While competing monster movie franchises have come and gone, Godzilla has endured at the top of kaiju food chain, fending off everyone from King Kong and Mothra to Roland Emmerich's disastrous 1998 "reimagining." Now, some 60 years after the undisputed King of the Monsters' first appearance, Hollywood is getting a second shot at rebooting the legendary monster.
Thanks to director Gareth Edwards taking a page out the tried-and-true Spielberg playbook and an impressive cast, this latest "Godzilla" manages to do the big guy justice, resulting in a crowd-pleasing summer blockbuster that's hitting with both critics and fans. But a few questions still remain. So I put together the following handy survival guide to help you know what to expect from the king of all reboots.
Beware of spoilers.
It's pretty rare for a summer blockbuster, let alone one as massively-hyped as "Godzilla," to have any surprises left after the modern trend of movie trailers that show pretty much everything but the end credits. But Edwards' movie manages to have a couple genuinely shocking moments, some fun, some decidedly less so. Here's pretty much all you need to know about the plot: instead of following Emmerich's lead and having Godzilla rampage while woefully overmatched military forces attempt to stop him, Edwards has "the ultimate apex predator" pick on someone his own size. In this case, it's ancient MUTO (short for Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism, naturally) that feed off nuclear missiles and power plants.
Don't expect a non-stop monster Royal Rumble.
Actually, there is one thing we should probably warn you about: Edwards clearly subscribes to the "Jaws" model of less is more when it comes to showing off his title monster. It makes sense, considering Edwards landed the job on the strength of his microbudget debut "Monsters" which, in spite of the title, showed very few shots of said monsters. The director may have a whole lot more zeros to play with, but the same goes here; his "Godzilla" is far more notable for what Edwards doesn't show than what he does. You do get to see the iconic Godzilla in all his scaly, radiation-breathing glory, but for the most part, the director teases us with brief glimpses and awestruck bystander reaction shots until it comes time for the King of the Monsters to defend his title. Even then, Edwards holds most of the monster-on-monster action until the final act. It's a gutsy choice, for sure, and could frustrate fans going in expecting "Pacific Rim"-style throw downs.
See it on the biggest screen possible.
That said, "Godzilla" certainly isn't wanting for spectacle. And while you could argue about the necessity of 3D, Edwards' movie is downright jaw-dropping in IMAX. Because while the director may be stingy when it comes to the Godzilla money shots, he certainly delivers the goods in the destruction department. City blocks are levelled, entire airports go up in flames, and there's a key scene on the Golden Gate Bridge that would make even Roland Emmerich jealous. But thanks to his more slow-burn approach, Edwards does a great job of combating the CGI fatigue that tends to plague movies from traditional "disaster porn" directors like Emmerich or Michael Bay. By giving us time to hold our breath, the ensuing chaos ends up having a greater effect, all without sacrificing any of the explosions.
Be prepared to just go with it.
Unfortunately, despite a stellar cast, the movie's requisite humans don't offer nearly as many thrills as their CGI counterparts. The script, while serviceable, suffers from a plot that's little more than a series of lucky coincidences, as Aaron Taylor-Johnson's Lieutenant Brody somehow manages to hitch a ride on every key military operation from Honolulu to San Francisco. Meanwhile, good luck not chuckling when Godzilla shares not one, but two meaningful glances with his human pals. Still, the film manages to build up enough goodwill elsewhere to make its nonsensical moments worth overlooking. Really, it's the same age-old problem every kaiju movie wrestles with: it's pretty tough to make us want to watch the people on the ground when there are giant monsters duking it out down the street.
Get ready to cheer.
Unlike other movie monsters, there's always been something oddly endearing about Godzilla, which is how he's managed to show up in more sequels than James Bond. And while Edwards' version has come a long way from a guy in a rubber suit, the scaly saviour manages to retain the iconic look, roar and, most importantly, the charm of the Japanese original. After six decades of being a pop culture icon, Godzilla doesn't really need an over-expository origin story or some complicated reboot. So when he gets a Navy escort to San Francisco to save the day, it doesn't need much explanation. And even though he destroys almost as much of the city as he saves, we cheer anyway. Besides, it's not like he causes any more collateral damage than Henry Cavill's Superman did. (He's got more personality too, for that matter.) Because if nothing else, that's the biggest thing Edwards and this latest reboot gets right: it's a lot more fun to watch Godzilla fight for humanity than against it.
"Godzilla" is now playing in theatres.