Friday, May 31, 2019

Franchises: The MonsterVerse. Godzilla (2014)

There have been a lot of movies made during my lifetime that I've looked forward to and, if you know anything about me, you'd know that this was definitely one of the most significant. In fact, its release in 2014 inspired me to share my lifelong love and affection for Godzilla with anybody who cared to come on here and read my humble thoughts on film, television, and video games. That year, Godzilla pretty much took over my life, not only with the release of this movie but also because I spent the better part of it reviewing all of the films that Toho had produced at that point, as well as the 1998 film. That was an exhausting and, at times, very trying undertaking, but I'm glad that I did it and also that a lot of people seemed to have liked it. As if that weren't enough, that was also the year I met the late Haruo Nakajima, the original Godzilla suit actor, at the Spooky Empire convention in Orlando, and while the language barrier (they really should have translators whenever they have foreign guests at conventions) and the fact that he constantly had a long line was a bit irritating, I was also grateful to see that Godzilla was still very much appreciated by droves of people. Seriously, he had the longest line at that convention, and the guest list also included John Carpenter, among other people. There was also an enormous Godzilla balloon in the middle of the convention hall, constructed by tying hundreds of balloons together to form the shape of the Big G, so this convention was, first and foremost, about him. But, I digress. This movie was something I'd been keeping tabs on for a long time. I remembered thinking it was cool when the news broke that it was being made back in 2010 but it wasn't until I heard in either 2012 or 2013 about a teaser trailer that showed Godzilla's silhouette behind some smoke that I really became excited for it. Throughout the wait for the movie, there was so much I had to take in, from supposed concept art of Godzilla's design that turned out to be false and the anticipation of what he would look like, to finding out that the movie was being directed by someone I'd never heard of before and the involvement of big-name actors like Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe (finding out the latter's character was named Dr. Serizawa was something that brought a smile to my face). Then, in December 2013, we got the first trailer, and while it didn't show much, the glimpses that it had were very enticing and added some light to what was a pretty dark time for me and my family, especially my mom.

That January, with only four more months to go, I decided to check out Gareth Edwards' first film, Monsters, but when I saw it, it ended up being the first inkling that the upcoming Godzilla might not be what I was hoping it would be. I can say that I like Monsters now but, at the time, I found myself being more than a little bored by it, as it didn't live up to what I was expecting from its title, especially with its constant teasing of whether or not you were going to actually see one of the creatures. It got me worried that Edwards may take the same approach to Godzilla, which was not something I was keen on. But, after that, finally seeing Godzilla's design and some more trailers, as well as a Snickers commercial featuring a human-sized Godzilla being all chummy with a group of people, alleviated these fears. Finally, the movie was released on May 16 and was very successful, as I had hoped it would be. I didn't get to it until the second weekend but, by that point, I had read some of the reviews, which I came to regret, as they may have colored my views on the film before I saw it. I can remember one titled, "Waiting for Godzilla," which went into how Godzilla didn't have much screentime and that you spend most of the movie waiting for him to show up, seemingly proving that I had a right to be as worried as I was after I first saw Monsters. I also didn't like hearing that movie cut away as soon as Godzilla finally did make his first appearance. Despite this, I finally did go see it on a rather dreary Saturday afternoon and when it was over, I found myself not being all that satisfied. I enjoyed the spectacle, the music, and the monster action, when it was there, but overall, the movie left me feeling kind of... empty. After all those years of waiting, it was like, "That's it." I get it on Blu-Ray later that year and, the more I watched, the more it started to grow on me, but I still wished they'd gone in a different direction with it. Looking at it in retrospect, I can say that it is a decent enough monster movie and a very well-made movie on a technical level. It's also a very significant film, as its success led to a major resurgence in Godzilla's popularity, not only laying the groundwork for what's now known as the "MonsterVerse," with Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and Godzilla vs. Kong, but also inspiring Toho to start up again, producing Shin Godzilla and the anime film trilogy. Granted, some of these movies are better than others, but they all make up an era where the giant monster and kaiju genre are now more respected and mainstream than ever before and this movie is to thank for that. But, while I can find many positives in Godzilla 2014, I can also point out a number of things that don't work and, had they corrected them, I think it would have made this film more satisfying. As it stands, it served as a step in the right direction concerning the Big G's transition to America, especially after the 1998 film, but as James Rolfe said, for a film as important as it was, it could have been a lot better.

In the 1950's, a covert operation to kill a massive beast with nuclear weapons takes place in the Pacific. Decades later, in 1999, Dr. Serizawa, a Japanese scientist, and Vivienne Graham, a British assistant to him, arrive in the Philippines to investigate a massive underground cavern that has recently been unearthed. Inside, they find the fossilized carcass of a giant creature, as well as two bizarre-looking cocoons attached to the ceiling, one of which has seemingly hatched, with whatever emerged from it ripping a path out of the cavern towards the ocean. Meanwhile, in Janjira, Japan, Joe Brody, an American working as an engineer at the local nuclear facility, is becoming concerned over recent seismic activity in the vicinity. After he arrives at the plant, it's suddenly hit by a powerful tremor that breaches the reactor, as his wife, Sandy, is down there inspecting it. Brody tries to save her but is forced to close the shield door to prevent the city from being contaminated, leave her and the team in there to die from the deadly radiation. Fifteen years later, Ford Brody, Joe and Sandy's son, who saw the plant collapse from the school he was attending at the time, is now a lieutenant in the US Navy, specializing in explosives disposal. He arrives home to his own wife and son in San Francisco, only to get a call that his father, who still lives in Japan, has been arrested for trespassing in the Janjira quarantine zone. Traveling to Japan to meet with him, Ford learns that his father is obsessed with finding out what happened the day his wife died and he eventually decides to travel with him back to the quarantine zone so he can retrieve his research. There, they find that the place is clean of radiation and that a new facility has been built where the plant once was. Captured by security, they're taken there to find that it's actually a containment area built around a giant, cocoon-like structure, which is emitting powerful electromagnetic pulses at an increasing frequency, and under supervision by Serizawa. While Joe is being interrogated, an attempt is made to destroy the cocoon but, instead, an enormous, insect-like creature hatches from it and completely destroys the facility, mortally wounding Joe in the process, being taking to the air. Following this, the U.S. Navy takes control of the situation, intending to find and kill the monster, dubbed MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). After Joe's death, Ford is asked to help in any way he can, as Serizawa reveals to him the existence of a gigantic, ancient creature that first appeared in 1954: Gojira, aka Godzilla. Little do they know that Godzilla has been awakened from his dormancy by the appearance of the MUTO and is on the trail of the creature, which is heading to rendezvous with its recently-hatched mate in the United States; specifically, San Francisco, where Ford's family is.

Yoshimitsu Banno
Before this film was officially announced in 2010, I knew that there was some kind of new Godzilla project in the works as far back as the late 2000's, as I continually heard rumblings of a 40 or so minute-long, 3-D film being made for IMAX. Called Godzilla: 3-D to the Max, the head of the project was Yoshimitsu Banno, the director of Godzilla vs. Hedorah, aka Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster, and the story was intended to be either a sequel or a retelling of that film's story. But, despite securing the license for Godzilla from Toho and managing to get a number of Americans involved with the film, including Kerner Optical, which was formerly ILM's practical effects division, to develop the technology for it, the project ran into problems in 2008 due to Kerner's financial troubles (the company finally went bankrupt in 2011). In 2009, the producers went to Legendary Pictures for backing on the film, which they now intended to make as a 3-D feature, and thus, this film came about. Banno stayed on as producer (his involvement with such a significant film in Godzilla's history is ironic, given how he was virtually banned from the franchise and from Toho after Tomoyuki Tanaka was so appalled by what he'd done with Godzilla vs. Hedorah), as did Kenji Okuhira, an independent producer of the 3-D film, and American producer Brian Rogers. Banno also had intentions to make his own Godzilla film at some point but, sadly, it never came to pass, as he died in 2017 at the age of 86.

