Warner Bros. Pictures were wise to hire Gareth Edwards to film what is essentially a reboot of the Godzilla series for American audiences. Director Edwards displays a knack for depicting giant monsters as forces of nature that affect civilization, and he carries a lot of the sensibilities from “Monsters,” over in to the reworking of “Godzilla.” His version of “Godzilla” is less monsters stomping around and fist fighting, and more of a disaster film with a slew of human beings affected by the chaos that two monsters inflict when they rise from their gestation to feed on radiation around the world and wreak pure chaos. “Godzilla” is a sterner and dramatic approach to the lore, offering a very interesting dynamic between characters, all of whom carry through the themes of family and unity among the human race. Particularly fatherhood.
Much of the film centers on the humans and how they manage to deal with the rise of the giant monsters, all the while civilization hangs in the balance plainly due to a natural anomaly. The humans are merely forced to watch and run for their lives as much of what occurs shakes the world to its core, and time eventually runs out for civilization to find an alternative to a massive confrontation between Godzilla and the nuclear monsters that will surely bring down cities around everyone. After scientists awaken dormant monsters during its bomb testing, they hoped to conceal the presence of Godzilla and other creatures through their historic Hiroshima explosion. But when an abandoned mine collapses, two chrysalises are found, one of which has hatched. The being within manages to slip away to a local nuclear power plant, inflicting an explosion that causes a radiation leak. Only one of the survivors, American Joe Brody, is suspicious of the horrific event that took the life of his wife. Though the government covers up the incident, fifteen years later Joe is convinced something else occurred that wasn’t accidental.
Joe’s son Ford, now a father himself, returns from active duty from the military and is forced to go to Japan and confront his father whose been released from jail after re-entering the radioactive area where the explosion occurred. Despite Ford’s insistence on moving on with his life, Joe persists, and the two bear witness to the hatching of the chrysalis which unleashes a winged monster. Now working its way across continents, and looking for a possible second being, Ford works to help the military stop the monster threat, while hoping to make it home to his wife Ellie, and son Sam. I really appreciated Edwards’ approach to the Godzilla lore. Edwards chooses to explore how the giant monsters stomping through cities and bashing buildings generally demolishing civilization and focuses on how it’s almost as much a natural disaster as a hurricane or a tsunami. Godzilla is a humongous barbaric force of nature that’s neither friend nor foe, but serves a purpose despite his destruction and general disregard toward innocent bystanders. Edwards has a great fascination with how humans would interact and react to such an extraordinary disaster, and his sub-plots work for the most part.
I found Ford’s (played well by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) story as a military man torn between jumping in to combat to save the world, and abandoning his duty to get to his wife and son compelling. Elizabeth Olsen is also wrenching as Ellie, a noble nurse who risks losing her son when she chooses to stay in the hospital to look after the sick and injured. Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe are also wonderful touches to the narrative, adding that layer of a previous generation faced with demons they have to confront. That said, I found much of the Godzilla action disappointing as Edwards just doesn’t really seem all too interested in delivering monster rumbles, at least in the first half. One particularly annoying moment features Godzilla facing down the pair of monsters, only for Edwards to cut away to distant news footage of the fighting ensuing. Edwards does eventually deliver on Godzilla action true to the character though, with a three way battle, and Godzilla unleashing a few of his signature powers during combat. While “Godzilla” is flawed in some respects, Gareth Edwards’ take on the king of the monsters is often entertaining, mature, and bold.
Featured in the Blu-Ray release, there’s the extra “MONARCH Declassifies” which garners three chapters. There’s “Operation: Lucky Dragon” a three minute vintage film about Monarch and their first experience with Godzilla, “MONARCH: The M.U.T.O. File” a five minute look at the history of M.U.T.O. going back to the 1940’s, and “The Godzilla Revelation” an eight minute mock TV Documentary that chronicles the rise of Godzilla with a montage of sightings of the beast. “The Legendary Godzilla” is another multi-chapter segment featuring “Godzilla: Force of Nature,” a nineteen minute look at the making of the film, the history of the monster, and Edward’s approach to the movie. “A Whole New Level of Destruction” is an eight minute technical feature with looks at sets, locations, and the making of specific moments of destruction. “Into the Void: The H.A.L.O. Jump” is a five minute look at one of the most striking moments in the film where how it was achieved. Finally, “Ancient Enemy: The M.U.T.O.s” is a seven minute look at the role of the M.U.T.O.s, and their general designs.