My official policy on giant monsters and Bryan Cranston is simple: shut up and take my money. My first look at the trailer for Godzilla left me 'squeeing' and doing a little happy dance right there at my theater seat while waiting for 'Winter Soldier' to start. So hopefully, when I tell you about this movie, you understand where I'm coming from so that this doesn't sound like a bunch of gleeful trolling.
Because this isn't gleeful at all.
Let's face it: Godzilla is a cornerstone, if not the cornerstone of everything we hold dear about science fiction and/or monster movies. We love him, we can't help ourselves. Even the horrible reboot of Godzilla by Roland Emmerich was well received for a while, simply because Godzilla is our giant monster. Understanding that concept and respecting it is one way that this installment of Godzilla triumphs.
From the opening credits, you can tell that this movie is a love letter to the Godzilla of the 50s. Grainy footage re-telling the atomic nuclear tests, not as tests but as attempts to stop the monster. From there, you get the classic m-movie tropes: somebody uncovers an ancient site where a dormant creature is awakened, horrible tragedy in the first act so you care about the main characters and so forth. But then, just as you have your expectations set, the movie pulls a Cabin in the Woods and turns your expectations on their ear. I'm not going to tell you how, I'm not going to tell you what, but the movie messes with your ideas of what is happening in a delicious, respectful way. I can appreciate a move like that.
Granted, the characters have their limitations but not all of them. David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe and the aforementioned Cranston -- they manage to chew the scenery without chewing it in every scene they inhabit. Wish I could say the same for Aaron-Taylor Johnson but I never know whether the wooden acting I see in a movie is the fault of the actor or the director, so I'm hesitant to cast judgement.
By the time the big monster battle in the third act begins, you're ready for some rompin' and again, Godzilla delivers. San Francisco, the Golden Gate and Honolulu are laid waste while Ken Watanabe runs around, playing the hero scientist, gives what would otherwise be corny lines the necessary emotional weight to make them feel like we should be paying attention
And we do. Even if we don't care about the humans, we love the monsters. We love the destruction, the CGI and the feeling of leaving the theater going "Wow, that was cool!" So I hope you'll take a moment out of your weekend to go see Godzilla. It's a beautiful 21st-century homage to good, old-fashioned monster movies.
More Godzilla on RevolutionSF!
Geek Curmudgeon Rick Klaw's review
Joe Lansdale's super-fun short story Godzilla's 12-Step Program