In preparation of my viewing of the new Godzilla, I indulged in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode for Godzilla vs. Megalon, in which the famous giant lizard teams up with a giant robot to battle fearsome creatures on the aptly named Monster Island. This turned out to be the perfect appetizer for this newest installment of the Godzilla franchise. Godzilla plays with some familiar tropes. First, Godzilla, while not known to most of the population, has been studied for decades by an organization known as Monarch, so there is a collect few who are aware of the giant lizard’s existence. Second, there’s a good level of camp present in the film, which was never meant to be intentional in the old movies (as far as I know) but was embraced in this version to my enjoyment. The absurdity of the scenarios at play here make for some decently funny moments, as well as some scenes that are purely crowd pleasers.
The story here is that a team of scientists have unearthed a giant flying monster (presumably based on Mothra even though it’s never called that), which emits electromagnetic pulses that fry anything electrical within a certain radius. While the military tries to stop Mothra, its only natural predator, Godzilla, surfaces to hunt the monster and is ultimately caught in the crossfire between the military and Mothra.
Overall, Godzilla is a lot of fun. It’s easy to compare it to last year’s Pacific Rim, which had the potential to be a fun monster movie, but ultimately got bogged down in the science, which made for long stretches of boring exposition, occasionally broken up by inspirational speeches. Godzilla is the fun monster movie I wanted from Pacific Rim, and it has a vastly superior ensemble of actors. Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass) continues to impress me with his ability to show up in a variety of different movies and be virtually unrecognizable in each character. Also, I’m more and more excited to see Elizabeth Olsen pop up in things. She doesn’t have much to do in this film, but observant members of the audience will realize that her and Taylor-Johnson are set to play Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in Avengers: Age of Ultron next summer. Those characters are siblings, so it’s already weird for me to see them in love scenes together in this film.
The real reason I wanted to see this film right away was Bryan Cranston, who has hooked me as a lifelong fan with his portrayal of Walter White on the insanely brilliant Breaking Bad. Cranston has shown up in a smattering of different movies since Breaking Bad hit its popularity peak and while he seems to have a certain type of character he likes to play, I never get tired of watching the level of complexity and emotion he brings to even the smallest role. Unfortunately, Cranston isn’t a huge part of Godzilla, but really none of the human characters have major roles.
I don’t mean for this review to be so glowing. There are major major flaws with this movie. Structurally, it’s little more than cool action sequences with the audience waiting for more action sequences in between, and while I was able to suspend my disbelief about most things, once the climactic battle got underway, there were a lot of confusing and implausible decisions made by the law enforcement and military personnel on the ground. That took me out of the movie really quickly, and probably would prevent me from ever wanting to see it again.