The king will rise
Return visitors will know that Godzilla's my jam. I love Godzilla - well, except maybe that terrible American one with Broderick in it, which is more based of off the fact that it isn't Godzilla more-so than it being a movie of contestable quality. I've got a whole slew of them under my belt - missing only a few in the original era from my viewing repertoire. I relish the fact that it's a crappy suit with a zipper hanging out, or a giant ferret-headed lizard of rage, or even the equivalent of a giant radioactive superhero that can regrettably talk to his monster-pals and has a hideous looking little stay-puft lizard of akid. You may have even read the Quick Flick rendition of this when it came out and I had seen it for the first time. Either way, lets carry on to the meat and potatoes shall we?
Man masters the atom! Nuclear testing out in the sea! Giant thing maybe sighted by military! Flash-forward some to a group of scientists getting flown out to a dig site, where we learn that while doing some digging an entire section of the ground just opened up and swallowed a bunch of people - but the scientists aren't there because of what happened, but rather what they found inside. Inside they find a giant skeleton, and a couple of things that look like they may be or have been some form of parasitic egg. To be even more curious, there's a rather large swath of destruction - a trail if you will - leading out of the cave on the other side.
A slight distance away, over in Japan, a father is trying his best to elaborate a possible danger in the nuclear plant to his Japanese counterparts while his kid and wife go about secretly hanging up decorations. The kid is off to school, and the father and his wife are off to work - so enthralled in his work he didn't even realize it's his birthday. Still, the nuclear plant business might be quite serious, so he wants his wife to get right in to take some readings while he goes and attempts to get the big-wigs to listen to him. In an unfortunate turn of events while he does so, something causes a power failure, and something goes critically wrong with the reactor - with safeguards sealing his wife and her crew inside, signing their death warrants.
Many years later, the kid is all grown up and has a family of his own, and has joined the military as an explosives specialist - specifically disposal. He's enjoying his time home for the first time in fourteen months when they get a phone call informing him that his dad is in jail in Japan. Off he goes, and it isn't long that his father - haunted by what has happened after all these years - convinces him to go into the exclusion zone with him (despite that being why he was in jail to begin with) to gather things from their old house. While there, they find out it's not radioactive at all (despite that it should be), and end up picked up by the local security. While being interrogated at the old plant, something awakens from what was once it's reactor with a large roar - an electromagnetically charged one that fries all the electronics nearby, much like what happened years ago. A beast arises and exits scene right, but not before we get to see the father potentially dying. Bad news worse - this isn't the only giant creature rolling around.
In this day and age, most would expect a giant monster movie to have a lot of it's giant monster on the screen - but this is no Pacific Rim, no sir. Most of this plot is essentially human related - be it the father and his haunted past, the son and his fight for the future, or if you want to read into it some man vs nature. Of course, this might be a little jarring for someone to expect a tale about the horrors of radiation (Gojira proper), but it does still have some fine examples of 'the folly of man' - in this case primarily that they are just the dumbest of creatures. Oh, what, giant monster comes up that loves to eat radiation? Let's just try and use a stronger radioactive bomb on it! Doy! Of course, that would be our hubris to think that we can make it work just because we are the greatest ever, but hey, it doesn't make it seem any less dumb.
Most of this movie is told based upon the son and his doing of solder-duties to try and keep his family safe, with occasionally hopping to the scientists exposition dumping or emulating the audience with such wonderful phrases as "Let them fight!" To be fair, the acting is pretty solid - although some would say the best acting is done by the father-figure, even though he's not in most the movie (sort of like the titular character). Now, the lack of onscreen Godzilla isn't exactly anything super new - a lot of the older G-flicks were known to have some pretty heavy human displays as well. The thing that gets annoying about it here however, is that it teases it all so hard. It distinctly goes "Oh look, a fight is happening! NEXT SCENE!" Most of the Japanese series don't tend to cut away and not show you half of what Godzilla is doing when he's finally onscreen.
Now, it's sad in a way that at least one of the two MUTOs have more screen time than the King himself, but at least they all look good. Well, when you can see them - the movie is quite dark. I'm not talking AvP: Requim levels of dark, but dark enough that it would be easy to cover up some potential mishaps in CG if they had to - which doesn't really enhance the 3D at all, by the way. The 3D is alright, at least for me, but feels very much like the laid-back minor 3D that's only meant to give it some slight depth as opposed to the jarring "I had to move in my seat" kind of 3D that one would always hope for. Better than that though is the sound department. You can always hear a line when you need to, and particularly towards the final act of the film things just come together so nice that it's like a hammer-fall on your nerves. Between the Godzilla roar and that tense orchestral score during the HALO drop this movie is remarkably well put together - despite my preference of seeing more of the monster-action.
When it comes down to it, I've seen this around three or four times now, and I'm finally starting to appreciate it more as a movie over my initial rage of being teased so darn much about the actual monster conflicts. The final act is put together incredibly well - if not maybe a little too ham-fisted with it's parallels - and no doubt probably worth watching the movie for. It's a feast for the eyes, despite being really dark most the time, and it's the far and away superior of the two American-made 'Zilla flicks. My only main hope at this point is that come the next one, we don't cut away and tease as much of the monster action as we did here - even if it comes down to some picture-in-picture style scenes with two things going on in once.