Not your father’s Godzilla

As a child I was aware of Godzilla, but I have never been the lizard type. They kind of gross me out, for the same reason I could never get excited by “Wild Kingdom” and its regular viewings of animals consuming one another.

Thus, when the latest version of Big G came to the screen recently, I wasn’t planning on going. Then my buddy sent me a text which said he was at the cinema, feeling like a little kid, waiting with excitement for the beginning of the flick.

Afterward, he sent me another text which said,”Godzilla Rocks”. So I was hooked at that point. 

Last night, I had a break in the schedule and I took the bus over to the mall theaters and went to what turned out to be the 3D version.

At first, I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting immediate scenes of Godzilla pounding down Tokyo streets, leaving chaos in his wake. But to my surprise, there is actually a plot.

Joe Brody is a nuclear power plant supervisor who watches as an apparent earthquake destroys his facility and kills his wife. She dies trying to prevent the release of radiation at Joe’s direction. Other than the discovery of a large skeleton in the Philippines of some pre-historic beast, there were no monsters at the beginning.

 

Years later Joe’s son Ford, a Navy officer, has to go to Japan to bail out his Dad, who has been arrested for trespassing on the now quarantined facility. Joe sounds like a crackpot, telling Ford that the destruction of his plant and the death of his Mom was caused by something else besides an earthquake, and that the powers-that-be were covering up the real cause. Brody doesn’t buy it.

Even so, father and son return to the plant site, and once again Joe is arrested, along with Brody this time. This is where the fun begins and ancient creatures start to appear.

That there is a story and not just wanton destruction makes “Godzilla” appealing. The film confronts man’s arrogance regarding nature and delves into complicated family dynamics.

On the other hand, this same attempt to make an action/adventure flick series into a dramatic force left me confused. At times I didn’t know whether I should expect an explosion and the appearance of a ghastly monster, or whether a new revelation in relationships was about to occur.  With both happening at the same time, I got lost.

What is more, the slow unveiling of Godzilla and his opponents was annoying. The cinematography had a lot to do with my vexation. Indeed, for much of the film both Godzilla and the other monsters are either cloaked in darkness or viewed close up. I kept wishing the movie would move into daylight hours and the camera would zoom out.

Also frustrating was the designation of Godzilla’s enemies as  MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism), a frustrating allusion to the winged Mothra critter of the 1960s who also faced off against the sea monster. I would have preferred that the authors would have been less clever.

Even so, I am glad I went to see  the film. I am not a fan of the Godzilla franchise, so I probably missed some of the nuances, such as the meaning of the references by a Japanese scientist’s to Hiroshima. 

Viewing the 2014 “Godzilla” has motivated me to overcome my childhood squeamishness regarding reptiles and consider watching some of the other iterations of the monster and his pals.

 

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