One thing you have to give Legendary Pictures credit for is how they're not afraid to hand big tent-pole movies over to directors who don't yet have a proven track record. It's easy to forget now but, when they first put Christopher Nolan in charge of Batman, he was an independent director with only a few, cult-status films to his name. It's the same way with Godzilla; instead of going for a big name director (there were rumors that Guillermo del Toro but he's said that he was never even approached), they decided to go with Gareth Edwards, who'd just directed his first film, which was the very low-budget, independent film, Monsters. Major studios were so impressed by how he was able to make that movie look so much bigger than it actually was and also how he worked as the cinematographer and visual effects artist, as well as being the writer-director, that they began offering him major projects almost instantly. By the time Monsters had hit DVD, Edwards had signed on to direct Godzilla and made it clear that he planned to do it in that same, restrained manner. That, of course, is what led to much of the polarizing reaction the movie received, and while I can respect Edwards for not wanting to make just another dumb, summer blockbuster, some of the methods he employed in differentiating it were very ill-advised. He got some things very right, yes, but, if he'd given fans just a little more of what they wanted, his overall approach may have been accepted more. Legendary had intended to keep Edwards on for any sequels they planned to make and he himself said that he did like the idea of one day tackling a Destroy All Monsters-like plot. But, after the idea of the "MonsterVerse" truly took hold, Edwards, who was making Rogue One at the time, bowed out of the series altogether. Some may lament his leaving but I, personally, think it was for the best.

For better or worse, this film does have many of the tropes seen in past Godzilla and kaiju films in general, including the notion that the human characters are little more than devices used to move the narrative along. Also like a number of those films, the cast is a fairly large ensemble but there is a definitive lead in the character of Ford Brody. You first see him during the movie's opening in 1999 when he's a young boy (CJ Adams), living with his parents in Japan. He and his mother plan for his dad's birthday but the day proves to be tragic for everyone, especially young Ford, as he witnesses the collapse of the Janjira nuclear plant as his school is being evacuated and is very much aware of the fact that one or both of his parents are probably dead. Fast forward to the present day and we see Ford as a young man (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who's now a lieutenant in the American Navy, specializing in explosive ordinance disposal. He returns home to his wife and son in San Francisco after having been away for 14 months and is eager to spend time with them, when he gets a phone call that his father has been arrested in Japan for trespassing in the quarantine zone around the plant. Reluctant to have to leave again after having just gotten home and having told his son, Sam, that he'll be there when he wakes up the next morning, Ford is also not too thrilled to have to see his father, as their relationship has been strained ever since his mother's death because of his inability to move on from it. Regardless, he makes the trip to Japan, bails his father out of jail, and, seeing how unhealthily obsessed he is with discovering what caused the accident at the plant, tries to get him to come back home with him. But, Joe Brody is not to be deterred and is intent upon sneaking back into the quarantine zone. Despite his frustration with him, Ford accompanies him and they discover that the zone is perfectly clean of radiation and that a containment facility has been built where the plant originally was, around an enormous structure akin to a cocoon. Ford spends most of the scene locked up in a security vehicle but, when the male MUTO emerges from his cocoon and rampages through the place, Ford is freed from the vehicle and watches his father become severely wounded when a walkway he's standing on collapses. The next day, his father eventually succumbs to his injuries and Ford, wracked with guilt about having never believed his claims about a coverup and having always thought he was crazy, is introduced to Dr. Serizawa, made aware of the secret organization called Monarch, and is made privy to the existence of another giant monster: Godzilla.

Though he's able to give the Monarch team some data that his father had accumulated about possible echolocation emitting from the MUTO, Ford mainly just wants to go home to his family. He's choppered over to Hawaii, where he's meant to catch a flight, but he gets caught up in the chaos that occurs when the MUTO arrives and Godzilla makes landfall shortly afterward. Nearly dying when the tram he's on is attacked by the MUTO, Ford risks his life to save a small Japanese boy he befriended when he became separated from his parents at the terminal. Once the kid is reunited with them, Ford makes it back to the mainland via a Navy transport but, rather than returning home, offers his expertise to the armed forces in their plan to transport nuclear bombs to San Francisco in order to wipe out the monsters offshore. Said weapons are being transported to the site via a train and Ford joins the team assigned to make sure it gets there safely; before that, he manages to get in contact with his wife, telling her he's on his way. On the way, though, the train is attacked by the recently-hatched female MUTO and Ford becomes the only survivor from the team when he jumps into a river below the bridge the monster destroys. He's found by a recovery team the next morning and, by the time he arrives in nearby Oakland, all three monsters have converged on San Francisco. Ford is desperate to find where his son and wife are, but then learns that the male MUTO has taken the now armed bomb into the heart of the city. He joins a team who have to enter the city by a HALO jump in order to diffuse the bomb. As Godzilla battles the MUTOs, the team makes their way to the monsters' nest, where the nuke is, but when they find the bomb, they realize they can't disarm it and instead move it to a nearby boat so they can get it out to sea, away from the city. Ford stays behind and torches all of the eggs that the female MUTO has laid but this incurs her wrath on him. Fortunately, Godzilla intervenes and saves him, not once but twice, and while the rest of his team ends up slaughtered, Ford manages to get the nuke away from the city. Injured and with no way to disarm it, he seems to accept his fate and prepares to die, but is evacuated by a helicopter just in time. The next day, Ford is finally reunited with his son and then his wife, which was what he was trying to do throughout this whole journey.

While her husband continually finds himself caught between the armed forces and the monsters as he tries to get home to her, Elle Brody (Elizabeth Olsen), who works as a nurse at San Francisco General Hospital, doesn't have much to do except fret and worry about where he is and what's happened to him. It's clear from their reunion when he returns home from active duty that they're very much in love, beginning a make-out session once they've put Sam to bed that's infinitely more passionate than anything seen in a previous Godzilla movie, and when they get the call about what's happened with Joe, Elle encourages Ford to go, telling him that Joe is family too. Following the disaster in Japan, which is given the cover story of it having been an earthquake, Elle tries to get in contact with Ford, while still working at the hospital and taking care of her son. It isn't long before she and the whole world learn the frightening truth of what's happening, and as the monsters converge on San Francisco, Elle struggles to keep it together, at one point being comforted when she finally hears from Ford, who tells her that he's coming for her and Sam. Speaking of Sam (Carson Bolde), he's much less upset about or even aware of the gravity what's going on, being a little kid. When he wakes up from a nap to news coverage of Godzilla's battle with the male MUTO in Honolulu, he's rather transfixed by it, excitedly telling his mother that he sees a "dinosaur." Later, as the city is being evacuated, Elle wants to keep Sam with her as she heads to a shelter but soon decides that he'd be safer if he went with a coworker as she's heading outside the city limits. But, while riding on a school bus that's transporting a bunch of other kids, Sam gets caught up in a battle between the military and Godzilla when he rises up beside the Golden Gate Bridge and trashes it after being provoked. Fortunately for Sam, the bus driver sees an opening amidst the chaos and manages to drive everyone to safety. Elle also has a close call when she and numerous other civilians are forced to take shelter as the battle between Godzilla and the MUTOs begins. A part of the ceiling and roof of the shelter are ripped off during the fight but Elle is uninjured and is happily reunited with Sam and Ford the next day at a sports stadium that's been converted into a shelter.

