The general listlessness toward the never ending deluge of reboots and remakes in Hollywood, is arguably at an all time high, but that doesn’t mean that viewers won’t embrace such efforts when they work. And by that measure, Gareth Edwards’ take on the storied King of the Monsters (in theaters everywhere May 16) is primed to enjoy some serious support from moviegoers. Incredibly ambitious and loaded with action, but not without some genuine emotion, “Godzilla” reminds us all how fun creature features can be.
Edwards’ take follows Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a bomb specialist who, as a child, effectively lost both his mother and father to a nuclear disaster at the power plant where they worked. Though only his mother perished, his father, Joe (Bryan Cranston), an engineer is unable to move past the events and spends his days obsessing over finding out what really happened. Newly returned from 14 months serving overseas Ford is called to Japan to get his father out of prison, but the pair of them soon find themselves in the midst of events that echo the past. Events that result in the arrival of some less-than-gentle giant creatures, and subsequently Godzilla himself.
If you’re going to attempt to anchor a creature feature in some raw human emotion, there may not be a better anchor out there than Bryan Cranston. No one does a blend of brilliance, rage, fear and heartache quite like Cranston does (hey, after seven seasons of “Breaking Bad” he’s had plenty of practice), and here his performance is what grabs viewers and ushers them into the world of the film. Though, that’s not to say that Cranston is carrying the emotive torch on his own, Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Ichiro Serizawa is tasked with introducing us to Godzilla, and quite apart from being the only character who at once feels responsible for the events taking place and simultaneously comes to understand that they are the result of the “arrogance of man,” he sells reverence for the legendary creature incredibly well. Meanwhile, Aaron Taylor-Johnson takes us into the action using the good guy charm that endeared him to so many audiences in his titular turn as Kick-Ass with similar success, but with an added dose of the bravery and desperation that familial responsibility affords people placed in extraordinary circumstances.
But even for all of that, “Godzilla” could not be successful if the main attraction left something to be desired. The titular beast does not disappoint, massive in scale and ferocious (if a bit mechanic for an ancient creature) sounding, this Godzilla is worthy of his name. He looks positively ancient, but no less fearsome for it, as he stalks around cities, propels through oceans and throws down with the MUTOs (massive unidentified terrestrial organisms)––the aforementioned rampaging, giant creatures––viewers can rejoice knowing that Edwards’ film understands that we want to cheer for Godzilla, and has given us reason to do so. It must be said, that though the 3D is barely noticeable after the title flashes across the screen, it’s more than worth wearing those not so stylish glasses without much third dimension payoff in order to see (and hear) Godzilla and the MUTOs tear into each other in IMAX size, scope and quality.
“Godzilla” has all the makings of a great blockbuster: action, explosions, high stakes, stunning visuals and fun to boot. After all, even the most reticent moviegoer can’t help but reveal some enthusiasm when the big guy gets going.