After a sixteen year hiatus the scaly goliath franchise known as Godzilla claws its way from the depths of the Pacific Ocean dripping with hype and ready to prove that it will always be god of all monsters.
Production was announced in 2010, spearheaded by fresh faced British film-maker Gareth Edwards, and was received with gentle apprehension. Not one among us could possibly forget the mammoth let down that was the 1998 Godzilla reboot and countless other goofy low budget manifestations, but nor could we pretend that any chance to see Godzilla destroy metropolitan cities and murder millions would go unviewed by audiences across the globe. Our anticipation begs the question, why do we still hold onto the idea of Godzilla as an unstoppable film franchise?
In an interview with Rolling Stone Edwards said, “Godzilla is ultimately a disaster film.” When a hurricane touches shores, when a tornado sucks up family barns, and when earthquakes cause tidal waves that flood entire cities; humans look to the sky and they ask, “Whose fault is this?” The sad answer is that these things are nobody’s fault, these things simply ‘just happen’. This is the heart of what makes Godzilla so insanely popular through numerous reboots and incarnations, it has been the same since 1954 and it is the reason monster movies will always hold their niche in cinema. When movie directors put a face to unstoppable disaster it becomes tangible, and we like it, and we like Godzilla because of it.
In the frame of the film humanity believes they had destroyed Godzilla decades earlier, but as it turns out he had just grown bored with them; they never presented a real threat to him, so why bother? A lion sees no need to kill a mouse, but when the MUTO’s (giant mantis monsters) hatch from bellow earth’s surface after years of feeding off of the radiation spilling from a Japanese quarantine zone, Godzilla reemerges in his undying drive to be the ‘alpha-predator’. Humanity drops every bomb, missile, and bullet they have, but the MUTO’s hardly blink until Godzilla enters the scene. In the end the film asserts that after millions and billions of years and innovation we will never flex the control over nature that we seek.
On May 16, entertainment writer Christopher Orr for The Atlantic wrote that “The only thing that can cut him [Godzilla] down to size is being relegated to a supporting role in his very own movie.” Orr is correct in his observation that the audience spends the majority of the film waiting anxiously for a glimpse of the lizard lord, and even after he releases his classic nostalgia ridden roar Godzilla remains obtusely in the periphery of the script that focuses more on the lame attempts of humanity to combat the MUTO’s that are rampaging across the Pacific. Clumsy narratives have, of course, become a staple to monster movie magic, but at times it felt as if Godzilla writers were too obviously introducing plot elements merely so they could go horribly wrong quickly following their inception.
These short comings in narrative can generally be relied on to be made up for in thrill action, but when Godzilla finally confronts the MUTO’s the audience is left with eye level shots of monster shins battling back and forth, or shrunk to scale hand-to-hand combat on at home television sets safely distanced from the actual battles. The climax of the film occurs about one hundred minutes into the film and concludes shortly thereafter, but eventually follows through on some impressive final kill shots between Godzilla and the MUTO’s that will make audiences cheer out of a fond obligation.
Ultimately Godzilla is carried by the undeniable appeal of Godzilla as an icon for earthly disaster and despite the campy flaws in narrative and action, the poignant theme in the face of human arrogance definitely secures the monster film a spot with its brothers as timeless cautionary tale.