Hearing that Ken Watanabe was going to be in the film was quite a plus and the further icing on the cake was learning that his character was named Dr. Serizawa (it's never said in the film itself but his first name is supposedly Ishiro, in tribute to Ishiro Honda). Mind you, he doesn't have much to do other than stand around, ponder, and act the part of the wise scientist who knows more about the monsters than those who are in positions of authority, but he still manages to bring his usual level of gravitas to the film, so it's all good. As a scientist working for Monarch, Serizawa has been searching for and studying Godzilla for years, which leads him to find the long-dead carcass of a giant creature in a large cavern in the Philippines, as well as the cocoons of what later turns out to be the MUTOs, one of which has hatched. By the time the main story gets underway, Serizawa is working at a facility built around the huge chrysalis of the male MUTO at the site of the destroyed Janjira power plant in order to study it. After Joe and Ford Brody are arrested and brought to the facility, Serizawa is shown the data that Joe had on him, which were readouts from the day the reactor melted down and sees that it's similar to what they're reading from the chrysalis. As the EMPs emitting from the structure become more frequent, Serizawa tries to have it destroyed but it proves to be too late, as the male MUTO hatches from it and destroys the place before escaping into the air. The military takes control of the operation from Monarch but Serizawa stays on as an advisor and, following Joe's death, he tries to get Ford to help them by telling them anything he knows. When he mentions that Joe said something about echolocation, Serizawa realizes that the MUTO was communicating with something, which is soon revealed to have been the female, which hatches in Nevada and begins making her way across the country to meet her mate. Above everything else, Serizawa has a deep reverence for Godzilla, whom he believes is not just a large animal but is also nature's means of restoring balance to the order of things and knows that he's coming before he appears. He tries to convince Admiral Stenz that their best bet may be to simply let Godzilla kill the MUTOs but the admiral says he can't risk thousands of innocent lives over it and goes ahead with a plan to kill all three monsters. But, when the nuclear bomb they were planning to use to do it is taken into the heart of San Francisco by the male MUTO, they have pretty much no options but to "let them fight," as Serizawa says. At the end of the movie, when Godzilla has seemingly succumbed to his wounds from the fight, Serizawa looks like he almost on the brink of tears. But then, he awakens and makes his way back to the ocean, Serizawa looks on admiringly and happily.

Serizawa has a trusted and respectful assistant in Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins), a British scientist who is not only his right hand, staying right by his side, giving him whatever he needs, and coming across just as interested and invested in their research, but also seems to have the same reverence for Godzilla as he does. When Ford is shown the footage of the attempt to kill Godzilla back in the 50's, it's Graham who describes him as, "The top of the primordial ecosystem. A god, for all intents and purposes." She's also just as put off by the plan to kill the monsters with nuclear weapons as Serizawa is, reminding the authorities that they feed on nuclear power, but her concerns are ignored. At the end of the movie, she is practically in tears at the sight of the fallen Godzilla, only to be just as happy as Serizawa when he awakens and heads back to the sea.

The actor who, deservedly, gets the most praise for his performance is Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody and the reason for that is he's the one person whose emotions and motivations are more than just surface-level. He starts out as an engineer for the Janjira nuclear facility and is so caught up in his work, fretting over the large amount of seismic activity that's been happening and that the reactor may need to be shut down, that he's not even aware that it happens to be his birthday. Before he and his wife, Sandy, head to the plant, he tells her go down to check the reactor as soon as they arrive. When they get there, he's given a graph of the seismic readings that prove to him that it's not an impending earthquake, and when a tremor shakes the place, he orders the reactor to be taken offline. However, the shaking breaches the reactor and, terrified for his wife, he rushes down to the shield door, telling them to keep it on manual override. But, as he waits at the door, he's told that the whole city will be contaminated if he doesn't close the door and Sandy tells him over his walkie-talkie that there's no hope for them. Overcome with horror and grief, Joe has no choice but to seal the door when he sees the cloud of radioactivity coming for him. This is where Cranston shows what he's capable of, as he lets out an anguished scream before closing the door and, seeing Sandy through the door's window, he absolutely breaks down in tears as she tells him to take care of Ford before the secondary door closes.

Next time you see Joe after the fifteen-year time skip, he has to be bailed out by Ford after getting arrested while trespassing in the quarantine zone at Janjira. An absolutely broken and embittered man, commenting to Ford, "So, how's the bomb business? It must be a growth area these days," Joe lives in an apartment where the walls are covered in newspaper clippings, magazine articles, and maps all pertaining to what happened, specifically a possible coverup. He's also gathered a lot of research on echolocation and bio-acoustics, yammering on about some new readings he's picked up that are like those recorded fifteen years before, and being obsessive-compulsive about Ford touching his stuff. He's intent on making it back to their old home in Janjira in order to retrieve his old notes and prove to the world, including Ford, that the reactor meltdown was not caused by a natural disaster as it was reported. But, there's a sadder part to his obsession. As he tells Ford, "Your mom's out there, Ford. To me, she'll always be out there... I don't even have a picture of her." Ford offers to take him home to America but Joe must know, saying, "I'm gonna find the truth and end this, whatever it takes." And when Ford asks him why he can't just let Sandy rest, Joe simply says, "Because I sent her down there, son." With that, the two of them head back to Janjira, discover that there's no radiation there whatsoever, and find the old house, where Joe gets his discs, as well as finds an old photo of him and Sandy. He and Ford are then picked up and taken to the nearby facility, where Joe is interrogated in a storeroom with a two-way mirror on it. As Dr. Serizawa, whom Joe is aware of from his newspaper clippings, watches from outside, Joe gives a great speech, snarling, "I know what happened here. And you keep telling everybody that this place is a death zone, but it's not! You're lying. Because what's really happening is that your hiding something out there. I'm right, aren't I? My wife died here! Something killed my wife, and I've a right to know! I deserve answers!" That's when the lights in the place dim, as they have been repeatedly, and he tells them, "See? There it is again! That is not a transformer malfunction, that is an electromagnetic pulse! And it affects everything from miles and miles, and it is happening again! This is what caused everything to happen in the first place! Can't you see that? And it's gonna send us back to the Stone Age! You have no idea what's coming." Joe has no idea how accurate his prediction is, as the male MUTO emerges from his cocoon soon afterward, and while Joe is mortally wounded in the rampage, his data and theory about echolocation proves invaluable to the monster hunters. The last thing he tells Ford before dying is for him to go home to his family and keep them safe.

While she doesn't have a lot of screentime, for obvious reasons, Sandy Brody (Juliette Binoche) is still a significant character in that she's among the first people to fall victim to the monsters and her death spurs Joe to accumulate the information that he does on what happened. A nuclear regulations consultant at the Janjira plant, Sandy is shown to also be a very loving mother and wife, helping Ford to plan a surprise birthday party for Joe, even though he's forgotten that it is his birthday. It's clear that she and Joe are quite a happy couple, which makes her untimely death all the more hard-hitting. He sends her and a team down to inspect the reactor to make sure there's nothing wrong with it, when a sudden series of tremors breaches it. Sandy and the team try to make it out and almost do, until she and another man stumble and she attempts to help him, leaving them to be exposed to the toxic cloud. She then tells Joe over the walkie-talkie that they're not going to make it and that he needs to shut the shield door. He reluctantly does so, and before the secondary part of the door closes, she tells him through the window to take care of Ford, which he promises to do (but, the effect that this has on Joe and the clear estrangement between father and son later on shows that his promise didn't quite come to pass).

Admiral William Stenz (David Strathairn), the leader of the Navy task force deployed to deal with the monsters, is a very cut-and-dry character: all he's interested in is stopping the three of them before they can endanger more civilians than they already have. Not unsympathetic by any means, Stenz tells Serizawa that there are simply too many lives at risk for him to just stand by and allow Godzilla to run wild, even if he is intent upon killing the MUTOs himself. He's completely onboard with the plan to lure the monsters offshore and kill them with a nuclear bomb, despite Serizawa and Graham telling him that they feed on radiation and that nuclear weapons were already used before. It's only when the male MUTO fouls things up by grabbing the bomb and taking it to his mate in the nest they make in the center of San Francisco that Stenz has to reluctantly concede that Godzilla may be their only hope, asking Serizawa if he thinks he has a chance. In any case, he still sends a team that includes Ford Brody down into the battle zone via a HALO jump in order to find and deactivate the bomb before it explodes

