I had a definite love for Godzilla as a kid. Like most boys, when I reached a young age of 5 or 6, I loved dinosaurs. Of course, the dino that I loved the most was the T-Rex. I mean, it was on my favorite TV show, Land of the Lost, and he was just bad-ass. Of course, this was back in the day when T-Rexes were thought to walk totally upright with the tail dragging on the ground and all of my corresponding toys showed that.
My dad was, and still is, a movie buff. And I very distinctly remember him watching the giant monster movies from Japan. I remember Gamera, the giant turtle, fighting some kind of giant squid monster. In 1976 they did a horrible remake of King Kong and images of the giant ape were everywhere and I remember staring awestruck at the movie poster showing the monster straddling the World Trade Center with an airplane clutched in one giant hand. I loved the idea. These were monsters so big that they could crush a T-Rex!
When I was a kid there was a Godzilla cartoon! He helped a band of adventurers along with his nephew, yes nephew, Godzookie. I had a small rubber 'Zilla toy and then got a giant plastic one that had a tongue that looked like fire that came out and a fist that fired across the room. I had him stomping all over the house. I even had a game that featured Godzilla.
I was, like most of you, disappointed with the American remake that came out in the 90s. It changed the King of the Monsters into some mutated iguana who was not nearly the bad-ass King that I remembered from childhood.
Now comes 2014 and, I am very happy to say, Godzilla is BACK and he's the King again!
This story takes the history of the original Japanese films and respects them. Yes, it makes a couple of tweaks to that history, but it makes sense and, in many ways, makes the big man even cooler. Now Godzilla is the ultimate alpha predator and he's awakened when man's interference causes two other ancient giant beasts to awaken and start wreaking havoc on the world. One of these creatures even flies!
As the two MUTOs (as they are called in the film: Mobile Unidentified Terrestrial Object) converge on San Francisco to build a nest and mate, eating radiation to survive, Godzilla is in hot pursuit as the force of nature that's to restore balance. In between are a lot of very tiny and very scared humans.
And this is where director Gareth Edwards shines. Just like his career-defining film, Monsters (a movie about giant alien creatures), he focuses on the people in between the battling monsters. His camera work gives you the feeling of what it would really be like to be scared and running for shelter while these creatures as big as buildings battle all around you.
Edwards does not forget to also deliver what the people want. This time you get great battle scenes between Godzilla and the two MUTOs. Thousands must be dead after this epic battle between the destruction in Japan, Las Vegas and San Francisco, but Godzilla is kind of the good guy here.
And this time Edwards makes sure to deliver a Godzilla that fans of the big guy want. This LOOKS like Godzilla and not some giant iguana. He has giant spikes on his back and tail. His roar is just awesome and it sent chills down my spine when it finally appeared on screen. Yes, he has atomic breath and his spikes light up just before he uses it. Folks, if you have been a fan of Godzilla, Edwards does him right and does him well.
I will warn those looking for wall-to-wall monster fighting that this movie has as slow build. It takes over an hour, dwelling on the human stories, before Godzilla or the MUTOs show up. When they all do show up, however, this movie is no-holds barred and, well, quite frankly, it's awesome.
I thought the performances of all of the humans that we follow was excellent. You feel for them and their peril and that is where the tension lies. Yes, the battle scenes are fantastic, but without the heart of the human story there would be nothing to anchor to as a viewer and the actors in this film deliver in spades.
After the disappointment of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and while we wait for the new X-Men movie to open, Godzilla is truly epic and exciting filmmaking. It's a modern giant monster movie that hits all of the right notes and manages to make these giant creatures exciting, scary and intense. So far, this is the summer movie to beat and could end up being my choice for best movie of summer 2014.