Bring up the name Godzilla to anyone and you will undoubtedly get a wide array of reactions and responses. Some will speak fondly of childhood memories of Saturdays spent watching the giant monster slug it out with other giant monsters, others will dismiss it as nothing more than a cheesy man in a rubber suit with badly dubbed acting, and there are even a small unfortunate bunch who sadly associate the big G with the atrocious farce of a film vomited out onto the public in 1998 which soiled his good name for years. Regardless of ones opinion on Godzilla and his films, the fact remains everyone knows who Godzilla is and that in itself is a testament to the character.
Before I review the film, I need to explain which group I fall into and how I got there. Myself? I fall into the camp of big time Godzilla fan. I can’t sit here and say I have seen every single Godzilla movie, especially the newer ones, but I definitely have had my fair share of vhs tapes full of his classic films (Godzilla vs Hedorah aka the Smog Monster) while growing up. I can name the majority of his classic kaiju rivals (Gigan was always my favorite) and I had plenty of Godzilla toys and merchandise too. The point I’m trying to make here is that Godzilla matters to me. We all hold things from our childhoods that were special to us close to the heart and the King of the Monsters is still one of those things for me. From my earliest memories of watching them with my big brother, it was a way we could connect and something we always shared a bond about. I always looked up to my brother and a lot of his interests and fandom’s informed my own. To this day about half of my favorite fictional works and characters were introduced to me by him, the other half of them certainly discovered through my fathers introductions, he was also a big Godzilla fan and encouraged my interest by making sure I knew whenever they would be showing one of his films on tv and recording it so I could watch it over and over again.
I remember being taken BOTH Forbidden Planet stores in Manhattan (when they had two different locations) throughout my youth and marveling at all the Toho (the company that created and owns Godzilla and all related characters) figures and was always extra happy when I was lucky enough to take one home. I especially remember my brother had this one particular really awesome figure of Godzilla that I was always jealous of and I eventually got one of my own, it wasn’t AS good or large as his, but it was still from the same company and still one of the more top notch versions out. Sadly as of today I have no clue what happened to that figure, it must have been lost or misplaced in one of my moves throughout my life. Regardless I still remember it fondly and will always remember what it meant to me and what Godzilla means to me. While I love watching the big green lizard destroy cities while fighting other giant monsters, and that’s a major part of his appeal, the real value of Godzilla for me, is the connection it provides me to my brother and my father, a shared appreciation for a fictional character that created so many fond and lasting memories. This brings us now to the latest Godzilla film. Would it honor the character and those fond memories as well as validate a fandom to the masses that still have a bad taste in there mouth from the 1998 fraud masquerading as our hero? The answer is an emphatic yes.
From the moment this film was announced all Godzilla fans hoped for was a film that at the very least gave us a faithful interpretation of the character. Hollywood is littered with the bastardized corpses of our childhood icons. From Transformers to G.I. Joe to the likes of Ghost Rider and numerous other comic and cartoon inspired films, plenty have missed the mark and arrogantly omitted the heart and soul that made those properties work in the first place. So most feared it could happen to Godzilla for a second time and bury and hopes of ever seeing him done full justice on a large scale by a U.S. studio ever again.
The announcement of “Monsters” (2010) director Gareth Evans was an interesting one yet still didn’t do much to settle any nerves about the film. The Casting news of Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad fame was an eye raiser and little by little it seemed like maybe this could hopefully have potential. Then the marketing campaign started to hit, there was a superb test footage teaser released that most people didn’t get to see, I was lucky enough to see it and immediately was blown away. It didn’t feature much if any footage from the actual film, but it definitely set the tone for something extremely serious, which is how most fans want there beloved properties handled. After that we received what I consider one of the best official teaser trailers I’ve ever seen. Set to Gyorgy Ligeti’s haunting “Requiem” composition made famous in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001 a Space Odyssey “ we are treated to a horrific vision of an apocalyptic landscape where San Francisco once stood and Godzilla is only seen in quick glimpses obscured by smoke and debris and its absolutely terrifying. After seeing this I was all in and Godzilla quickly became my most anticipated film of the year.
So last night while in an Imax theater filled to capacity with hopeful fans,as the lights dimmed and the newest Godzilla chapter began to unfold, something incredible happened. Little by little this film began to live up to the hype; everything on screen was being handled with care and taken seriously. Bryan Cranston’s excellent performance draws you in and sets the stage for what’s soon to come. The human side of the story as in all Godzilla films before it is necessary and serves the film well enough. As you have seen in the trailers it’s a very military centric plot and that works just fine. When your films star doesn’t speak, it is important that the cast convey the severity of the situation and provide insight into what is happening and its filled with enough likable characters and solid actors so that it isn’t tiresome and you aren’t simply waiting for Godzilla to show up.
The film unfolds like any great monster film, slowly. Just as in the classics such as Jaws and Alien, we have to earn our first full look at the monster and at the moment we get our first full glimpse of Godzilla, the crowd erupted into applause, myself included. I’m not talking about a few people clapping here and there or some awkward slow clap, I am talking about full blown cheering and applause. Godzilla was back; OUR Godzilla was back and from that moment on, everyone was hooked. The FX featured in the film are astounding and bring him and the carnage that follows him to life like never before. The trailers and marketing campaign were excellent in that believe me when I say, you haven’t seen anything yet!
There would be several more instances of the crowd cheering and clapping for what was transpiring on screen and it was during these moments that I realized it had been a while since I had felt the true power of film so strongly. Those moments are what going to the movies is all about, to escape and not bicker or nit pick the little things or go into a film ready to not like it. It’s about investing yourself in the story just as you would a good book and taking the ride. I had recently watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, both featuring characters I love (especially Spider-Man) both which gave me plenty of moments of excitement and chills, however neither filled me with the sense of pride and enjoyment that seeing a character I have cared about for most of my life, make a triumphant return to the masses and showing everyone why he is and always will be the King of the Monsters.
I realize this review doesn’t really give you much to go on as far as plot, etc. But I have never been one to go into detail when reviewing a film, as spoiling things is not in my nature. I will say that the first thing I did when I got out of the theater was call my brother and then my dad and simply told them “They got it right!” which is the highest compliment one can give a film based on something that has meant so much to them and still does. All Hail the King.
NOTE: I highly recommend this film and cannot stress enough how important it is that you see it in Imax 3D. This is exactly the type of film that Imax was made for and to truly witness the size and scope it’s the only way I would recommend seeing it.