Ok, now, this is how you do it. Since the disastrous remake of Godzilla back in 1998, the big scaly lizard has been gun shy about returning to these shores, and who can blame him? Because, after all, even Godzilla has a reputation to maintain. And so when many heard about this new Godzilla film first being announced, just in time for his sixtieth anniversary, there was a lot of consternation from many fans. Yet I had faith about this new movie once I heard who was directing: Gareth Edwards, whose previous film Monsters was basically a low budget audition tape to get him to direct the Big G in action. And, having finally seen it. I can say that Edwards has delivered the Godzilla movie that fans like me wanted back in ’98.
Instead of ignoring the original mythology, like the ‘98 version did, Edwards embraces Godzilla’s sixty year cinematic heritage by establishing that the Big G first terrified humanity back in 1954 when he swam around the Pacific Ocean, attacking islands with impunity. The United States Navy took him on back then, luring him into a trap with a nuclear bomb on the Bikini Atoll. When Godzilla was presumed destroyed, the battle–along with the presence of the creature–was hidden from the public by disguising it as a nuclear bomb test. It’s heady stuff, and it shows off the vivid imagination of the filmmakers during just the opening credits.
Of course, Godzilla wasn’t really destroyed back in 1954 (the same year that the original Godzilla film was released); he returns again to do battle with a horde of creatures known as Mutos who arise to repopulate the Earth. Edwards wisely keeps him under wraps, never really showing a lot of him, using the same trick that Spielberg used in Jaws, which is to build dread and suspense by keeping the monster under wraps while people talk it up while dealing with the destruction it leaves in its wake. The influence of Jaws is further felt here in that the protagonist’s family name is also Brody (the name of the main character played by Roy Scheider in that classic).
In this day and age of CGI, it’s inevitable that the effects in this new Godzilla would be all computer generated (I always loved the miniature work in the original films). And while the CGI is very well done, one problem is that, with most of the action taking place at night, the monster sequences are oftentimes too dark. I watched this in Blu-Ray on a high-def TV and still had trouble making out what was going on in some scenes. Once the monsters makes their grand appearance in the climatic battle, it would be nice to actually see them in all their glory. Still, Edwards has done a marvelous job in creating a new Godzilla film that’s respectful to its source material while still being its own monster movie. This long-time Godzilla fan is pleased. –SF