Recently premiered €˜Godzilla′ by €˜Monsters′ (2010) director Gareth Edwards had a lot to redeem after its Roland Emmerich-helmed predecessor of 1998, but without much strain, audiences were treated to a genuine and well-produced installment of the iconic monster franchise.

We start off in 1999, when a nuclear plant near Tokyo unexpectedly collapses due to unexplained seismic activity and plant supervisor Joe Brody (played by Bryan Cranston) loses his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche).

Fifteen years later, Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), the son of Joe and now a bomb disposal officer in the US Navy, returns from a tour to his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and five-year-old son, but the joyous return is quickly interrupted when Joe is arrested for trespassing and Ford must travel to Japan to post bail. 

Though rejecting his father′s obsession with an alleged cover-up of the collapse of the plant, Ford agrees to a final trip in to the quarantined area but once inside, the pair is captured and taken to a secret facility within the ruins of the power plant, where they witness the beginning of this exhilarating monster fight-fest.

Rebooting a legend

Rumors about a new American production of the €˜Godzilla′ character came to light for the first time in August 2009, but it wasn′t until March 2010 that Legendary Pictures confirmed that they had acquired the rights to Godzilla in a press release

The reboot is only the second American-produced €˜Godzilla′ movie, but in contrast to the questionable 1998 version, Thomas Tull, CEO of Legendary Pictures stated that €œOur plans are to produce the Godzilla that we, as fans, would want to see. We intend to do justice to those essential elements that have allowed this character to remain as pop culturally relevant for as long as it has.€

After its release on May 16, €˜Godzilla′ has so far brought in around $375M at the box office.

Believable story, great effects

The most important part of this €˜Godzilla′ installment was above all to get Godzilla right this time. The giant leap from the traditional Godzilla-look that audiences witnessed in 1998 forced Godzilla′s parent owner, Toho, to publicly distance itself from the movie and its creation. Later, after renaming the American creature €œZilla€, the real Godzilla got the chance to symbolically €˜kick its ass′ in the Japanese-produced €˜Godzilla: Final Wars′ from 2004.

The new Godzilla is very much true to its roots and with 3D, we are treated to both nerve-wrecking, indiscernible close-ups and impressive full body shots. The creature is impeccable and so is its enemy, the radioactive MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) whose birth sets off the storyline. At the climatic ending, watching these €œprehistoric€ sci-fi monsters battle to the death with the streets of San Francisco as a backdrop is impossibly exciting and proof of the skill and passion which the visual department has poured into the final film.

If we put the awe of digital mastery aside, the human elements and overall sense of this movie also leaves little room for criticism. Sure, there were a few plot holes and questionable progressions in the storyline, but nobody′s perfect. If you can set aside stringent logic, the story keeps its main elements in check and takes time to explain decisions somewhat satisfactory.

Speaking of explanations, the movie′s main pillar of information is Dr. Ishiro Serizawa, played by Ken Watanabe. As an American production, Watanabe is the sole carrier of Japanese influence in the movie, brooding and crumbling his forehead before filling in plot holes every time one of the other main characters has a question. But that is also his only purpose. Both him and Sally Hawkins scientist character are solely explanatory elements, and the fact that Dr. Serizawa talks like a walking Haiku poem, doesn′t help sympathy with the character.

On a brighter note, Aaron Taylor-Johnson surprised me personally with a much more butch appearance and more adult portrayal, albeit working with a bit too stereotypical €˜good guy′ characterization. Bryan Cranston was emotional and obsessive, and despite very little screen time alongside Juliette Binoche, the screen couple′s chemistry was highly believable – making her death even more heart-breaking.

Elizabeth Olsen is not actually doing a bad job, but her acting seems forced at times and I couldn′t shake the notion that she knows we′re watching. 

Grade: 4/5 – A solid choice in casting and script development mixed with the unconditional love for the original Godzilla character carries this adaptation a long way. Sprinkle on a few breathtaking scenes (such as the red-smoke parachute sequence) and you have a winner.

Image credit: Godzilla via Facebook.com