godzilla would stomp on nuclear power plants in broad daylight.  In reality, plumes of smoke would surround the area of his carnage and that is what this film did.  Everything was dark and smokey in order to appear real.

I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t have a giant smile on my face while the monsters were on screen.  Cloverfield is one of my favorite films, and it dwarfs in comparison to how much ass this film kicks.  My nerdrection may not go down for a very long, and that is quite uncomfortable.  The cast does a wonderful job in their roles, but I didn’t go to see “Walter White vs. Godzilla vs. Kickass” (which would be awesome by the way).  I came for one name and one name only:

Godzilla.






One Comment to Godzilla (2014): King Of The Series

  1. Xina says:

    We saw this one last night as well, and for the most part I agree with your review. I do have to say that I think Cranston, Juliette Binoche and Ken Watanabe were WOEFULLY underutilized. The one way I think this movie really went wrong was resting hero status on Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Did I buy him as a grunt? You bet. As a hero of a film like this? Nope. He was a child, playing at being a man and that cast a serious pallor over the film for me. I did like the backstory of WHY the two MUTO’s chose this moment to wreck havoc, and I bought the idea of Godzilla being mother nature’s tool (as opposed to mankind’s) to keep balance in nature. After all there can be only one King, right?

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