Running Time: 2 hours 3 minutes
Joe Brody’s (Bryan Cranston) life is shattered when the Japanese nuclear plant where he works as an engineer is destroyed by an unexplained seismic event, killing his wife. Over the next 15 years he ruins his family relationships and professional reputation trying to get to the truth behind that fateful day. After talking his son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) into one last trip to the quarantined plant, they meet a group of scientists who have uncovered a gigantic chrysalis and are studying it. When the chrysalis hatches, the scientists and guards are woefully unprepared to deal with the creature that emerges. Needing to feed on radiation, the MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) carves a swath of destruction across the Pacific. When a second MUTO breaks out of a radioactive waste site in Nevada, the military is desperate to stop them before they can reproduce, but after their efforts prove futile the only hope they have left is the re-appearance of an Alpha Predator thought to be a myth, known as Godzilla.
I have never had any special affinity to the classic giant monster movies in general or Godzilla in particular, so I wasn’t particularly concerned about the fact that this movie sought to return to the roots of the monster’s story and classic look. I only objected to the 1998 version of Godzilla because it wasn’t a very good movie. After watching this most recent installment I have come to a pretty clear conclusion: Giant Monster Movies are kind of boring. I only want to watch the monsters fight and the rest is just keeping me from what I want. I don’t need to be inundated with ridiculous scientific explanations or origin stories, or be constantly reminded of the insignificance of mankind when faced with the awesome power of nature and blah, blah, blah.
Godzilla is filled with very good actors doing almost nothing but looking up in slack-jawed wonder at the creatures tearing their cities apart. Much like with with World War Z they try to show us a global catastrophe through the eyes of a single family hoping that it will make it more real to us. World War Z succeeded in doing that, Godzilla does not. It would have been well-served to cut 30 minutes of exposition and character work and replace it with more CGI carnage. The action you get is pretty great, which makes you feel robbed that there is so little of it. On that topic, could we please get some of the scenes to happen during the day and not be shrouded in smoke, fog or rain so we can clearly see more of the action.
Lastly, I was a little put off by some of the creative choices that the filmmakers made. With the disaster in Fukushima still fresh in people’s minds, I wonder what Japanese viewers will think of the film opening with the destruction of a nuclear power plant, followed closely by vivid imagery of a tsunami wrecking a city. There is also a scene where use of a nuclear warhead to kill the MUTOs is discussed and a Japanese scientist objects, and when asked why, he basically says, “cause, you know, Hiroshima” and people nod sagely. I may be overly sensitive, but I found both of those things to be in very poor taste for a movie that was made with big success in the Japanese market in mind. Ultimately, 40 minutes of Godzilla was fun and 80 minutes was dull. C+