Well, we’ve come a long way from a guy in a rubber suit stomping through the streets of a mini-Tokyo, I think we can all agree on that. I was never much of a fan of the original Gojira (and I always wondered why they changed it to Godzilla) from 1954, where they spliced footage of Raymond Burr into the original Japanese film, which was almost as horrifying as the big lizard. Then there was the re-make in 1998, which I think we can all agree was a piece of shit. The monster didn’t look like Godzilla, for one thing. For another, they completely tossed all the supporting cast of other monsters that had been painstakingly built up over the years. To date there have been thirty-three movies featuring the big boy, usually with him either battling or paired up with or paired up with and battling other monsters and destroying cities in the process. I had forgotten that, too. After the first one, Godzilla usually had co-stars, lovely folks like Mothra, Ghidorah, Rodan, Kumonga, Ebirah, Hidorah, Mechagodzilla, and even King Kong. It is a pantheon as complex as Hindu mythology, and I assume there are those who keep track of which are good monsters and which are bad ones. It became like tag team wrestling, usually with a little Japanese kid who was in some sort of contact with, say, Mothra. Weird stuff.
This iteration of the old story returns to those roots. Godzilla appears from out of the ocean, and soon goes into battle with two giant insect things, just about as big as him. One is male, with wings, and one is female, with an egg sac. These lovely things have selected San Francisco as the place to make a nest, so that’s where the final battle takes place. But on the way they destroy large parts of Tokyo, Honolulu, and, for some weird reason, Las Vegas. I suspect the makers just wanted to wreck all those gaudy casinos on the Strip.
It was reviewed surprisingly well, and somewhat to my surprise, I actually enjoyed it on a guilty pleasure level. The special effects are appropriately awesome, and even the story made a certain amount of sense. Two fine actors, Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche, die a lot sooner than you would expect them to, which is kind of startling, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson does a pretty good job as the soldier who moves around the center of it all. Though there are many narrow escapes, most of them were at least partially believable. And, for the most part, there is not a lot of incredible recoveries. When this guy takes a big fall, he’s hurting, he’s beat up badly. So few movies do that these days.