Despite the capable actors we have here, the biggest failing with the characters in Godzilla is how shallow they are. As I said before, this is far from the first time we've seen this in a Godzilla movie or a kaiju movie, for that matter, but because we spend so much time with them, their blandness becomes much more of an issue. It really is amazing the lack of depth there is with the characters, despite the number of writers who worked on the screenplay, including the immensely talented Frank Darabont, who Gareth Edwards said was brought in to bring more of a heart to the film's human element. For instance, we know as soon as we're introduced to them that the Brody family, consisting of Ford, Elle, and Sam, are very close and loving and that Ford's whole motivation is to get back to them but he keeps getting caught up in the madness caused by the monsters. However, that's all there is to it. We get one intimate scene between them before Ford has to go to Japan to get his dad out of jail and that's supposed to make us root for him to make it back to them safely while all hell is breaking loose around him. Yeah, that doesn't cut it, and while Ford himself is a likable enough guy, he's not that compelling of a lead. There's also a small part of the story where Dr. Serizawa is sometimes seen carrying around this old pocket-watch and it's only when Admiral Stenz tells him that they're going forward with the nuclear bomb plan that we find out the significance of it. It turns out that it was his father's watch and that it's stopped... because it was shorted out by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Okay, interesting character trait, which not only brings to mind Godzilla's ties with the horrors of nuclear war but also suggests that Serizawa is against nuclear weapons being used from a purely moral standpoint, but that's all we get about it, making me think there was no point to it other than its just being a notable character quirk. Again, the character who has some depth to him and is someone you can really sympathize with is Joe Brody, because you can see how much the disaster at Janjira has destroyed his life and that he needs to find out the truth to make the world, including his son, realize that he's not a complete lunatic. But then, he dies less than 45 minutes in, before Godzilla has even become part of the story. Bryan Cranston himself has said he feels that was a mistake and I do too. I don't know what his role would have been following the male MUTO's escape but at least keep him around so he can mend his relationship with his son, be reunited with his family, and support Ford as he goes up against the monsters. At least it would have given the scenes with the humans more emotional depth.

I don't usually talk about deleted scenes but I'm going to make an exception in this case because, during the lead-up to the movie's release, I'd heard that Akira Takarada, who starred in the original Godzilla and several other of the movies, mainly in the Showa era, was going to have a cameo appearance as an immigration officer. But, his scene was ultimately cut from the film, something that Gareth Edwards said he regretted, which makes me wonder why they even did cut it. Would it really have stalled the film that much just to keep in this little scene? If that's the issue, why not give Takarada a role in a scene that was more vital to the story, such as that one of the technicians during the sequence at the Janjira plant? It may not sound like a big deal since we're talking about a cameo but, given his significance to Godzilla's history, I think it's a real shame that happened.

Whatever else you may say about him, Gareth Edwards is most definitely a very technically proficient filmmaker. He made Monsters for just $500,000, with a very small crew and only a couple of real actors, and yet, that movie looks and feels like it was made for so much more. So, of course, when he was given $160 million to make Godzilla, it was going to come off really well on a visual level. First off, the movie just looks good. Edwards' films tend to have a very lush, polished look to them, which is a nice counterbalance to the overly shiny, glossy-looking, lens-flare-filled movies by directors like Michael Bay and J.J. Abrams (note, Abrams is a good director but I think he tends to go overboard with the lens flare effect). The movie is also shot in a manner that helps to give it a very big, epic scope, with numerous wide-angle shots of the armed forces moving in, people evacuating, and the destruction caused by the monsters. One shot of the evacuations that's downright jaw-dropping is this enormous, overhead shot where you see that this road out in the countryside is jam-packed as far as the eye can see, with a massive wreckage from a MUTO attack lying amongst the vehicles. I'm sure CGI was used in that shot but it's still very realistic-looking, regardless. And do I need to go into much detail about the HALO jump? Holy crap, that looks amazing. Plus, I don't know what it, but his camera tends to give cloudy, overcast scenes an atmosphere that I really like I also like the way in which Edwards chose to film the monsters, often putting the camera at a human-level, looking up, helping them feel absolutely gigantic. For instance, when Godzilla first arrives in Honolulu and people standing on rooftops are looking up at him as he passes by, he's so huge that the human-level camera is incapable of showing all of him, and even when you can see all of him, the camera angle still doesn't belie just how enormous he is. Especially nice are some literal POV shots from Ford Brody, such as when he watches the male MUTO take to the sky after hatching and during the HALO jump as he drops by the monsters as they're fighting. And when the monsters are attacking and fighting, the camera doesn't get all shaky and you can tell what's going on... for the most part. Where I have to get critical of the film's visuals is the fact that many of the key monster scenes, including the final battle between Godzilla and the MUTOs, take place at night and look very murky. Even in high-definition, you're likely going to have turn up the brightness on your TV in order to see everything, which sucks. I had to find some 4K videos of those scenes in order to get shots where you could actually make out what was going on.

While the goal of the film was to bring Godzilla onto American soil, I do like that it does pay tribute to the fact that he is a Japanese creation by setting a good chunk of the first act in Japan. To be fair, the 1998 movie didn't forget its roots either, given how it begins with Godzilla attacking a Japanese cannery ship, and moreover, Godzilla is never seen in Japan at all or coming into contact with anything associated with the country in this film, but it's still nice to see some scenes set there. Nothing was actually filmed in Japan, mind you, as most of the movie was shot in Canada (the elementary school in Janjira was actually the Japanese Canadian Cultural Center in British Columbia) and none of the exterior shots of the locations have that undeniable Japanese feel to them, save through some digital trickery, but I still like that they made the effort and that we do get a big shot of Tokyo at one point. I also thought it was a nice idea to show Godzilla make landfall in Hawaii before heading on to the United States, specifically to San Francisco, as it made sense for a creature in the Pacific to enter the country from that direction. Plus, since they'd already done New York, I always had a feeling they would have the movie take place on the West Coast in order to differentiate it. Finally, I like the idea of a kaiju-style monster movie taking place not just in the U.S. but also in areas that normally wouldn't get this kind of treatment, like the deserts of Nevada and Las Vegas. The closest thing we've ever gotten to that is a moment in Godzilla: Final Wars where Kumonga, the giant tarantula, appears in Arizona. And it's also nice seeing Americans react to this kind of thing, not just the military but civilians, whose lives are completely disrupted by the monsters' appearance.

One thing the movie does very well is treating the monsters' attacks like a real cataclysmic disaster. The film doesn't shy away from the human death toll, as you see people getting crushed and swept away by enormous tidal waves, as well the recovery efforts afterward, with dead bodies being carried away in body bags, injured people filling up shelters, both actual and makeshift, by the thousands, and the search for survivors amidst the ruins. It definitely evokes memories of the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks (news headlines on TV read, AMERICA UNDER ATTACK, as they said on that day) and it also shows how much the depiction of giant monsters has changed in the years since it. Gone are the days where you would see Godzilla and other kaiju completely trash huge metropolitan areas without any onscreen human casualties, as they'd been evacuated beforehand. This movie shows you that, despite the evacuations, there were still stragglers who got caught up in the mayhem, as seen after the final battle in San Francisco. The monsters' appearances and rampages are also given the feel of natural disasters, specifically like approaching hurricanes, with the mass evacuations of areas in their path reminiscent of what it's like when people have to flee when such things happen. The sports stadium being turned into a makeshift shelter at the end of the movie is very reminiscent of when people had to virtually like in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina and the shots of the tidal wave caused by Godzilla sweeping through the streets of Honolulu, carrying debris with it, look like news footage of the tsunami that was caused by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake (something that Shin Godzilla would also evoke a couple of years later). It really helps hit home the notion that the monsters are more like forces of nature than simply large animals.

Godzilla has often been depicted in the past as a force of nature but the thing is that he's so intrinsically one here, being an ancient creature that literally feeds on radiation and has been living deep within the bowels of the Earth, that it negates his connection to the atomic bomb. While the issue of nuclear power is present in the film, it's not made a talking point in regards to caution about its use, seeing as how Godzilla's awakening in the modern world is a resort of a submarine venturing down to where he was sleeping rather than atomic tests, as it was originally. In fact, other than it serving as a food source for both him and the MUTOs, its main point in the story is as a means of killing the monsters. They attempted to kill Godzilla with nuclear weapons back in the 50's and they intend to use them to lure him and the MUTOs offshore to where they can kill them with newer, more powerful bombs. It should be noted that the idea of using nuclear weapons against Godzilla has been suggested in past movies but there's always been a thoughtful debate about how much damage they themselves may cause and whether they really are the lesser of two evils, given the circumstances. Here, there's no debate whatsoever, save for one guy commenting that the plan will mean little fallout risk, and even though the plan almost proves disastrous for San Francisco when the male MUTO grabs an armed nuclear warhead and takes it into the city for his mate, you don't get any sort of realization afterward like, "Whoa, we really dodged a bullet there. Maybe we should have thought about this more carefully." I'm not trying to get political here but I think this is sort of indicative of the different viewpoints America and Japan have on the issue.

