At long last, a major Hollywood studio does a Japanese pop-cultural icon right (or at least 85% of it).
The day that Columbia/TriStar (aka Sony Pictures) entrusted the Big G to the hacks behind Independence Day could have fallen into infamy as yet another fly in the ointment for America’s amity with Japan. Since then, we had Dragonball Z, Astro Boy and Speed Racer undergo indignities in the journeys toward Hollywood multiplex acceptance.
Good thing the Japanese have wised up and taken matters into their own hands – cases in point: Space Battleship Yamato, Gatchaman and the upcoming Lupin III (only God would know how a Hollywood version would have fared with Ryan Reynolds as Lupin!!!)
Now we have Godzilla, this time brought to you by Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures (and of course, Toho Co. Ltd.). It can be said that getting even a snippet of The Big G’s iconic roar can get Toho’s legal-beagles after your hide, so it is but imperative that this latest Hollywood take on Japan’s Dai-ichi Kaijuu do a good job in restoring its dignity.
The story begins with the discovery of colossal eggs – not to mention suspicious tail-trails – in a Philippine mining project. The trail then leads to a Japanese nuclear plant where a married couple (Bryan Cranston and an Academy-award winner grossly underutilised for this picture) are assigned to consult. A freak earthquake occurs, and Cranston’s character loses his wife amidst the ensuing chaos.
Flash forward 16-19 years later, Cranston’s character’s son (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) – now a US Navy paratrooper, with a wife and young son to boot – finds himself returning to Japan to
bail out make peace with his father, who has just been jailed by the Japanese police for trespassing into the site where the plant once stood, now a quarantine zone.
It so happens that Cranston’s character has become obsessed with the belief that MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms) were behind the unusual spike in seismic activity around the region. Soon enough, both father and son – assisted by Japanese researcher Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) – realise what they are going up against.
Much has been said about how British director Gareth Edwards – tackling his first big-studio project – has chosen to give this a Close Encounters Of The Third Kind-esque vibe. At least, Cranston’s Mr. Brody didn’t go to the extent of building a miniature Mt. Fuji out of mashed potatoes in his dining room. There is also a semblance of conspiracy thriller, likewise evident during the first half of the film (good job, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, for bringing it back in vogue!) The two MUTOs in the film are spindly-legged behemoths that look like the bastard children of the Cloverfield monster and the Angels from Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Now let’s focus on the titular Big G himself, King of All Monsters…prepare to be awed!!!! Remember the scene from Godzilla: Final Wars where the original Godzilla makes short work of “Zilla” right on top of the Sydney Opera House?
Take that, Emmerich & Devlin!!!
Suffice to say, Edwards’ Godzilla can send both original Godzilla and Zilla flying skyward with one sweep of its massive tail!!!
Jaggy spines on back – check!
Fat neck – check!!
That iconic roar – CHECK!!!
Atomic breath – all in check!!!!
Surprisingly enough, this Godzilla’s motions appeared to be more natural, in the sense that it didn’t seem like there was a man inside a rubber suit behind all of that. However, what surprised me was the way humans welcomed him when Serizawa pointed out that the Big G was there to save humankind from the proliferation of the MUTO creatures (the flying one, somehow, reminded me of Mothra when it first showed up in the trailer)
I remember, as a young child, having seen Godzilla vs. Megalon on the big screen. Looking back to it, I did agree it was one of the weaker entries in the long – and impressive – Godzilla canon (what with The Big G doing pro-wrestling moves and the addition of Ultraman wanna-be Jet Jaguar). It was impressive that director Edwards snuck in some bonuses for the Godzilla die-hards (like the derelict aquarium with a sticker that read “Mothra” and Serizawa – named after a similar character from Ishiro Honda’s 1954 original – referring to the character as “Gojira” as he is named in Japan)
Again, it did not take a cute tyke to soften The Big G’s heart (or at least in this one, thankfully), so by the time he made short work of the walking MUTO, Godzilla gets a hearty accolade from thousands of grateful San Franciscans as he slinks back to the Pacific Ocean.
About my only quibble about the film was its apparent lack of campy humour, given that Edwards wanted to focus on the disaster/s resulting from the monsters’ rampage rather than the monsters themselves. Thankfully enough, he didn’t consider bringing in Godzooky…
Obviously the Jar Jar Binks of his time…