Godzilla is one of those franchises where no matter how long it's been since the last remake, doubts abound and movie-goers are filled with uncertainty and questioning. Questions like why now? and wait, what do you mean it's actually good? can be overheard in coffee shops and sidewalks everywhere. In this case it's been a while since the last, arguably horrendous, attempt, directed by Roland Emmerich in 1998, and yeah, it is actually kinda good.
Bryan Cranston's character Joe Brody is basically Walter White: Nuclear physicist edition. Loves his kid, loves his wife, lets his crazy obsession destroy his life. When the nuclear power plant at Janjira in Japan is affected by inexplicable, unaccounted for seismic activity, Joe's the guy responsible for admonishing that this isn't an earthquake coming and something's really wrong. He's the expert, the crazy genius, the only guy smart enough to see that something strange and catastrophic is about to happen.
It's probably sounding to you like that thing is Godzilla, right? Wrong. Whether or not it ruined the movie is up for debate all over the internet, but either way, viewers were misled by the title of the film. It's not really as much about Godzilla as you might expect. In order to come up with a smart, complex plot about a giant dinosaur monster crushing cities with his big dino feet, the creators came up with "malevolent creatures" (using IMDB's descriptor for its genius vagueness) for Godzilla to hunt across the globe and kill in a big epic brawl. I still liked it, and I think the trade-off was more plot with more interesting science fictional implications, but I also feel cheated and lied to, given that all of the strange occurrences in the first half of the movie that I thought were the Godzilla were actually these "malevolent creatures," and I don't like feeling stupid.
The story of Godzilla himself is a good one. In 1946 he was awakened by a Russian submarine accident, and the US and Russia knew about it all this time, so (as the trailer will tell you), the US and Russian militaries conducted all of their nuclear tests over the Pacific in an attempt to kill it. They couldn't. All the nukes in the world couldn't kill this giant prehistoric god of all creatures. Humanity is weak and technology pales before nature. I like it!
After all that good storytelling, the dialogue gave way to the military trying to kill Godzilla and the malevolent creatures. Words turn to action, and it's mesmerizing, big action that captures your attention and grabs it again and again just when you think you're going to nod off because what's actually so interesting about dinosaur monsters stepping on buildings?
The good cast had good performances but it’s wasted on one of those films where the screenplay must have drizzled out about two thirds of the way through. Don't get too attached to Bryan Cranston, and don't expect his watered down Walter White to have any material to work with, but obviously the man could do no wrong, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson still looks handsome even when the script fizzles out and he stops talking and instead stares either wide-eyed or catatonically at the destruction of the SF skyline. Who knew Kickass would end up good looking? He totally Neville Longbottom-ed. Elizabeth Olsen followed suit, looking pretty and doing absolutely nothing. So if you were going to see Godzilla because you were excited about the cast, don’t bother. They weren't the main event.
The main event was watching prehistoric parasites and the god of all dinosaurs face off and completely abolish my fave city, San Francisco. Oh yay, another monster fighting movie! I really liked the art direction.
Seriously though, it was kind of all about the visuals. I mean I liked the first half better which was actually about the story and a little bit about science, but in the end, it’s greyscale destruction and the kind of immensity that can only really be conveyed through film, although Percy Bysshe Shelley and George R. R. Martin, for two, have certainly tried.
What you should expect is Jaws meets Alien and I'm guessing Pacific Rim, but I haven't actually seen it, meets King Kong and Breaking Bad. Without color. I don't recommend that you rent it. Go see it with your friends on the big screen, or not at all, and if you missed it, you missed it. Go rent Kickass, or any of the other aforementioned pictures, instead.