Godzilla is one of the most world famous fictional characters to never truly get Americanized. There was the 1998 attempt with Godzilla, but it’s negative reception has kept it from being deemed a success, while Toho – the Japanese film production company that owns the rights to Godzilla – later went on to recognize the title creature as Zilla, while separating it from the Godzilla franchise.
Godzilla’s origins go back to 1954 in the post-Hiroshima age when the threat of nuclear attacks were still high. The creature feeds off of nuclear energy and is said to be an allegory for the effects of a nuclear bomb in monster form.
In this second try of an American-based Godzilla movie, it’s an origin story for the creature whose discovery in 1954 has been kept under wraps until the events portrayed within. Following a nuclear power plant collapse in 1999 Japan, plant worker Joe Brody (Brian Cranston) vows to uncover the secrets that led to its destruction and death of his wife (Juliette Binoche).
Fast forward to 2014, similar seismic activity occurs once again, making Brody and his son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, key figures in helping prevent another destructive episode.
After creatures known as Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms, or MUTOs, hatch and begin wrecking havoc on the American west coast, the U.S. Navy are forced to react to take down these creatures. Helping them out is Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins), scientists who had been studying the MUTO while it was in its chrysalis form for years at the site of the former nuclear plant.
Serizawa was the first person to dramatically bring up “Godzilla” and knows more about it and the MUTOS than anyone else. He has all the answers, people.
For most of the film, Godzilla is but an idea, or alternative solution to the problem that centres around the MUTOs. The anticipation of his arrival is well-deserved, as he’s the largest Godzilla yet, but is hindered by the destruction already caused by the other giant creatures. Godzilla has been relegated to the back burner in its own movie.
It’s a common issue here, where things that would be expected to be priority are pushed back. There is an attempt to create a legitimate plot and back-story but mid-way through the film, it serves little purpose when buildings finally begin to collapse and we know longer care why Ford Brody is involved.
Ultimately, Godzilla takes a long time to really get going. On one hand, the plot creation is appreciated and developed enough for the character of Ford, but on the other hand, does a Godzilla movie really need to be plot-heavy, especially when it thins out as much as it does for the second half?
It’s not corny enough to be a complete cheese-fest – though every line uttered by Dr. Serizawa tries so hard to make it so. He’s seriously the best part – nor is it serious enough to pass as an action-drama. And if you’re into complete destruction, there isn’t as much of that either. Reaction has been polarizing. Some love it and others really hate it. At the very least, it’s entertaining, but Hollywood has yet to really nail it. Maybe next time.