Godzilla is back in theaters in a monster new reboot of the classic movie icon, and at 60-years-old, he has literally never looked better.
What was a terrifying warning against the dangers of nuclear testing when he first debuted in the original Japanese Gojira in 1954 (later released in America as Godzilla: King of Monsters in 1956), Godzilla quickly became the hero in most of the more than 30 films that followed, battling a new colorful foe in sequel after sequel over the past six decades.
He was also an often cheesy hero, too obviously a man dressed in a floppy rubber suit, sometimes even dancing in celebration of a victory.
Directed by relative newcomer Gareth Edwards, who proved a master of suspense with his debut film Monsters, Warner Bros. and Legendary’s new incarnation of Godzilla eliminates the cheese, but pulls on the heartstrings of old school Godzilla fans, while pulling out some of Steven Spielberg’s favorite gags, at times invoking classics like Jaws and Jurassic Park through the excitement and terror of what goes unseen.
In fact it is a long time into the movie before viewers finally get to see the title beast in all his scaly, snarling glory, but not nearly as long as took Spielberg to fully reveal his over-sized shark in Jaws.
Edwards clearly enjoys the ride up to the reveal as much if not more than the reveal itself, which could explain two surprising cutaways that most any other summer blockbuster would have most certainly stayed on, perhaps to the horror of some fans.
When the lizard king does ultimately rise to the occasion, his roar is magnificently deafening and his beefed up look is an epic event to behold within itself.
This Godzilla captures everything fans of the dated classics remember best, while using today’s state-of-the-art CGI to bring him to life in ways never before seen on screen.
I won’t spoil too much of the plot for those who have been living under a rock and have somehow avoided the numerous spoiler-heavy trailers and TV spots dominating pop culture for the past six months, but I will tell you that it is unexpectedly great to watch the monster take his rightful place back atop his throne in a climactic battle royal against some truly worthy rivals.
There are few “Easter eggs” for hardcore Godzilla fans to watch for (including a quick reference to Mothra), but the most obvious is Ken Watanabe’s updated portrayal of Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, the eyepatched hero of the original Gojira.
Watanabe brings some much need gravity to the human plotlines, which try hard for heartbreaking sincerity, but unfortunately fall too often in the shadow of the ever-building spectacle.
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) is fine as a scientist who becomes obsessed with uncovering whatever it is that the government is hiding after his wife dies in a tragic event at a nuclear plant early in the film, but the script gives him little to do beyond a brief rage at the system’s obvious cover up.
Playing Cranston’s grief-stricken son, Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass) also does a decent enough job at what little he is given to do, which is basically just to scowl, and Elizabeth Olson (The Avengers: Age of Ultron) is barely even in the movie, as Taylor-Johnson’s worrying wife.
Outside of Watanabe’s always prophetically grounding performance as the new Serizawa, there is little of the human story that resonates half as strong after you leave the theater as the rumbling, roar, and awe of Godzilla himself. But then maybe that’s the point of a Godzilla movie anyway.
In the end, Godzilla proves that he is still king of all monsters, dominating both his on-screen enemies and his human co-stars, while becoming the biggest movie hero of the summer.
Official Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars