If anything can be said for Godzilla, the second American interpretation of the world-famous Japanese movie monster, it’s that it packs a lot more of a punch than the trailers let on. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
The best way to go into Godzilla is with minimal knowledge of the plot, so I’ll keep it simple. After a mysterious incident at a Tokyo power plant in 1999 claims thousands of lives, including that of the wife of American scientist Joe Brody (Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston), Brody spends the next 15 years obsessing over the cause of the incident, suspecting that it was no natural disaster.
In his quest for answers, Brody convinces his son, Ford (Kick-Ass star Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a bomb disposer for the Navy, to accompany him back to the now-restricted plant. There, they encounter a MUTO (Mysterious Unidentified Terrestrial Organism), a new and inventive monster that escapes the plant in search of another MUTO for the purpose of mating. To prevent this, the military unleashes the only force of nature capable of defeating the MUTOs: Godzilla.
The most noticeable aspect of director Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla is the “slow-burning” approach he takes, similar to the pacing that Steven Spielberg took while directing Jaws. Edwards holds off the monster until the halfway point of the film. When Godzilla finally does show up, he’s completely worth the wait. The computer-generated effects are unbelievable, and every minute that Godzilla dominates the screen is gratifying.
The film’s only major issue is that up until the titular monster’s grand entrance, the MUTOs hold the spotlight. They are animals just trying to survive and reproduce, so the CGI isn’t outstanding. The human characters are actually more interesting.
That is, with the exception of Ford, who quickly becomes the lead. Johnson delivers another performance that’s watchable, but not memorable. Despite all of the events, he emotes little reaction to any of them. Elizabeth Olsen, in contrast, delivers a believably emotional performance as Ford’s wife, Elle, but it’s Inception’s Ken Watanabe who shines as a weary Japanese scientist who brings Godzilla’s presence to light.
The facet that allows Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla to stand apart from the rest is, surprisingly, its themes. As opposed to being a symbol of atomic devastation, Godzilla represents a force of nature that humanity must adapt to instead of try to control. The MUTOs, on the other hand, created by radiation, represent humanity’s recklessness towards the environment. It’s a subtle comparison, and that’s what makes it work. For the legendary monster’s 60th anniversary, the moviecouldn’t have been a bigger compliment, not only to its titular monster, but also to its audience.
~Ryan Perry, entertainment director