Looking at all the biggest blockbusters of our time, a common thread appears: a human element. No matter how elaborate or bombastic the action gets, the audience needs someone to root for or care about. The big-budget films that overlook this quickly feel empty and uninspired. As the explosions and action take over the multiplex this summer, look for relatable character. That’s what keeps “Godzilla” as an early contender for best blockbuster these next few months.
Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), a nuclear plant manager, has uncovered a potential problem that could compromise the neighboring cities if not handled properly. When something goes wrong, the fallout leaves the entire area quarantined. Flash forward fifteen years, and Joe has been labeled a kook, refusing to believe that his readings were legitimate. His only son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has long since moved on and created a family all his own. Within hours of returning from a deployment, Ford finds himself traveling to bail is father out for continuing to return to the very area Joe was studying. What they uncover are creatures much larger and more menacing than the Earth has seen in millions of years. With the assistance of scientists (Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins) who attempt to understand the animals, Ford and Joe try to get back to their family and stop the path of destruction.
“Godzilla” does an excellent drop of erasing the 1998 version from memory. The former version was so void of substance it ceased to make sense. Here, director Gareth Edwards develops a story and characters that can exist without the eventual appearance of a huge monster. When the creatures finally appear, care is done to slowly reveal them throughout the film. Rather than providing a long look at each detail, tension and anticipation build to a climax that effectively releases all the surprises.
Some will complain about the extent of the monster shots, which shouldn’t detract those interested in the film. The story is one of man vs. nature, one that is explored in detail that elevates the human characters beyond props. Spectacle isn’t the most critical element of “Godzilla,” making the film all that more satisfying. 3.5 out of 5 stars.