Something else that's noteworthy about this film is how the military is portrayed in a much more competent and ultimately heroic light than usual. Often, you have the military getting completely demolished by Godzilla  when they're deployed and come right at him, guns blazing. Here, they're smart enough not to engage the monsters unless they absolutely have to, like when the MUTOs unexpectedly attack them or when Godzilla rises up by the Golden Gate Bridge and endangers the people evacuating. Otherwise, they keep their distance, mainly helping with evacuations while organizing and preparing the plan to kill the monsters with the nuclear bomb. You get the feeling that the heavy artillery is there for defense rather than offense and nowhere is that clearer than during the section of the movie where the Navy follows Godzilla as he heads to the U.S., battleships flanking him on either side. They have their weapons ready in case he suddenly lunges at them but, otherwise, they do nothing to needlessly provoke him since he's tolerant of their traveling alongside him. And even though the military's plan goes awry a couple of times, first when the female MUTO destroys the train transporting the nuclear warheads, leaving only one left, and again when the armed one ends up in the city, you still can't hate the armed forces, as they dispatch a team to retrieve the warhead. Ignoring the battling monsters, they head straight for the bomb and, when they find they can't disarm it because the casing on it has been damaged, they opt to get on a boat and pilot it away from the city. In short, the military still fails to make a difference other than helping get people out of harm's way but you still have to give them points for remaining heroic through it all.

In today's age, movie marketing is often untrustworthy, with trailers and TV spots often misleading the viewer as to what a movie's story and concept actually is, and that was certainly true here. To put it bluntly, the Godzilla that was teased in the marketing wasn't the Godzilla we ultimately got. The marketing made it look as if this was the antagonistic, destructive Godzilla and that he was basically going to bring about the apocalypse, but instead, what we got was the antihero Godzilla who, while tolerant of humanity at best, has his own motives for going out and battling the truly destructive monsters. In the past, his antihero roles came about either because the antagonistic monsters threatened the Earth, which is his home too; a member of his own species, specifically the various incarnations of his son, was involved; or it was simply due to pure circumstance while he was still being destructive. In this film, his motives are more ambiguous. He's described as an ancient alpha-predator and, when he pursues the MUTOs, he's said to be hunting them, but it's not for food. When he's battling them, it's obvious that his intent is to kill them rather than feed on them, as his sole source of energy and nourishment is nuclear energy. It does seem that he is, as Dr. Serizawa says, nature's way of restoring the natural order of things. In fact, Serizawa says at one point that he believes Godzilla was listening and waiting for the MUTOs to communicate with each other so he could pinpoint their location, further suggesting that he is driven by some instinct to seek them out and exterminate them before they can multiply and dominate the world. This makes him similar to the way Gamera is portrayed in the 90's trilogy, which is also as an ancient force that rises up to destroy a major threat to the Earth's survival. However, while Gamera was shown to be actively protecting humans at various points in those films, Godzilla is shown to be indifferent towards them here. He has no ill-will towards them, as he doesn't mind those battleships traveling alongside him for long stretches, but they're also insignificant to him, much how we'd view a colony of ants. And ill-will or not, he will defend himself if attacked or crush anyone who doesn't get out of his way.

As it was back in 1998, Godzilla's look was kept hidden until the film was set for release, although in this case, the design was revealed a month before rather than up to the last minute. Like so many others, I was curious as to what he would look like, especially after all the false design concepts that had appeared on the internet. One thing I was confident of was that they wouldn't stray too far from the classic design, as Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin had, and when the look was finally revealed, I was satisfied with it. For me, as long as you keep the basic outline of Godzilla, that of a huge, upright, dinosaur-like creature with a row of spines down its back, you can add as much of your own touches to it as you want. Some complained that Godzilla looked fat but, while I would remind people that he's often been depicted as rather tubby (in the 90's films, for instance, he has enormous thighs and hips), I don't see him as being fat as more just really stocky. Plus, when you look at him from some angles, you get a sense of real power and strength emanating from him. I like the look of the spines, with how they're big and jagged, akin to those on the Millennium Godzilla suit but not quite that exaggerated, and I think the head is fantastic, coming off as undeniably reptilian, especially the small, yellow eyes, but with touches of dog/bear put into its structure. Some had problems with the addition of gills along his neck but I don't see what the big deal is, as they don't stand out much. I like they decided to give a reason as to why he can stay underwater without having to come up for air and yet, can also survive on land. Really, the only qualm I have with Godzilla's design here is the feet. They look like the foot of an elephant to me, with how pole-like they are, the toes almost being nonexistent. It's partly because they don't look like the feet of an aquatic animal but also simply because I like for Godzilla to have long, dinosaur-like toes. You don't see his feet that much, though, so it's not a deal-breaker, but being a really devoted fan, I just have to nitpick.

Not wanting to make him too anthropomorphic, the filmmakers decided to have Godzilla fight like an animal, with a lot of biting, clawing, grappling, charging, stomping, and tail-whipping. The fighting is akin to the battle between Godzilla and Anguirus in Godzilla Raids Again, which was the first kaiju battle ever and was before the monsters started fighting with karate and judo moves. I've heard some complaints that Godzilla spends most of the final battle with the MUTOs getting beaten up and, while that is true, like a lot of the film's controversial elements, it's not unprecedented, as he's gotten his ass kicked badly in a number of his past fights. What's more, it gets across the fact that Godzilla, as strong and powerful he is, is weathered and old. We know he's been around since at least the 50's but God knows how old he was back then or how long his lifespan is. You can see how much the fight has taken out of him when he's hunched after finally killing the male MUTO, trying to catch his breath, and with how he collapses from exhaustion after killing the female. Even when he wakes up the next day, you can see him staggering back to the ocean, clearly breathing heavily. To quote Brandon M. Jacobs, who did a video on this film on his YouTube channel, Up From the Depths (which is a great Godzilla-oriented channel, by the way), if you could hear Godzilla's thoughts in those moments, they likely would be, "I'm too old for this shit." However, Godzilla still has an ace up his sleeve for when physical fighting proves inadequate: his atomic blast. I'm not kidding, when I saw this movie in the theater and it came to the buildup to when he first shoots it, with his spines lighting up, starting from the tip of his tail and moving on to the top, and the ever-increasing humming that accompanies it, a big smile came across my face and I nearly squeed like a school girl when he fired it. The 1998 film didn't feature any true breath weapon and there was no hint of it in the marketing here, so seeing that he did have it was a very welcome surprise, especially when it came to the awesome way he uses it to kill the female MUTO. What was also interesting is that it has a gaseous look to it, meaning that it could safely be called an atomic breath, whereas in the Heisei series on, it was purely a beam of energy that he fired from his mouth.

It may sound very different from the classic roar, and I wasn't sure what to think when I first heard it in the trailers, but, over time, the roar they came up with for Godzilla here has grown on me. It's much more breathy in the screech section of it, with a resonating thrumming underneath it, especially when he lets out a long roar, and it has an unusual vibration at the end of it that, until I saw the movie, I thought was part of the music's attempt to put a bit of a Japanese tone to it to emphasize Godzilla's cultural origins (seriously, am I the only one who thinks that ending sound comes off like that?) I don't think it's as threatening as the roars from the original film or the deep roar Godzilla had in the first few films of the Heisei series but it's still very memorable and has a power to it. They also gave Godzilla some animalistic lows, growls, and moans that, while not as instantly memorable as some of his past sounds, do help make him feel more like a real creature. While we're on the subject of sound, I feel that both Godzilla and the MUTOs don't make as much noise through their movements as they could. Instead of the expected thunderous booms whenever he walks, you virtually don't hear anything when Godzilla's on the move, saw for some hollow-sounding thuds when he really puts his foot down, like at the airport in Honolulu. The same goes for the MUTOs, as they don't make nearly as much sound as you'd expect when they move across the country and when they tear stuff apart. It's not an aspect of it that many discuss but it's true that this movie could have used a lot more memorable sound design in its monster rampages.

