Director Gareth Edwards pays great respect to the iconic science fiction monster in his new movie, "Godzilla," which releases in theaters this weekend.
Like the creature itself, this film attempts to wrestle with unbelievable, large-scale fantasy material to create a thrilling, epic, giant monster action-adventure. This long-awaited movie puts strong emphasis on background, character, drama and emotion, but also allows for a fair balance of fantastic images, convincing special effects, exciting action and spectacular footage.
It was only a matter of time before someone revived this well-known Japanese tale with today’s technology.
In this retelling of the story, the film stays true to the original “Toho” Godzilla movie series in which the great creature is a force of nature and associated with nuclear radiation. Here, the creature dates all the way back to the prehistoric age, and one of the first big encounters is in the 1950s, during what the general public believes to be nuclear testing but is really the military and other countries trying to destroy monsters they called Godzilla.
Some years later, due to the nuclear radiation, several other creatures known as “Mutos” or “Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms” appear and evolve from feeding off the radiation, their main food source. After making their way to the big city and beginning to cause mass desolation, Godzilla emerges from the depths of the sea to take them down.
In a sense, Godzilla is neither good nor bad, but instead, a necessary evil as he causes much destruction while trying to stop the other creatures from total mayhem. It’s Mother Nature’s way of flexing her muscles by sending a near unstoppable force to combat these creatures.
Long gone are the days when films such as “Star Wars” or older, Japanese versions of “Godzilla” used lifeless, mannequin-like dolls to portray supernatural creatures, had actors dress up in animal, monster, alien, and other costumes, or used fake, miniature sets of cities, buildings, and other worlds.
Today, with advanced computer graphics, special effects and other technology, movies can incorporate certain content that is extremely fictional and unrealistic, but it appears fairly believable and usually looks pretty incredible on screen.
It’s just as important to have a good story, solid acting and some sort of comedy, romance, or other emotion-driven content, but in a film like this -- it is essential that it contain enormously sized destruction, unimaginable chaos and fantasy elements.
One of the parts of this film I wasn’t expecting was the in-depth historical background. “Godzilla’ contains a deep explanation as to where Godzilla comes from and how connected to nature the creature is, intertwining multiple storylines into one. Although it does feature the origin and contemporary version of Godzilla, it also heavily focuses on human involvement and emotion.
As important as Godzilla is, at times it plays second fiddle to the main human characters and their roles in the story. There are plenty of full action/battle scenes between the different creatures, but more than once it shows Godzilla engage in a fight, only to cut away to show what’s happening with the humans and come back for the aftermath of the battle.
There is an entire backstory as to how long Godzilla has been around, the idea of there being more than one Godzilla monster, and how involved the human population has been over the years. It has a lot of right place, right time/coincidental elements, such as the Brody family’s association to everything.
Sandra and Joe Brody (Juliette Binoche and Bryan Cranston) are scientists, Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is part of the military and happens to have nuclear explosive experience, and his wife, Elle (Elizabeth Olsen), is a nurse at the hospital where much of the injured from the destruction are taken.
There is a good amount of the film devoted to the drama and action these characters encounter, mostly surrounding Godzilla. The movie has several good twists, emotional moments, complimentary music and sound effects that make it an all-around entertaining experience with something to offer for everyone.
As refreshing as it is to have a large fantasy blockbuster focus a little deeper than surface level content, the film still has its share of computer generated, special effect-filled scenery, creatures, action and more. There are skyscraper-sized creatures that battle it out throughout large cities such as Las Vegas, parts of Hawaii, and other areas, laying waste to countless buildings and people.
Instead of having multiple battles with similar action, the film does a good job at moving the setting from place to place, adding in a decent amount of filler content in between, and at first only giving glances of tails, bodies, scales, close-ups, and more of the creatures before a dramatic reveal or entrance takes place.
Depending on if you’re a fan of Godzilla or have knowledge of this content, you may thoroughly enjoy this film or simply receive it as just another pleasurable, large scale, Hollywood sci-fi feature that may quickly be forgotten.
Like other movies of this genre, it has several questionable moments, dialogue or actions, plot holes, and brief uncertainty as to how everything works and connects, but this doesn’t take much away from the overall experience. It throws a good amount of information and backstory at you, which can be confusing or overwhelming at times, but again, it’s nice to see a little depth in something like this.
Check out ‘Godzilla’ for yourself, starting this weekend nationwide. Enjoy the movies!
Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars.
‘Godzilla’ is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence. Running time is 2 hours and 3 minutes.
Hayden Pittman is a special contributor to WFAA.com and a freelance film critic and entertainment blogger out of Dallas. More of his content can be found on YouPlusDallas.com and his author archive here. For more of his reviews on WFAA, click here. He is a film, TV, and sports enthusiast, and when not writing reviews or covering an event, he works in film production. As an average, passionate film lover who rarely misses a film, his reviews are straightforward and his way with words will let you know in a simple way what he thinks. Don’t like what he has to say? Let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @HPMoviePitt.