When I was a kid, I used to LOVE Godzilla movies. Sure I knew it was a guy in a monster suit stomping around on a set, crushing fake buildings and smashing another fake monster to hell and gone, but I still had fun watching them. But as I got older, they lost their charm. And then, really awful updates, like the waste of time that starred Matthew Broderick. Still, boys will be boys, so I wasn’t surprised when the first time my son saw a Godzilla movie, he was hooked. He started to borrow them from the library. He would watch them On Demand. And he would talk about them. And talk about them. And talk about them.
So last summer, when he suggested we go see the latest big screen outing of the gigantic lizard at the cheap show, my wife suggested that such a screening fell under my Dadly duty, and that I needed to take one for the team. So we went. And much to my surprise, I enjoyed it.
Last night, I watched the Blu-Ray version of this movie again, and again, I enjoyed it.
This movie will never win an Academy Award. But at the same time, there is no reason to limit oneself only to movies that could. The medium, at its core, is the exercise of telling a story. The ones that do this well find a way to invest the audience in the story and in the characters. That is why certain “franchises” are so successful. And the latest telling of Godzilla does this in a way that managed to engage both a 14 year old and his 42 year old father. The former with the unfolding of a mystery surrounding the discovery of evidence of something huge having recently left an underground cavern in the Philippines and the later with the sudden and startling “accident” at a nuclear plant in Japan that forever altered an American family working there, and separated the surviving members of that family with sorrow, regret, and inconsolable loss, which fueled an obsession which was to continue for 15 years.
I don’t think “horror” is the right word to describe the human’s eye views that the viewer is treated to with the unfolding tale of unthinkable monsters set loose upon the modern world. But you do get to experience, however vicariously, the sense of terror and helplessness of the people in the movie dealing with the negation of technology, and the loss of control that comes with having most of the trappings of modern life rendered inert and useless, as gigantic beings thrash about and destroy the cities these newly primitive people live in. You share in their wonder as the military very visibly attempts to prepare for the coming of such beasts, as nature itself heralds their arrival. And I think that is the genius of this movie. For two hours, it immerses you in the human experience of a world where humans are insignificant to titanic creatures that walk the Earth. It is a world in which our dominance is swept aside as if it never existed, and suddenly, we don’t even rate as prey for the new masters of the planet. This is a restoration of the wonders experienced as a child viewing a man in a monster suit, smashing and destroying a model city in to rubble around him, not by looking down, as we did when I was a child, but by looking up, and using the perspective to create a very real, and more tactile sense of terror.