Return of the Kaiju King
By: Meg Humphrey
Heads up: SPOILERS!! Because this is a fairly simple movie, there’s really no way to talk about it without going over the entire story.
I grew up watching monster movies like Godzilla with my dad. He would help me build tissue and cereal box towns in the living room for me to stomp through and destroy as if I were the feared kaiju. To be honest, not a lot has changed since then – I still sometimes pretend that I can squash buildings and cars under my feet (I actually had to do this for a skit in my college Japanese class). So of course I had to set a father-daughter date to go see the newest iteration of the world’s most famous reptile.
Overall I really enjoyed the movie. It didn’t give me *feels* like Pacific Rim, but the action, use of monsters, and human characters were spot on. I was surprised at how small of a part Bryan Cranston played because the trailers and TV spots made it seem like he was the main character. Yes, his obsessive research helped them figure out what was going on, but I expected him to be there in San Francisco with the grand plan to stop the kaiju. Sometimes trailers give too much away, especially with a straightforward movie like Godzilla, so I’m happy about that misdirection.
Another aspect of the movie that I particularly liked was how they portrayed the military. It seems like in a lot of monster and disaster movies the military is positioned as the ignorant, arrogant, bad guys who don’t care about the consequences of their actions. Although the military devises a plan to stop the MUTO (the giant bad guy bugs) that goes against the wishes of Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Dr. Graham (Sally Hawkins), it doesn’t paint them in a negative light. It shows them as people trying to do their jobs who have to make really difficult decisions. When their plan to use a nuke to kill all three kaiju fails, you see how much they’re willing to sacrifice in order to stop the bomb from going off and killing millions of civilians.
The new movie paid its respects to all of its predecessors and fans. It knew how to portray Godzilla in the right light: utterly fearsome, but not malicious or cruel. Suspense was appropriately built by saving Godzilla’s full body appearances to only when it was necessary toward the latter half of the film. I think this version of Goji-chan will inspire a new generation of kaiju fans.
Godzilla is worth the watch, especially if you’re a fan of monster movies. It’s nice to be reminded that not everything in the genre is like SyFy original movies (terrible acting, terrible effects, and terrible monsters). I’m on the fence about the already slated sequel, but it wouldn’t really be a Godzilla reboot without a bunch of follow-ups, right?