By Darin Skaggs
We live in the age of the big movie. They are filled with special effects of what is impossible without the technology. They are mostly over two hours long and have some of the biggest stars of the now. Gareth Edwards’ new film Godzilla has all that and tries to say something about it, maybe to a fault.
In this look at the Godzilla franchise the story begins in 1999, where a scientific Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins look upon some alien like material that causes the ground to cave in. This cave travels all the way to Japan where Joe played by Brian Cranston, his wife played by Juliette Binoche and a whole lot of other workers are evacuated from their nuclear plant. Binoche doesn’t make it out. The story then goes fifteen years into the future to 2014 where Joe’s son Ford, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, returns to his American home from duty. He comes home to his wife Elle, played by Elizabeth Olsen and young son. Soon after returning home he finds his father, who is still in Japan, has gotten into trouble. He goes to help him and while there they both discover a shut off center of the city that is holding the same type of egg from the beginning of the film. It hatches and is revealed to be a MUTO, a dangerous monster that feeds on radiation. From there it is a struggle to stay alive and rid the world of these MUTO.
As it seems, there is a lot going on in this film. Godzilla wasn’t even mentioned in the synopsis. He honestly isn’t in the film that much until the last third. Some could see this as a problem. The movie is called Godzilla after all. The audience is probably asking “Where is Godzilla?” but that is kind of the point of the film. The threat of the world is never the iconic beast. It’s the creatures that may or may not be a take on Mothra. The US army is constantly trying to take down the threat but it is evident pretty early that there is nothing they can do. It feels like days pass and they clearly haven’t made any progress in exterminating the MUTO. Then in the middle and then near the end of the story Godzilla comes to save the day, as predicted by Watanabe early on. And when we do see Godzilla fight it is from the human’s point of view, so we don’t see much until a group of army men have to carry out a mission near the monsters. It is a gimmick that will upset many audience members but it does work fairly well.
With not much monster on monster action that only leaves the MUTO just being destructive. This leads to some of the more on the nose moments. A lot of the action sequences add an aspect to their story that has some allegory of 9/11. There is nothing wrong with that, there is a ton of this in recent years. Some moments work like Jets falling out of the sky because the MUTO’s presence makes technology shut down and other times they are roll your eyes moments like a random kid being separated from his parents due to a disaster that goes nowhere. This film does not only have allegories for 9/11. It takes on a lot of tragedies from the last fifteen years. This includes the Marathon bombing, shootings, Tsunamis and the horrors of war. This is fine to make allegories for these events that should be explored but it does so much that it is at times overwhelming.
Godzilla is a fun movie, excluding dealing with the tragedy of our world. It has a most satisfying finale. It doesn’t focus on character too much but that is not the point. It is not energy fueled but is surely a good time.