I love Godzilla. I really, really, really love Godzilla. I’ve seen all of the original Toho movies at least a dozen times each, I have tons of toys and figures of Godzilla and his foes, I have the entire run of the original Marvel Godzilla comics and lots more. Like I said, I’m a fan of Godzilla.
Unfortunately, and a lot of people might disagree with me, this was not Godzilla. It just wasn’t, any more than the 1998 Matthew Broderick film was Godzilla.
To digress for a moment, I’ve always wanted a decent big-budget Godzilla flick. I’m not one of those purists who think that Godzilla can never be done by people outside of Toho or that Godzilla can never attack anywhere outside of the Japanese islands (Godzilla: Final Wars proved that to be untrue). I just want something with the same feel as the Japanese originals and Roland Emmerich failed to do it in 1998 and Gareth Edwards failed to do it in 2014. That’s not to say this is a bad movie, it isn’t, it just isn’t a Godzilla movie.
But let’s get to the story. We find out that the U.S. military woke up a giant creature that was hibernating in the deep ocean and the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests were, in fact, attempts to kill it. Many years later, they start finding these giant parasitic egg sacs and really pay them no mind until they wake up as creatures they call MUTOs (Massive Unknown Terrestrial Organisms). 15 years ago, one of these MUTOs burrowed under the Janjira nuclear power plant, destroying the plant and killing the wife of plant chief Joe Brody. 15 years later, their son Ford, an explosive ordinance officer, has to fly back to Japan, leaving his wife and son behind, because old Joe has been arrested, again, for trying to get into the contamination zone surrounding the old plant. Ford bails him out but Joe is sure this is a giant conspiracy and he wants to get back to their old house where he has data that might prove that something sinister is going on. Joe and Ford are arrested and taken to the top-secret testing facility where the military, and a company named Monarch, are testing the egg of the MUTO who destroyed the plant in the first place, just as the MUTO wakes up. Joe is killed in the ensuing rampage and Ford becomes involved in the military activities to destroy the MUTO, but Ishiro Serizawa, head scientist for Monarch, suspects that the appearance of the MUTO also signals the imminent return of Godzilla…
There are so many things that they should have done better in this movie. The MUTOs were entirely unnecessary. Why spend so much time creating these new creatures when Godzilla has a massive existing rogues gallery already? Godzilla doesn’t even appear in the movie, except for quick flashback images of his spines, until the second half of the film. I wish they had just used an existing monster, as they’re saying they’ll do in the sequel, than the throwaway MUTOs. My biggest problem, though, was with Godzilla himself. He just wasn’t Godzilla. He had no personality at all. He was just a big walking lizard. He had no real intelligence, he wasn’t even a force of nature, as he was in some of the later Toho films, he was just a big dumb dinosaur, pursuing his own entirely undefined goals. Other than “there is radiation”, they never explained Godzilla’s involvement in the fight and clearly, Godzilla hasn’t shown up at any other radiation incidents on the planet since 1954, why now? Why not Chernobyl? Why not Fukushima? Never explained. It was just a convenient arrival.
And the movie was never really about the monsters anyhow, it was about the stupid and obnoxious Brody family that I never cared about at all. Joe might have been interesting, after all, he did lose his wife to the monsters, at least indirectly, but Ford was a boring lump. He kept ingratiating himself into the fight through a long series of convenient accidents and I didn’t care about him, I didn’t care about his family, it was painfully obvious what Gareth Edwards was going to do long before he did it, I predicted, before Ford ever left for Japan, that the monsters were going to put his family in danger. It’s the only reason he had a family in the first place.
There were a lot of stupid moves too, such as the military stopping all of the evacuation busses on the bridge while they brought out the tanks to attack Godzilla. They spend so much time in the movie trying to protect the civilians, then they directly and purposely put them in harm’s way by making them a target? What the hell? Sure, I know you have to put characters in danger, but to do it so ham-handedly was absurd.
Of course, this makes it sound like it was a bad movie and it wasn’t. Godzilla was reasonably well done, although they entirely screwed up the roar and if you can’t get that done right, you shouldn’t do the movie at all.
This is the Godzilla roar. This is not the Godzilla roar. It makes a difference and they could have just stayed with the original, or at least introduced elements from the original and that would have made it go a lot farther toward feeling like Godzilla.
The final fight with the MUTOs was fun, although the male MUTO died way too easily. Shooting his atomic breath down the throat of the female was cool, easily the best effects shot in the movie, but after hearing people rave about it, I was expecting more and was a bit disappointed.
Honestly, while I like the movie, it wasn’t a Godzilla movie. It was a giant monster movie to be sure, and a well-done one, but for an old-school Godzilla fan like myself, it just isn’t up to muster. It wasn’t about Godzilla and Godzilla had no personality and no intellect that made him special. He was just a wandering monster fighting two other wandering monsters for no discernable reason. I didn’t care about the characters in the movie, I didn’t care if they lived or died and there are a lot of really stupid things that Edwards did, just to put the characters in danger, that nobody in their right mind would ever really do. It’s a decent enough film, one that I’m sure I’ll watch again, but for a big-budget Hollywood Godzilla flick, it falls seriously short.