Godzilla is back!
And this time the film is 100% Matthew Broderick free!
I'm referring, of course, to the widely disparaged 2000 reboot of Godzilla that I thought wasn't really quite so horrible. This movie is the new, new Godzilla, and it hardly sucked at all.
The film begins a decade prior in the Phillipines, where scientists (including barely used Ken Watanabe as Dr. Serizawa) have discovered a pair of cocoons filled with -- well, no one is sure. One of the creatures is apparently dead, and the other promptly awakens and burrows directly towards a Japanese nuclear power plant.
The power plant is run by Joe Brody (Cranston) whose wife works at the power plant as well. Well, when the M.U.T.O. (Massive Underground Terrestrial Organism) attacks, no one knows what's happening -- they all think it's an earthquake. Brody's wife is trapped by a radiation door and in the film's lone moment of real emotional power, it Joe who must seal her off.
Fast forward ten years and Joe Brody is a broken man. He and his son were successfully evacuated, but he's conflicted over the death of his wife, and the fact that he was blamed for the reactor's meltdown. The town surrounding the reactor is now similar to Chernobyl -- a restricted ghost town. His son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson -- you know, the kid from Kick Ass) has grown up, become an explosive ordnance disposal technician (foreshadow much?), and has a son of his own.
He wants nothing to do with his wacko father, who can't let go fo the past. Cranston lays it on thick, crying, "They evacuated us so quickly, I couldn't even take a picture of her." In his conspiro-theorist quest "to find out the truth" he enlists his son to help him break back into their former home to find his old data, which will validate his theory that it wasn't an earthquake that destroyed the reactor.
Cranston gets his answers from Watanabe and promptly dies and leaves the film. You can almost hear him snapping his check as he exits the movie! I would not be surprised if this film was heavily edited to feature more of Watanabe for the Asian markets, and Cranston was substituted to win over more American audiences. Don't get me wrong: Cranston could sneeze and win an Oscar, but his appearance in the film felt tacked on to me.
Ford (the son) discovers that the MUTO is a throwback to a more heavily radioactive prehistoric time, and when the creature's eggcase finally opens, the MUTO calls out to its mate, and then the kaiju big battel fun really begins! The MUTO's mating call awakens Heavy G (more on that issue later) which confuses everyone except Watanabe's sage scientist -- who realizes that Godzilla preys on the MUTOs.
Except, the dead MUTO that was found a decade ago, that was vivisected and then tucked away at Yucca Mountain (the American nuclear waste disposal facility) has regenerated, and is headed towards the other MUTO, in order to have glorious MUTO intercourse. The MUTOs resemble weird, alien insects and can emit a micro-EMP pulse, so conventional weaponry doesn't harm them. Planes fall out of the sky as their electronics fail, etc., etc.
Chrysler, Ford -- whatever his name is, he gets separated from his family and basically just follows the disaster wherever it occurs, saving people along the way, and then finally becoming a part of the team that has decided a nuclear bomb ought to put the mega-fauna to bed.
Watanabe's character takes a surprisingly Zen approach to the mayhem, advising that humans just let Godzilla handle the beasties -- let Nature take it's course. Of course, the bomb malfunctions, everyone decides it needs to be disarmed and Ford HALO drops into San Francisco to disarm the bomb that was going to save everyone.
It's all actually sort of confusing.
Bottom Line: Godzilla looks good here -- not like the phoned-in 80's versions that looked almost comical -- more like the 90's versions that looked realistic. Asian audiences actually complained that Godzilla's hindquarters were unnecessarily ... fat, looking? And in the final scene when Godzilla has vanquished the MUTO's and lumbers back to the sea, there's a shot of him from behind, and ... he filled the screen, is all I can say.
Godzilla: "Does this city make my butt look big?"
The overall action was good, most of it was confined to the human/disaster level. There's only about 10-12 minutes of actual monster battle time in the whole film, but those minutes are well-executed. Godzilla himself is rarely shown entirely at once -- you see spines, the outline of his head, etc. We see Godzilla, also, in ways that have never been done in the past -- his swimming scenes stood out the most. Seeing him from above, while underwater, was pretty cool. In past Godzilla films, Godzilla basically just dog paddles across the oceans, or walks on the bottom of the sea, who knows! Here, we see him swimming as an iguana does, and it looks great.
Overall, this was a good introduction to the franchise for people who are new to Godzilla, and I have a good feeling that we'll see a sequel. The plot device of a nuclear weapon was poorly explained -- would inherently radioactive beats benefit from a nuclear explosion? Would it kill them? Who can say, no one in the film ever explained it. Basically, things happened in this movie, and those things (happening) led inexorably to giant monsters fighting one another.
How is that different in any way from any other Godzilla movie? No Matthew Broderick.