Though not necessarily evil, instead merely being a threat to life on Earth because of their parasitic properties and hostile nature towards humans, the MUTOs are still very much the real villains of the film, causing much of the death and destruction. They're discovered in a dormant state, looking like spores, in a large cavern in the Philippines and seemed to have been the cause of death for a giant creature whose carcass is found in there. While one spore is still dormant, another is found to have hatched and the creature inside it, the male, makes his way to the Janjira nuclear plant to feed on the radiation, causing the place's destruction in the process. He cocoons himself there, continuing to feed on the lingering radioactivity over the next 15 years, until he finally hatches once he's done feeding and, after destroying the place, takes to the air. He snatches a Russian nuclear submarine to feed on it, stopping in Hawaii to do so, which is when he runs into Godzilla. The MUTO manages to escape Godzilla's grasp and heads on to the U.S., specifically for San Francisco, where he's to meet up with the female. The female's spore had been taken to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada and, upon hearing the mating call the male was sending out to hear via echolocation, breaks out of the facility and heads towards the rendezvous point. Along the way, she comes across the train transporting the nuclear warheads intended to kill them and devours most of them before heading on. As violent and dangerous as they are, the MUTOs aren't shown to be totally unsympathetic. When they meet up in San Francisco, you can see some genuine affection between them, as they let out loving wails to each other and nuzzle, before the female takes the warhead her mate brought for her in order to feed the energy to her gestating offspring. During their battle with Godzilla, they're shown to be coming to each other's aid when they need it, like when the female is getting stomped and, hearing her calls, her mate blindsides Godzilla before he can finish her off. And when the female discovers that Ford Brody has incinerated her eggs, she lets out a very mournful cry before spotting him and continually trying to kill him until Godzilla does her in after taking care of the male.

While I think the concept behind them is interesting, especially the hook-shaped cocoon the male one builds at Janjira, the designs of the MUTOs has always felt uninspired to me. I like their angular, jagged heads, which have a combination of insect and characteristics, but, like a lot of people, their overall look makes me think of the monster from Cloverfield, which seems to have inspired a number of large, multi-legged creatures in films, like the alien in Super 8 and the creatures in Gareth Edwards' own Monsters. That wasn't a bad design for a movie monster, mind you, but when it keeps influencing other filmmakers over and over again, it starts to get stale. Although, I do like that they distinguished between the two MUTOs to where you can tell them apart, which is further helped because they don't come together until near the end of the movie. The male is the smaller, more agile of the two, and has a pair of wings that gives him a true advantage over both Godzilla and his mate (when I saw glimpses of him flying in the later TV spots, I thought they might have managed to sneak Rodan into the movie without anyone knowing). Said wings were based on that of a stealth bomber and you can definitely see that when they're in profile, as in the one image here. The female is much larger, unable to fly, is much slower and more lumbering in her movements, and has a stomach full of eggs that she lays in the nest she makes in San Francisco. While neither of them have projectile weapons like Godzilla's atomic blast, they are capable of sending out powerful electromagnetic pulses from the radioactivity they feed on. This doesn't affect Godzilla but it does often play havoc with the machines and equipment used by the armed forces. Their vocalizations are made up of strange, almost mechanical-sounding, wails and howls, as well as trilling sounds and affectionate moans they make towards one another.

A major feather in the film's cap is that the visual effects are absolutely fantastic all-around. While all of the effects are done digitally, you couldn't ask for them to look any better. If you couldn't tell by this point, the monsters look excellent and feel like living creatures, especially Godzilla himself. Not only is the design an inspired one and the textures of his skin and movements feel very natural, but they also managed to get a lot of expression into the close-ups of his face, thanks to the motion-capture performance of T.J. Storm (I'd heard rumors that Andy Serkis was involved with the movie and thought that he may have done the motion-capture himself, which I thought would have been cool since it would mean he'd done it for both King Kong in the Peter Jackson movie and now Godzilla, but it turns out he was just a consultant). The integration of real actors and the CG creatures is also quite seamless, thanks in large part to the way Edwards often shot them from the level of a human point-of-view, but that's nothing compared to the digital environments, especially that of San Francisco. The digital recreation they made of the city is so amazing that, when combined with actual shots of it, they're virtually indistinguishable from each other and it makes the further addition of digital monsters and real actors even better. Just as he did with Monsters, Edwards used digital effects to add elements to location shots, specifically make location footage shot in Canada look like Japan, such as in adding Mt. Fuji into the background of some shots and putting Japanese kanji on signs and parts of building in exterior shots of a city that's meant to be Tokyo. Also like that film, many of the military vehicles that you see in the movie are CG, which I never would have guessed until I read up on it.

Okay, we might as well now get into the most controversial aspect of the movie: the sheer lack of screentime that the monsters have, specifically Godzilla. It's interesting because this approach was so unexpected and radical in this age of excess, where everything is just "more, more" and "action, action, action," that it caused people to talk about it to the point where they hit upon something that had never really been talked about before, which is the fact that Godzilla is offscreen for very long periods in many of the other movies. In fact, there are a few where his total screentime is virtually equal to what he has here. For instance, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, aka Invasion of Astro-Monster, is a beloved fan favorite, considered one of the best Showa series, and yet, Godzilla has a minute amount of screentime, not appearing until 45 minutes and having just three significant scenes: his and Rodan's brief fight with King Ghidorah on Planet X, all three of the monsters rampaging while being controlled by the people of that planet, and the final battle, which is also very brief. The same goes for Terror of Mechagodzilla, which has Godzilla not showing up until around the 50-minute mark and even then, not having much of a role until the final battle, where he takes on Mechagodzilla and Titanosaurus. That leads me to something else: people also complained that Godzilla doesn't make his first appearance until almost an hour in but that's been the case for a fair amount of them. Besides those I've already mentioned, some others are Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster and Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. Heck, Godzilla vs. Megalon, the first one that I and a lot of people first saw due to a cut of it being public domain, has very little Godzilla up until he joins Jet Jaguar in battling Megalon and Gigan, with only a few brief instances at the beginning and in the middle. And there are a lot of them where Godzilla disappears in the middle and doesn't reappear until it's time for the final battle.

So, then, the question is why did this movie get raked across the coals for its lack of Godzilla while many of those others are absolutely loved by diehard fans? There's no one answer but I can postulate a few. I think one comes down to expectations, as I don't think anybody expected a huge budget, Hollywood-made Godzilla movie to not have the Big G onscreen as much as possible. Of course, no one figured that Gareth Edwards would take the same minimalist approach as he did with Monsters. With that movie, he probably had to limit the amount of screentime the creatures got because of the very low budget and the fact that he did all of the visual effects himself, but here, he had more than enough money to make Godzilla the real star of the movie. Being a big fan of Steven Spielberg, Edwards said that he wanted to treat Godzilla the same way Spielberg did the shark in Jaws in keeping offscreen as much as possible to employ the less is more approach (those shots of Godzilla's spines sticking out of the water while he's swimming are meant as an homage to Jaws). But, while I do think the less is more approach is a good way to go, I think it doesn't really work here for a couple of reasons. For one, the reason why Spielberg kept the shark off-camera for as much as he did was because the mechanical shark they'd built was unreliable and often didn't work at all. Spielberg has said that he went into Jaws intending to make it a full-on monster movie but when the effects didn't work, he had to reconfigure it into an Alfred Hitchcock movie instead. Also, while the less is more approach does work to build suspense and tension, be it in a creature feature or a horror film, if you take that approach with what it is ostensibly meant to be a kaiju battle movie, you're going to frustrate people more than thrill them. And I think another reason why Godzilla's lack of screentime doesn't work here is because those other movies that didn't feature him much had other things to grab your attention, be it the great camaraderie between Glenn and Fuji in Monster Zero, the out-and-out cheesiness of Godzilla vs. Megalon, and the crazy time-travel plot of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, to name a few. This movie, while it keeps its story moving at a fair pace and being a technical marvel, has nothing but the mostly shallow characters to fill the screen when the monsters aren't around; suffice to say, that didn't cut it with a lot of people, myself included.

