Off the bat, I am not a huge Godzilla fan, but like many kids home for the summer, he was stable afternoon television. At least for the East Coast. To get myself into the mood I watched the original 1956 Godzilla on Netflix.. While Pre-Perry Mason Raymond Burr narrates and smokes his way through the film, there is a large sense they are doomed. The movie is obviously a giant warning against using nuclear weapons and the horrors of Japan after the Atomic Bombings. There is also a bit of a statement on arraigned marriages and love. Yet, the overall storyline is a guy in a suit with some King Kong stop motion action knocking over obviously small models. It desperately needs a re-mastered Blu Ray edition. Still, it holds up thanks a lot of not seeing the monster for a good chunk of the film and Burr being the center of a film who is charming when he needs to be and a stoic newspaper man, the next. There is also a heroic sacrifice of a scientist who is so distraught about using the weapon to kill Godzilla, he burns his work and then commits suicide .Its pretty damn good.
I love the opening credit sequence of this film. It has the usual credits, but they get blacked out like an official document that you are not supposed to know what it is really about. It gives a good conspiracy fell to it. It even has some old footage that looks like it was filmed in the 50s to give it the full X-Files look. However, this where the movie stops being creative. We open with the helicopter sequence from Jurassic Park. I kid you not a female Paleontologist named Dr. Grant walks out, but instead of John Hammond we get screen legend Ken Watanabe who play Dr. Ichiro Serizawa. They are lead to a construction site that dug too far thinking they hit a patch of uranium. Instead we see these giant bones of a long dead dinosaur. The bones contact to two eggs, one is still alive and the other has hatched. The hatched one heads to nuclear plant in the Philippines. Did I mention it is 1999? It really doesn’t matter.
In the Philippines, Joe Brody played by Bryan Cranston in a more Hal from Malcolm in the Middle than Walt from Breaking Bad role. Joe has a son, Ford and wife who are trying to surprise him on his birthday, but he is trying to convince his boss that the nuclear plant maybe headed for disaster with nearby tremors. So, you know you would be distracted to. Joe’s wife also works at the plant and under his order investigates the core. While at work, all hell breaks loose. The tremors are getting closer and steady. Joe’s wife is stuck in a corridor when a coolant leak erupts, Star Trek term. Joe is forced to close the doors on her to save the city from radiation poisoning. After this rather emotional somewhat over acted moment happens, Joe’s son is in school watching the planet be destroyed to the point I have no idea how Joe survived.
15 years later and the ageless actors return minus Ford who is aged. He is a soldier returning home to San Fransisco to his wife and son. Symmetry kids, Symmetry. While home for a few hours, he gets call that Joe is in jail for crossing into the Quarantine Zone. Ford goes to see now shabby dressed Joe who thinks the signals are talking to each other and they are getting worse. In bad idea/plot movement, Ford agrees to go into the Zone. Low and behold, its free and clear of radiation and Joe gets his disc to prove his theory. They are caught by Monarch, who I think has been part of the Godzilla ongoing series. All I know is I wanted to shout in my best Monarch from Venture Brothers “Release the Butterflies” when I saw their butterfly symbol. Ken Watanabe and not-Sam Neil, Alan Grant arrive. Ken believes Joe, but there is a bigger problem. The base where all of them are at is actually housing the living egg. Guess what? You already did, it hatched. If you think its Godzilla, think again. Its M.U.T.O or Mothera or a generic H.R. Geiger, may he rest in peace, monster with wings and four legs. It destroys the place and kills Joe in the process. It also kills the sorta most interesting character in this film. Ford and Joe have some reconciliation at the end.
Watanabe at the end of this bit has a look on his face that he keeps through the entire film of stunned realization, he has no idea what to do. It works and doesn’t work. Ford is pissed when he confronts them, but not pissed enough to put anyone through a wall which I would have done. Instead, we get the info that Bikini Island nuking was done to stop Godzilla. You can see him in a picture like that of Bigfoot in the 1970s. I do think Ken was added to this film for two reasons to remind of us of the original theme of Godzilla of the horrors of nuclear weapons and to say Godzilla like your stereotypical Asian dude. NATO takes over at this point and it becomes a chase to track down MUTO. David Strathaim from Alphas the TV show plays Admiral Stenz. He could be an interesting character, but he just gives orders and has one or two good scenes with Dr. Serizawa. They chase the MUTO to Hawaii where it wrecks the place, but also unknowingly awakes Godzilla. Ford saves a local kid, the military gets their ass handed to them thanks to the EMP pulse the MUTO generates and we get a two minute monster fight that most of which shows up on Ford’s TV in San Fransisco.
At this point, the movie becomes a game of Ford narrowly escaping the carnage of the monster fights and the rather insane plans of the military. We find out the MUTO is contacting the egg that they found in the 1990s. That one was buried in Nevada, put a big hole in a nuclear dump that no one noticed, is pregnant and wrecks Vegas. The monsters are attracted to radiation. So, NATO decides to explode a mega-ton nuke off the coast of San Fransisco. Why not Mexico or the middle of the Ocean or not do it at all is the better question. Ford creates a clockwork detonator to save it from the pulse. Dr. Ichiro’s plan is to let Godzilla handle it. Again, another bad idea. There really are no good ideas in this film. Ford calls his family to say to stay put instead of telling them to get the hell out of there ahead of the traffic. His son does get out thanks to the hero of the film, a bus driver who doesn’t give a shit. The cops have the San Fransisco Bridge blocked off as Godzilla goes through. There is panic and missiles and a bus driver who doesn’t give a shit. He saves the kids as the bridge is cut in half behind them. We all wish we had this guy behind the wheel in these types of films.
The end comes when the nuke gets taken by the bigger MUTO and the two MUTOs have monster sex maybe? The nuke is covered in MUTO embryos. Godzilla attacks, but its a two on one handicapped match with the humans being utterly useless. Ford and his team air drop in. They get the nuke while Ford sets the embryos on fire causing a massive explosion. Guess he is Pro-Monster Choice. This causes the bigger MUTO to go after the army allowing Godzilla to use his tail to slam the little MUTO into a building and killing it. The bigger MUTO attacks and kills Ford’s team, but Ford is left alive to get the bomb on a boat. The MUTO almost kills Ford for the Fourth time, but Godzilla Mortal Kombat finishes him with his fire breath. Ford looks to die, but is saved by the military, the nuke goes off for no reason.
Godzilla looks to die, but gets up for the now announced sequel. There are problems with this film. First, the acting of Ford and his wife is just ok. The fact we killed off TV’s best actor in the first half hour of the film was a terrible idea. Cranston and Watanabe could have been a nice duo to play off one another. Cranston never really trusting Watanabe since he ruined his life. Watanabe, a man trying to restore both their honor while perhaps coming up with a plan to kill Godzilla from the first film or making the sacrificial play. Instead, we get generic GI Joe with Daddy Issues who has the same look as he did the first time he saw his first monster to the last confrontation. Speaking of characters hardly in the film, Godzilla. In a movie about Godzilla, we get the MUTO for almost the entire film. Its annoying and stupid. I never really got Godzilla as the hero, I liked him as the big threat in his movies. Once we got Daddyzilla and Son of Godzilla, this franchise hit a new low. A Godzilla movie dealing with the horrors of the constant threat of nuclear disaster due to nature and honor would have made a better film. Perhaps even some of the nature vs man theme would be cool too. Instead, we get a little bit better than a Michael Bay film with monsters.
Its not terrible, but its not good. Godzilla 2000 is still worse than this. There are some good moments, but not enough to save it. It will be a hit, yet with this cast and budget, it should have been better. 3 out of 5 stars.