“What’s really happening here is that you’re hiding something,” says scientist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston). “My wife died here. Something killed my wife. I have a right to know.” Sandra Brody (Juliette Binoche) died in 1999, at a nuclear energy plant near Tokyo, a victim of natural disaster, the government says, but Joe is not convinced. Fifteen years later, their grown son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is drawn into the drama of his mother’s death which, according to Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), was caused by MUTOs – “massive unidentified terrestrial organisms.” That’s the setup for this sci-fi action adventure.
What are MUTOs? Can Godzilla defeat them? Will Ford Brody and wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) reunite? Is this the end of the world? For answers, see “Godzilla.”
Godzilla, of course, is the film’s central character. He’s CGI and, at age 60 and 355 feet, is looking good. Humans in the cast include three generations of Brodys – Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche (scientists Joe and Sandra), Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen (Ford and Elle), Carson Bolde (Sam), and C.J. Adams (young Ford). They are fine, providing exposition and family backstory/drama during the film’s first and last chapters.
Ken Watanabe is Dr. Ishiro Serizawa. His unorthodox theories about nuclear “accidents” the scientific establishment rejects. Audience members, however, know they are correct because we’ve seen these monster movies before. Sally Hawkins and David Strathairn play Vivienne Graham and Admiral William Stenz.
“Godzilla” began in 1954 in “Gojira,” with Haru Nakajima in a 200 pound rubber suit. Nakajima played Godzilla 12 times, although the world’s most famous monster has had 29 remakes and sequels. Gareth Edwards directs this one, from a smart script by Max Borenstein and Dave Callahan. Fans of creature features will want to see it, but there are pleasures for the rest of us as well. Among them are black-and-white main titles – history lessons from Darwin to hydrogen bomb tests at Bikini Island – and musical references to “2001.” While there are noisy CGI battles between MUTOs and Godzilla – which are not as much fun as they might be – there is also cool homage to previous Godzilla movies.
Like all Godzilla flicks, this one, too, is, as film historian David Kalat writes, “making a dark and bitter allegory about real things disguised as a monster movie.” That’s your assignment for the trip home: discuss events of recent years that this Godzilla movie references. Your two-page essays are due next Friday.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence, “Godzilla” runs 123 minutes. It brought in $93.2 million last weekend.
After sixty years,
“Godzilla’s” still the one –
But fighting other monsters
Could be a bit more fun.