It's sort of strange summing up my feelings for this new U.S. remake of Godzilla when I consider myself quite a fan of Hollywood's first attempt back in 1998.
Say what you will about the film's plot and not staying at all true to the Godzilla mythos in the slightest, it was a great summer, popcorn movie. I can watch that film over and over and never tire of it. It may not leave you feeling like you've seen the next coming of Citizen Kane, but you more than likely had a damn good time watching it.
Which brings us to this year's Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures remake of the same name (TriStar Pictures was the studio behind 1998's version, in case you were curious).
The film opens in the year 1999 with a 'natural disaster' being investigated in the Philippines. Scientists (Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins) come to find answers only to discover a gigantic skeleton of a prehistoric creature along with two egg-shaped pods, one of which has hatched.
This leads to Japan where a nuclear power plant (run by Bryan Cranston's Joe Brody) is experiencing seismic activity after the monster has found its way there. The plant ends up succumbing to a radiation leak and collapses, killing Cranston's wife (played by Juliette Binoche) in the process. Their son, Ford, can only watch from a distance as his school's evacuated.
Fast forward to present day, and we find young Ford has joined the Navy and become a Lieutenant, specializing in explosive ordnance disposal. His father, Joe, has become obsessed with finding out what destroyed the power and plant and killed his wife.
When new seismic activity begins hitting Japan once more, Ford teams up with his father begrudgingly to investigate, and from there, all hell breaks loose.
I'm not going to go further into the story as I don't want to spoil the entire movie for anyone reading, but I will give my two cents as to what I thought of the film overall.
In terms of the special effects and visuals, it's all top notch. Director Gareth Edwards certainly shows he knows how to shoot action while also giving us a slow build up to actually seeing the big fella himself. It's probably some of the best CGI I've ever seen on film, and definitely shows how far filmmaking has come since 1998 (though the special effects there were no slouch either).
While special effects are always great though, it's always important to have a good story too, and that's where I feel Godzilla faulters (but not for lack of trying). The production team definitely makes it a point to want you to care about the characters and give you a number of dramatic, character moments where - if pulled off well - can add to the film going experience. The problem here though, is the bland acting by most involved, sans Bryan Cranston.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson is not a leading man, period. I can't recall the last time I saw more of an uncharasmatic, poorly acted lead in an action film. He adds absolutely nothing to the story. That is certainly a problem when his role is the biggest outside of Godzilla himself. And his wife, played by Elizabeth Olson, is just as hollow. Olson - while considered a strong actress - is so empty in this film in terms of character, it's at times eye-roll inducing to watch. Outside of that, Ken Watanabe certainly does the best he can with what he's given, but like David Strathairn and Sally Hawkins too, he's limited by the work he has t do.
Overall, I'd rank Godzilla as certainly a film to go see if you want to get enjoyment out of watching a big budget, monster movie. However, I feel the 1998 film is actually better because at least there you cared about the characters involved, unlike here where the only one I was concerned with was Godzilla himself, and safe to say, the big guy makes it out okay.