Yesterday Godzilla (2014) officially opened in U.S. theaters, although pre-opening showings on the previous evening grossed $9.3 million, beating “the $8.7 million earned two weeks ago by The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on its first night,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. This is certainly a testament to a good marketing strategy, which showcased the film’s special effects and CGI. However, if this film goes on to top Amazing Spider-Man 2‘s first weekend take, it will be because the movie delivered what it promised — a reboot of the Godzilla franchise in Pacific Rim style. Another aspect of this film that is especially interesting to this blogger is that, although Godzilla is certainly a big-budget Hollywood science fiction/action film, it was made by a so-called “small” science fiction film director, Gareth Edwards.
Plot-wise, Godzilla takes a bold step by making the classic monster a “good guy” of sorts. Although he is just as destructive as he always was when he is fighting, Godzilla returns in this film to fight another type of ancient monster, a “parasite” of sorts referred to with the acronym “MUTO” (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). These creatures have been awakened by evil corporations in their quest to exploit the Earth’s natural riches. So, in a way, in this movie Godzilla is Al Gorezilla. Perhaps realizing that messages are for SMS, Edwards does not take this theme to the soapbox level. Nevertheless, fans of the author of An Inconvenient Truth can experience vicariously the pleasure of revenge by imagining Godzilla as Gore and the two MUTOs as Bush and Cheney.
As a good action flick, Godzilla predictably strains credibility. Two-star U.S. Navy admirals, as carrier battle group commanders, do not have independent authority to move and detonate tactical nuclear warheads. An active-duty Army lieutenant on leave generally is not allowed to gallivant heroically around the world, joining up with any unit he happens to meet along the way. A crusty EOD master sergeant generally knows more about legacy nuclear detonation systems than said lieutenant. Having attained terminal velocity on a HALO jump, this same lieutenant generally goes “splat” if he opens his chute below skyscraper level. Of course, since the audience has already bought into the existence of Godzilla and MUTOs, these departures from reality are actually very small by comparison.
The real stars of this film are its director, cinematographers, editors, special-effects crew, and CGI folks. The monster battle scenes really are THAT GOOD. The best thing about this film, however, is that a previously obscure (from the Hollywood point-of-view) director — from Wales, not Southern California — has made his first major motion picture. If Godzilla succeeds at the box office in the blockbuster fashion that it appears to be set to do, viewers will be seeing much more of Edwards’ work in major releases in the near future.