This re-imagining of the classic "giant monster" (kaiju) film begins in 1999, with the ominous discover of giant remains at a Philippine mine, the disturbance of which appears to have released something huge. Sometime later, at a nuclear power plant along Japan's south coast, a strange seismic vibration grows in intensity causing the American chief engineer, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) to order a shutdown, but too late. The plant is destroyed by a strange localized earthquake, killing the engineer's wife (Elizabeth Olsen).
Flash forward to 2014: Brody's son, Ford (Arron Taylor-Johnson), a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy home on leave, gets called to Japan to bail out his father, who, obsessed with the events resulting in his wife's death, has been trespassing in the "quarantine zone" around the ruined reactors. Ford is dragged into his father's quest, and they discover much more than they had bargained on, and at a critical time.
Among other things, they discover that an international organization, "Monarch" (no indication if this is an acronym for anything--) has been aware of the existence of Godzilla since 1954, and they are monitoring a giant chrysalis beneath the power plant. When the pupating creature emerges as a rampantly destructive M.U.T.O. (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism), the race is on as to whether humanity will destroy the M.U.T.O. first, or a hunting Godzilla will catch it, possibly resulting in even more destruction.
The movie has some distinct plot holes, but, once you accept the existence of 350 foot tall monsters from the dawn of time, the rest is shruggable. The majority of the plot actually deals with the efforts of the humans to stop the monsters, and the climactic giant monster fight isn't tiring to sit through.
I was glad to see that the writers preserved some of the classic Godzilla tropes-such as that a child is often the first one to see Godzilla-and avoided some Western clichés.
The new Godzilla is clearly in the line of the classic Toho rubber-suit monster, but more massively built, resembling a cross between a stegosaur and a bear. According to some publicity material, bears were used as part of the model for Godzilla's fighting style.
Giant monsters wreck parts of Honolulu, Las Vegas, and San Francisco, with the CGI destruction being vastly advanced over the old days of balsa-wood Tokyo being smashed.
Taylor-Johnson, as the man who can't seem to keep out of the monsters' ways, is a stalwart hero, and decent to watch. Ken Watanabe is pretty much wasted as the Monarch chief scientist-it seems that, as a Japanese, he's chiefly there to make the token protest against the military's proposed use of atomic weapons against the monsters.
That said, it's an enjoyable film of its type, and I did not find the pacing too slow, unlike some critics. There is already talk of a sequel. Recommended for fans of the genre.
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