How do you erase the pseudo-Godzilla abomination of that 1998 pile of kaiju dung? Easy, you stay true to the heart and soul of the original Godzilla film, rewarding fans with authenticity tweaked only by incredible special effects. At its core, the new Godzilla film is a true sequel to the original, building upon what was started there, and taking the story in a fantastic new direction.
This movie did a great job of making it feel like it belongs in the world of the original film. With subtle, and not-so-subtle nods to the original, it also gave fans of the franchise clues to its authenticity. Godzilla was treated as a natural disaster, exactly like he was before. What this new movie did was expand on that idea by developing Godzilla’s origins, as well as introduce another monster from the “time before time” in which they were all originally from. Making Godzilla something natural, as opposed to something of an accident perpetrated by humanity, gives him a sense of being even more unstoppable, and more like the “person looking down on ants” than he has ever been.
One major shift away from the trend of all the previous movies is the minimalist use of Godzilla onscreen. Most of those movies relied on Godzilla being on screen as much as made sense, either stomping around or battling the movies’ other monsters. But this film uses the star of the film in a way similar to Cloverfield. While it is at first disappointing, by the time the movie is over you realize there was the perfect amount of Godzilla onscreen. My only criticism in this regard is that a lot of his scenes were quite dark, and left me feeling slightly cheated.
What we do see of Godzilla, however, is breathtaking. He looks awesome, truly menacing, and a perfect re-imagining of the classic form. The only real differences with this Godzilla from what we’ve grown accustom to is a more animalistic face, and his drastically “thicker” figure, which I think actually makes the King of Monsters more menacing than ever before. The “fattening” up of Godzilla actually serves to make him more believable as a real monster. Traditionally his form was locked due to the use of a man in a suit to bring the monster to life. But now, free from the confines of the human form, Godzilla looks more terrifying, and more awesome than he ever has. Also, the roar was fantastic!
I could go on about how the human story probably could have been both more nuanced and scaled back a bit to lend more screen time to the star of the film. But that would have been a detriment to the final product. If the movie was nothing but monsters fighting there’d be no actual plot, and this movie succeeds because of all its separate elements coming together to cleverly reboot a franchise that had gotten away from itself over time. Don’t get me wrong, you definitely get your battling monsters, but the story that surrounds it does enough to support that with only slightly feeling forced.
Overall I think Godzilla was a great success. It certainly surprised me by meeting my expectations. While the supporting characters were a bit standard, and nearly every aspect of the human story was predictable, you can’t expect more from a Godzilla movie. It was a classic monster movie at heart. A well-crafted handling of old and familiar source material that never tried to exceed what it could ever be. Plus Bryan Cranston was in it, and he should be in every movie!
Godzilla was a perfect standalone film, or, if they can pull off some clever tricks, a great starting point for a new franchise. If the movie gods are merciful, we’ll get to see King Ghidorah show up in a few years!