I am a die-hard, life long fan of Godzilla. As a child, growing up in New York City during the 1970’s, I tuned in every time WWOR / Channel 9 had their awesome “Monster Week” movie marathons (check out this terrific YouTube video of an actual WWOR advertisement https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOZciXXbSCo from that era). As I got older, WWOR seemed to undergo changes and played those films less frequently.
By the mid-1980’s, Godzilla had been absent from my life and imagination when, during my freshman year at John Jay College, Godzilla 1985 was released. Godzilla ‘85 was a direct sequel to the original (American) version starring Raymond Burr, which ignored the subsequent films of the 1960’s and 1970’s (with Burr reviving his role). With the advent of the VCR, I was able to rent and sometimes buy my favorite Godzilla films. Since 1985, Godzilla has remained a constant part of my life, imagination and sometimes, my art.
My initial attraction to Godzilla was purely visual: as a child, I often imagined what it would be like to see Godzilla walking by my window, or to see him in the distance wreaking havoc on upper Manhattan. Later I saw the deeper meanings and themes that were explored, particularly in the first (Japanese) version. The most typical was Godzilla as the physical manifestation of fears stemming from humanities’ ability to literally destroy the planet. His origins are in the early atomic age. Sixty years later, one has to ask: has humanity learned anything? That is the deeper question being asked by the current American-produced version of Godzilla. We have seen the disasters created by the folly of man, yet we have done little to address and prevent them.
The most thoughtful aspect of Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla is the exploration of humanity and disaster, whether by man or nature. Edwards reminds us of recent disasters including the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He also reminds us of the human toll these disasters have and how they can sometimes be prevented. Why are we still using nuclear power when technologies to harness the power of the sun and wind have been developed? Humanity has to live in harmony with the planet and not destroy it or we will pay the consequences ( As seen in the New York Times earlier this week: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/13/science/earth/collapse-of-parts-of-west-antarctica-ice-sheet-has-begun-scientists-say.html?action=click&module=Search®ion=searchResults&mabReward=relbias%3Ar&url=http%3A%2F%2Fquery.nytimes.com%2Fsearch%2Fsitesearch%2F%3Faction%3Dclick%26region%3DMasthead%26pgtype%3DHomepage%26module%3DSearchSubmit%26contentCollection%3DHomepage%26t%3Dqry319%23%2Focean%2520levels&_r=0 ). In this, Edwards is in step with Godzilla’s tradition of exploring contemporary fears.
Many have already grumbled that title character doesn’t make an appearance until nearly the end of the first hour and is then not given as much screen time as he should have. As in the very first film, Edwards holds Godzilla back for some time. The protracted build up may not agree with a contemporary audiences’ appetite for quick storytelling and non-stop action, BUT once the monsters get going, it is truly something to see. Edwards is a filmmaker in the tradition of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, NOT Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich (the director of the disastrous–no pun intended—1998 Godzilla wannabe). Godzilla is a beautifully crafted science fiction film in the tradition of Jaws, Jurassic Park and Aliens. Like those films, Godzilla deserves multiple viewings and a sequel (helmed by Edwards). I predict that this film will age well.
Directed by Gareth Edwards
Written by Max Borenstein, based on the character “Godzilla,” owned and created by Toho Company Ltd., and a story by David Callaham
Director of photography, Seamus McGarvey
Edited by Bob Ducsay
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Production design by Owen Paterson
Visual-effects supervisor, Jim Rygiel
Costumes by Sharen Davis
Produced by Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Mary Parent and Brian Rogers
Released by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Running time: 2 hours 3 minutes.
STARRING: Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Ford Brody), Ken Watanabe (Dr. Ishiro Serizawa), Elizabeth Olsen (Elle Brody), Juliette Binoche (Sandra Brody), Sally Hawkins (Graham), David Strathairn (Adm. William Stenz) and Bryan Cranston (Joe Brody).