The new Godzilla movie takes the iconic amphibious monster hero back to its Japanese roots, rising up from the depths just when humanity needs him most.

During the 1950s atomic age government nuclear testing in the Pacific, a massive ancient creature lying dormant on the ocean floor is awakened.

Unlike Cloverfield (2008) or The Host (2006), there seems to be a lack of any visual style except in the monster sequences, in fact parts of the film look downright low budget. The human story in particular looks almost like a 50s TV show with bad lighting and fake sets standing in for Japan. 

The best visuals are saved for the creature sequences. It seems most of the budget was spent on the creature effects and it shows. Gareth Edwards' excellent previous film Monsters (2010) was visually more impressive and realistic while dealing with the human story much better using wonderfully natural performances.

When a pair of M.U.T.O.s, (massive unidentified terrestrial organism), prehistoric parasites that can also fly and feed off nuclear energy start mating, using San Francisco and Las Vegas as a breeding ground, Godzilla responds to the threat that we humans are ill prepared to deal with.

Unlike other American disaster films where we follow multiple story lines and characters from differing back grounds and social status, this Godzilla film focuses on one middle class family keeping the story simple enough to follow, but if that story and its characters fails to keep one’s attention it could be disastrous. 

The first half of this film flirts dangerously close with uninteresting and clich├ęd characters in predictable situations mined from previous iterations of the monster disaster genre like Jurassic Park (1993), War of the Worlds (2005), Godzilla (1998), and Pacific Rim (2013).

It isn’t until the last hour of the film that Godzilla comes alive with a fascinating collage of classic hero shots when Godzilla literally steps into the frame like a lone gun slinger coming to mankind’s rescue with a King Kong like determination that hints at a higher intelligence and purpose.

This year being the 60th anniversary of the franchise, this Legendary/Warner Bros. reboot of Godzilla is a bit of a homage to the original 1954 Japanese film Gojira that started it all, including the monster’s look and behavior. 

The original was a symbol of post atomic age fears and Godzilla has been resurrected here and can now be seen to serve a post 9/11 age of similar fears. There is a sequence in the film that harkens back to the search and rescue of survivors from the rubble of collapsed buildings by fire fighters working together with civilians.

But the film also plays on global environmental fears of our destructive influence on the planet with the increase in global warming and Tsunamis wiping out coastal cities around the world.

This new bad ass Godzilla is more than just a destructive force, he has a personality and seems to exude a melancholic sadness from carrying the weight of the world on its shoulders. Like an aging tired gunfighter who is forced out of retirement to settle one more conflict, but it certainly won’t be the last.

Godzilla is a great introduction into the genre for a younger audience and if you’re an older fan of, and are familiar with the Japanese Godzilla films and creature disaster genre in general, this film will not disappoint. Enjoy the apocalyptic city smashing mayhem.



Paul Graham said...

Hey John. I enjoyed your Godzilla review particularly the way in which you place each version into the social context at the time of development. I wonder if the low budget 50s look was deliberate. Its sometimes hard to read where they are coming from

JP said...

Hi Paul,
Thanks for commenting on my review.

Yes I wonder the same thing too.
This may have been intentional or just a financially strategic move.

I think however that the film would have benefited from more authentic location shooting.

Let's hope that Godzilla 2, which is already rumored to be in development, takes advantage of more authentic locations.

Lenie Hokansson said...

Hi John
I'm not a movie-goer but one of the pleasures of reading other blogger's posts is gaining information that you wouldn't normally get. This post was a terrific review and any movie-goer will enjoy it. I know I did.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. Lots of mixed reviews regarding this film and out of them all, yours is the most honest and poignant I've come across yet!