The other two reasons why this approach isn't successful, however, are the major ones to me. Looking back on the movie, not only does Godzilla not have a lot of screentime for a movie that shares his name but he also comes off as a secondary element to the story when he should be the primary one. The movie may open on archival footage of the attempt to kill Godzilla in the 50's but, after that, the movie spends a bunch of time and energy on the incident at Janjira and the aftermath of it, which turns out to have had nothing do with him at all. We don't even hear his name mentioned until the briefing where his existence is revealed to Ford Brody and, despite his discovery being the impetus for Monarch, as it proved that there are monsters in the world, the movie focuses much more time on the MUTOs and the Navy's attempts to find and destroy them. (He's so disconnected that, if this had been the first movie he ever appeared in, you'd be wondering why this giant dinosaur keeps butting into the story about the MUTOs.) Yeah, they come to see Godzilla as a threat as well and come up with a plan to exterminate all three of the monsters but he stills feels like an afterthought, which is punctuated by his late entry into the story, lack of screentime, the long stretch between his appearance in Honolulu and the scene at the Golden Gate Bridge before we finally get into the showdown between him and the MUTOs. It's made even worse by the fact that he's not viewed as an even more powerful threat than the MUTOs but rather is seen as just another monster that needs to be dealt with.

But, the most inexcusable and ill-advised decision the filmmakers had was to tease a monster fight but not deliver on it, and to do it twice, no less. I know Gareth Edwards was trying to subvert the normal way of doing things but I don't know how he could have thought building up to Godzilla in Honolulu, having him face off with the male MUTO, and roar straight at the camera after this awesome pan up, revealing him in all his glory, only to then cut away and see small portions of the ensuing fight on the news, would go over well. It's like blowing up a balloon all throughout the buildup and then, "brrrrrrp." And then he does it again! You again have Godzilla and the male MUTO square off and you see them begin to fight, only for the doors of this shelter to close and for the movie to cut to a different scene again. Edwards said that he felt that all this teasing would make the final battle all the more satisfying, but not if you've alienated your audience to the point where they don't care anymore! Plus, as you've seen, not only is that final battle hard to see because of how dark the cinematography is but the film keeps showing small chunks of the fight, only to then cut back back to the soldiers trying to locate the nuclear warhead, so it's basically still teasing you. This, in my opinion, is why the movie proved to be such a frustrating experience and why I had that empty feeling coming out of it. I didn't wait so long for another American Godzilla movie just to get teased again and again throughout it. I feel that if we'd actually got to see the battle in Honolulu, that tease of the second fight would have been more acceptable, since we do eventually see what it led to, and also if it was filmed better. But, as it stands, the movie annoyed more people than it thrilled, which sucks because of how much good there is to be found in it.

The movie begins with an excellent opening title sequence, which was put together by Kyle Cooper, who'd also done the opening credit sequence for Godzilla: Final Wars. You see cave paintings, old drawings of sea monsters and ancient creatures, excerpts from Charles Darwin's The Origin of a Species, drawings of the skeletons of more ancient creatures, dinosaurs, and newspaper clippings of an incident involving a submarine and a large, unknown creature. It then switches to old, black-and-white footage depicting an operation out at sea, with a shot of Godzilla's spines cruising past some ships (that is really creepy-looking because of the scratchy, dark black-and-white photography, akin to old supposed photographs of the Loch Ness Monster), and you're bombarded with a montage of images depicting the specifics of the operation, including a map showing that it's taking place at the Bikini Atoll region, preparation of a nuclear warhead, and the origin of the term Monarch that's used for the operation. You see submarines and ships moving into the area, footage of soldiers interacting with Japanese civilians, more planning and preparations, Godzilla in the sights of binoculars and cross-hairs, authority figures putting on visors to shield themselves from the imminent explosion, civilians watching from shore, and a final countdown from ten to one. Godzilla is still in the cross-hairs and you see a shot of the bomb with a "no Godzilla" image on it as the countdown reaches zero. Godzilla rises up out of the ocean and is hit with the warhead, followed by stock footage of an actual atom bomb explosion and the shockwave that follows it. The screen turns completely white and, after a few seconds of dead silence, bits of radioactive ash come down as the title, Godzilla, materializes on the screen, accompanied by some music that make it come off as very eerie. Incidentally, the credits have additional text around them pertaining to the operation that's blocked out to simulate it being hidden from the public, though you have to pause the movie in order to really read them because they go by fast. The funniest text is the one that pops up around Bryan Cranston's name: "Walter Malcom has claimed that government men dressed in white..." I'm sure a lot of people will understand that reference.

After that, we're introduced to Dr. Serizawa and Vivienne Graham as they're flown out to the Philippines in the year 1999. The Monarch helicopter carrying them lands on the outskirts of a massive excavation area, akin to an open pit mine. Disembarking from the helicopter, they're met by an American named Jerry Boyd, who leads them into area. He explains that the locals thought they'd found a large deposit of uranium but, when they moved their equipment in, the valley floor caved in, revealing a large underground cavern. Boyd leads them to the edge of the huge pit and, in the next scene, he shows them its interiors. They wear bio-hazard suits, as the radiation levels have multiplied since the cavern was exposed to the outside, and as they move in, they find large fossil bones lining it. Lights planted inside the cave are turned on, revealing how incredibly large the entire skeleton is, and Graham asks Serizawa if it's possible they've found Godzilla's remains. Serizawa, however, says that this creature has been dead for a very long time. Boyd then calls them over to another part of the cave, where a large, highly radioactive organic structure, possibly an egg or a spore, is hanging from the ceiling, and unlike the bones, it's perfectly preserved. They spy another one, which appears to have been opened up, and hearing the sound of a helicopter outside quite clearly, Serizawa sees another opening in the cave beyond the spores. This opens up into the circle-shaped head of a trail that cuts its way through the rain-forest and on to the nearby ocean.

Transitioning to a rainy morning in Janjira, Japan, young Ford Brody is sent off to school while his parents, Joe and Sandy, head to the nearby nuclear plant. Concerned with constant seismic activity that's been happening lately, Joe requests a meeting about the steps that need to be taken and tells Sandy to go down to Level 5 and inspect the reactor as soon as she gets to the plant. Arriving there, Joe is shown a graph of the seismic activity and he sees that, instead of coming off as random, like an earthquake would, it's an increasing pattern. At that moment, Sandy suits up and heads down to the reactor with a small team in tow. Joe arrives at the control room and is shown a computer readout of the activity, with his associate, Takashi, telling him they can't pinpoint the epicenter. Hayato, a technician, adds that no other plants in the region are reporting anything and figures that the readings are just aftershocks from the quake in the Philippines. Joe asks if the plant is at full-function and right after Takashi says they are, the place is shaken by a tremor. It subsides within a couple of seconds but Joe says they need to take the reactor offline. Stan Walsh, another member of the staff, is about to suggest they discuss it first but Joe has no time for it, telling them to take it offline now. (Walsh, by the way, is played by Garry Chalk, who played the villainous security guard Scorby in The Fly II and the sheriff in Freddy vs. Jason.) Joe goes and grabs a walkie-talkie, attempting to contact Sandy, when the place shakes again. Down on Level 5, Sandy tells the team they're turning back and they start heading back down the corridor, when the reactor is breached. A cloud of radioactive gas starts billowing down the corridor towards them and they run for it. Sandy contacts Joe, telling him about the breach, who, in turn, says that they won't be able to survive, even with their suits. As they run down the corridor, chased by the cloud, another tremor, this one more violent, shakes the plant, and everyone begins evacuating. Joe tells Takashi that he's going to meet the team down there and asks him to put the safety doors on manual override. Takashi says he can't do that but, as he runs out there, Joe again orders him to do so, adding, "My wife is still in there!"

