“Godzilla” suffers from several disadvantages. First, it tries too hard to pay homage to predecessor films by miring itself in some generation-ago backstory. They valiantly attempt to get the viewer emotionally hooked by presenting a family saga, but unfortunately the actors’ performances are not particularly compelling (with the exception of veteran Juliette Binoche, whose cameo appearance limits her screen time).
Some of the casting decisions (such as David Strathairn as a Navy Admiral) don’t further the cause, and others are misplaced (Sally Hawkins, the recent Oscar winner, should have had more screen time as the science advisor, and Ken Watanabe less, because he’s so difficult to understand.) But aside from the muddy audio, it’s the script that’s the biggest problem. The setup to the monsters’ grand entrance is so arcane and convoluted that the viewer has to try to make connections that the film doesn’t. The good news is that “Godzilla” finishes well, not only with stunning visuals, but with a plot twist that almost makes it charming.
The action takes place both in Japan and the United States, partly to pay homage to the original “Godzilla,” produced in Japan in 1954. But the premise that nuclear testing awakened the sleeping dinosaur embryos beneath the earth gets a little muddled and awkward when they bring up Hiroshima (and don’t mention Nagasaki).
It seems that there’s a winged creature, kind of like a giant grasshopper, that feeds only on nuclear material, but also appears to have some authority over electrical grids. It’s trying to find its mate so they can re-populate the surface of the Earth, which the science “expert” (Watanabe) says is like Mother Nature restoring balance. As if the Age of the Humans is now coming to an end, and we’re going back to the future with dinosaurs ruling the planet. Hmm….
Of course, from a Judeo/Christian point of view, we like to point to Genesis 1:2, where God blesses the first humans and says, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” In “Godzilla,” the humans’ puny attempts at trying to fight the giant creatures results in a lot of wasted bullets. The military, in typical Hollywood fashion playing the over-aggressive idiots, wants to nuke the monsters to oblivion, somehow oblivious to the scientists’ entreaties that the monsters are feeding on nuclear material, and that would only make the situation much worse. Nevertheless, the undaunted military leaders, citing “security concerns,” ignore any outside advice. (Yeah, we get the bias.)
Fortunately for the planet, Godzilla actually comes to the rescue. The fire-breathing Godzilla, like a giant amphibious Tyrannosaurus Rex, combats the Pterodactyl-like giant winged creatures, saving the poor stupid humans, either haplessly running away or still trying to shoot all of them. Finally, Puff the Magic Dragon, er… Godzilla, slips sadly back into the sea, Leviathan-like (Psalm 104:26), presumably awaiting the next sequel.
Well, if you don’t think about it too much, and just put on your 3-D glasses and go with it, it’s kinda fun. And like the Nephilim (Genesis 6:4) were presented in the movie “Noah,” it’s comforting to think that we might have Guardian Monsters.
Ronald P. Salfen is the minister at St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.