It’s always a scary thing getting excited for movies. You never want to build one up too much because it makes it harder for the actual movie to beat your expectations. When I took seat in the IMAX theater for Godzilla, my expectations were pretty high. After chewing on it for three days now, I still can’t say if my expectations were exceeded, but they were definitely met.
I’m not a Godzilla aficionado. I’ve only seen, perhaps, three of the countless movies featuring the radiated mega-lizard, so it was simply the marketing for this new Godzilla that got me excited. The first teaser showed skydiving soldiers entering the fiery San Francisco battlefield from above. The visuals of this sequence alone hooked me. Then, a full trailer was released. Featuring an intense and emotional voice-over from Bryan Cranston, the lead in one of my all-time favorite television series (Breaking Bad), my anticipation really took root. From these two short videos, I realized that we were getting a Godzilla unlike any Godzilla before. We were getting a Godzilla set in our reality and filled with connectable human characters.
What made me love this new movie so much was that my expectation was almost spot-on. It’s so much more entertaining, intense and grave when you’re watching a movie about people living through a huge monster attack than simply watching monsters fight one another. Godzilla follows a family of three through nearly two decades of disaster and grief caused by giant monsters. (I am fully aware that the monster bit doesn’t fit into reality, but the characters and the way that they handle the situation is.) After a nice, long character-introducing opening, we move to present day and follow a father-son duo (Cranston and Kick-Ass Aaron Taylor-Johnson) as they try to uncover a government cover-up regarding “something” hidden underground that ripped their family apart years before. The deeper we get into the movie, the more it shifts from the father’s story to that of the son.
The first hour of Godzilla is full of great set-up. Almost exactly at the 60-minute mark, we click into hightail massive monster mode. The way that these sequences are shot is completely unprecedented and excited. We follow Taylor-Johnson’s character in the most contrived series of monster attacks (as if one person could just-so-happen to be in the same places on the planet that the attacks happen ever time) as he moves from Japan to Hawaii to the coast of California and to San Francisco. His goal is simply to get home to his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and son, but always ends up where the monsters are. Lacking emotion and motivation, his character is flat, making it a shame that the torch was gradually handed off entirely to him. Cranston’s character always focuses your attention directly on him and not the CG spectacle going on around him, but whenever it’s just Taylor-Johnson, you’re looking past him to the beasts in the smoke and darkness.
Like I said, I’ve never been a Godzilla-nerd, but this continuation of his story – yes, it’s a sequel and not a prequel/reboot – is solid. I dare label it as a “film” and not a “movie.” It’s absolutely fun and definitely worth seeing on the biggest and loudest screen around.
(Photo credit: Warner Bros.)