How can you not love Godzilla?
He’s one part T-Rex, one part stegosaurus and one part fire-breathing dragon. Kong may be king but ‘zilla is God.
Of course it hasn’t been a perfect 60-year run for the popular Toho Co. monster. There is that embarrassing 1998 version that reimagined Godzilla as an overgrown iguana. So the big challenge for this second American version of the story was to make everyone forget the first.
In that respect it largely succeeds. Director Gareth Edwards goes back to the basics — both in storytelling and in character design — to deliver a “Godzilla” that almost rises to the stature of its lead character.
Sadly, every Godzilla movie must have humans to bring some kind of relatable element to the proceedings. Edwards has put together a top-notch cast but doesn’t give them much that’s fresh or compelling to do.
Bryan Cranston stars as Joe Brody, a nuclear physicist who becomes obsessed by an accident at a Japanese nuclear plant that resulted in his wife’s death. His investigation gets him in trouble with the law so his son Ford (Aaron Taylor -Jackson), an explosive ordnance disposal technician for the military, has to fly to Japan to bring him home. This means leaving son and wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) back home in San Francisco.
Turns out the disaster at the nuclear plant was caused by monsters who dwell deep in the earth and feast on radiation. When a pair of bug-like creatures burst out of their cages and head for San Fran, Mother Nature sends a larger, more loveable monster up from the depths to deal with it.
Rounding out the human cast is David Strathairn as Admiral William Stenz, the naval officer in charge of cleaning things up, and Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ichiro Serizawa, a scientist who’s an expert on monsters.
Director Edwards keeps his star player in reserve for most of the movie, which is good for building up anticipation but pretty much makes Godzilla a guest star in his own film. The actors are fine but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I started to doze once or twice during the first hour.
But once Godzilla takes the stage the show picks up dramatically. The big monster smack-down takes place at night and in the rain so it’s not always easy to make out what’s going on. Still, it’s nice to hear an audience cheer when Godzilla lets out one of his patented roars or exhales radioactive fire down another monster’s throat.
This kind of movie lives or dies by its special effects and they don’t disappoint. Godzilla has never appeared more fearsome and there are some other impressive images throughout the film. However, 3D doesn’t do much to enhance the experience and I wouldn’t recommend it. There is no after-credits scene so I’ve saved you another five minutes of your life.