Godzilla Bigger, Not Badder
By Skip Sheffield
The beast is back bigger but not necessarily badder than ever 60 years after the first stop-motion papier-mache Godzilla terrorized Tokyo in 1964. Could it be that Godzilla is just a misunderstood monster?
Gareth Edwards, who did special effects on “Monsters” in 2010, is the director of the new “Godzilla.” Max Borenstein wrote the screenplay, which harkens back to the original film. The Godzilla myth has always centered on man’s arrogance and destructiveness. Godzilla was born amidst the post-war horror of Japan, where thousands died from the direct impact of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and thousands more died of radiation poisoning. It was radiation that awakened dinosaur-like Godzilla from his slumber, and it is radiation that feeds two horrible new creatures that look a bit like the beast from “Alien.” They are called Muto and there is one of each; a male and female, and they are Godzilla’s natural enemy.
The film begins with vintage footage of the bombings of World War II and the atomic bomb testing in the American West and the remote Pacific atolls. The live action shifts to a huge open pit mine in the Philippines 1999. The floor of the pit has collapsed and given way to a cavern. In that cavern is a huge fossil that looks like some kind of larvae. Meanwhile in Japan the radiation level has become dangerously high near a nuclear reactor, and a chain reaction starts to melt it down.
A engineer named Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his scientist wife (Juliet Binoche) are sent to investigate. From there all Hell breaks loose.
From there we shift to San Francisco, California in the present. Joe Brody’s son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has grown up to be a military bomb-defusing specialist. His wife Elle (Elizabeth Olen) is a nurse and mother to their young son Ben (Carson Bolde).
Back in Japan Joe Brody, who had been imprisoned after the nuclear disaster, has finally been released and sends an urgent message to his son to come to his aid.
Godzilla sets a new record in geographic destruction. Not only is Tokyo clobbered again, so is Las Vegas, Honolulu, San Francisco and parts of the Nevada desert. It seems that no one has learned anything in 60 years. You can’t fight monsters with pistols, machine guns or rockets, yet that’s what the military does, to almost comical effect. Ken Watanabe as a scientist and voice of reason says “Let them fight,” meaning the monsters fighting amongst themselves. Fight they do, spectacularly, and in the end you get the distinct impression Godzilla is the least of the monsters.