Joe runs as fast as he can to the safety doors, while Sandy and the others are still trying to outrun the deadly cloud. He reaches the door and contacts Takashi, who confirms that the door is on manual. Joe tells him that he'll seal it as soon as the team comes through and contacts Sandy, telling her that he's at the door and she needs to run. They're doing just that, when a tremor knocks one of the team, Kenji, off-balance and he smacks into a pipe on the wall. Bouncing off it, he knocks Sandy to the floor, as the others continue running. Sandy gets to her feet and tries to pull Kenji up, as the cloud closes in on them. Takashi contacts Joe over the intercom, telling him to close the door, otherwise the entire city will be exposed to the radiation. Hit with this, Joe tries to contact Sandy again and he does, but she tells him that it's too late and they're not going to make it. Horrified at this, he again tells her to run as fast as she can but she says he has to close the door and live for their son. Another tremor hits the place and, as Takashi again tells him to seal the door, Joe sees the radioactive cloud coming down the corridor towards him. Letting out a mournful scream, he finally presses the button and seals it, as the corridor is completely engulfed. Sobbing at the idea of losing his wife, he turns around when he hears knocking and sees the team members on the other side of the door's window, clamoring for him to let them out. All he can do is quietly tell them he's sorry, when Sandy pushes through them. This causes Joe to start sobbing even harder, as she removes her mask and, while the secondary door closes, she tells him to take care of Ford. He promises to, when the doors close and he's left there, sobbing against them. The place shakes again and he hears a strange sound, while outside, people evacuate as the cooling towers come crashing down. At the school Ford is attending, the electricity goes out and the alarm bells ring. The teacher tells everyone to get out and Ford is packing up his things, when he looks out the window and sees the towers coming down, knowing the tragic implications it has for his life.

We then cut to fifteen years later and are introduced to Ford as a young man and lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. Upon returning home to San Francisco after having been away for fourteen months, Ford spends some time with his family, when he gets the call that his father has been arrested for trespassing in the quarantine zone at Janjira. He flies over there, bails him out, and, after seeing how obsessed he's become with what happened, he offers to take him back home with him the next morning. But, after spending the night with him in his Tokyo apartment, he wakes up to hear Joe speaking with someone in Japanese. Joe tells him that he's heading back to the site, explaining that he met a man who runs a cargo boat and passes by the reactor every day. He had him place some frequency monitors on buoys in the area and, two weeks before, he heard a sound that believes is coming from whatever is being kept hidden in there. Joe then says that he's going back to his old home in order to retrieve his old discs to use the data to prove that he's not the crackpot that everyone thinks he is. Despite his frustration that he can't just let Sandy rest, Ford reluctantly accompanies his father into the quarantine zone. Taking a boat into it, they go ashore and are surprised when a pack of dogs runs past them. Ford is wondering what spooked them, while Joe hits upon something. He pulls out his portable radiation monitor and sees that it's not reading anything. This prompts him to remove his mask and he takes a deep breath, which proves that the place is completely clean, even though the radiation should be lethal. Heading on to their old house, long since rundown and overgrown, Joe is relieved to find that his discs are still there and quickly stuffs them in his bag. He also finds a picture of himself, Sandy, and Ford as a child, as well as the HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD! banner they put up for him, while Ford comes across a little toy soldier amidst the rubble. The eerie silence is suddenly broken by the sound of helicopter blades, as one flies over the abandoned city, and both of them rush out of the house. They watch the helicopter fly over to where the nuclear plant once was and they can see that there's some kind of facility there. Before they can wonder what's going on, they turn around to find some policemen pointing rifles at them and they're subsequently shoved into the back and handcuffed.

They're driven over an old bridge to the facility and, when they get there, they see that the place is built around a large, hook-shaped, organic structure. The structure has a glow from the inside that periodically increases in a blinking rhythm, accompanied by an accelerating pulsing sound, until it unleashes something that interferes with the place's electrical equipment. A technician inside the main control room overlooking the structure tells those in charge that the thing's rate of pulsing is getting stronger. That's when a man comes into the room and tells Dr. Serizawa of the two men who were picked up and that one of them is saying he used to work at the facility. Serizawa walks over to the spot where Joe is being interrogated inside a storeroom with a two-way window installed on it. Inside, Joe is telling those with him that he knows that what happened fifteen years before wasn't a natural disaster and demands to see his son, as well as his bag and discs. Knowing he's being watched from outside the window, Joe tells those listening, specifically Serizawa and Dr. Graham, that he knows they're hiding something. Graham shows Serizawa Joe's discs and the data that came with it, which dates from fifteen years before. The lights suddenly flicker and Joe exclaims that it's an electromagnetic pulse and that it's exactly what happened the day the reactor was breached. They flicker again and, in the control room, they see that the pulses are now mere seconds apart, although there's no radiation leakage. Serizawa and Graham rush to the room to see the structure light up and let out another pulse, causing some of the sediment coating it to crumble. Serizawa realizes, "It's done feeding," as another man takes Joe's data and sees that the pattern on it is the same as what they're now reading. Serizawa says that they have to shut down, as a man gets on the intercom and tells all personnel outside to clear the first perimeter. People start doing so, and Ford, who's still handcuffed inside the truck, is left in there, as the structure lets out another powerful pulse. In seconds, it builds to another, and when those in the control room are informed that the grid is secure, Serizawa orders them to destroy the structure. It's then hit with powerful electrical charges, destroying more of the sediment coating, and the pattern it was emitting flatlines, indicating that it should be dead.

Outside, things have suddenly gotten quiet, as the engineers stand around it, warily. One person moves in on a nearby catwalk to get a visual, turning on a flashlight and shining it at the structure. He sees some slimy substance dripping off of it, as well as a little bit of movement. He leans over for a closer look, when something breaks free and lunges at him. The male MUTO breaks his way out of his cocoon with a loud shriek, bringing one of his legs down hard on the ground and sending out an EMP that shuts the place down completely. As a result, the door that Joe is locked behind is deactivated. Outside, Ford sees the commotion from inside the truck, as the place suddenly goes black and those in the control room try to activate the backup generators. It takes a bit but they manage to get them working and the lights illuminate the MUTO, as he breaks free of his cocoon completely. The control room is evacuated as he stomps towards them, while outside, Joe finds himself on a walkway, passing by dozens of evacuating engineers. He then sees the MUTO attempting to climb out of the pit, while back in the van, Ford yells for someone to let him out. Emergency vehicles arrive at the edge of the pit, only to face the MUTO's enormous claws as they rise up, pulling down high-tension wires and sending the towers attached to them tumbling down. One tower collapses towards the walkway Joe's on and he tries to save the frightened technicians but is unable to keep them from getting crushed. Another tower hits the van Ford is in, sending it tumbling across the road, but when it stops, it's revealed to have broken his handcuff, allowing him to climb out. Ford watches as a man trapped in the wreckage of the tower is pulled down into the pit and, upon hearing the sounds of wires snapping, turns to see the walkway his father is on give way underneath him. He rushes to him but sees that there's nothing he can do, only to hear a bizarre sound behind him. He turns to see the MUTO crawling up out of the pit behind him. Planting himself up against the side of the truck, he watches as the monster stomps away from the pit, crushed people under his feet and sending vehicles tumbling. Falling back into the truck, Ford grabs a gas mask and puts it on, watching as the MUTO opens his wings and takes off into the sky.

While Elle tries to get in touch with Ford, as news of the disaster in Japan, which is labeled as an earthquake, hits the news, Serizawa is told by Captain Russell Hampton of the U.S. Navy that they're taking control of the operation over from Monarch. He's then asked if there's anyone he needs to come with him aside from Dr. Graham and Serizawa, spying Ford about to climb into a nearby ambulance with the critically injured Joe, points them out. They're next in a chopper, being transported out to sea. On the way, Joe tells Ford, "Go home to your family. Keep them safe. Okay? Whatever it takes." He then starts to lose consciousness and the EMTs try to resuscitate him, Serizawa and Graham watch from across them. The helicopter lands on the USS Saratoga, where Admiral William Stenz briefs his men on the MUTO, or Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism, and that it was last seen heading east across the Pacific, with its EMPs forcing them to try to find it in a purely visual manner. After the briefing, he formally introduces himself to Serizawa, who's then called away by Graham. Meanwhile, Joe has succumbed to his injuries, but Ford has no time to deal with the loss before he's led into a small room occupied by Serizawa, Graham, and a couple of other people. Telling him that, while they're sorry for his loss, they need his help, he's then shown a film on a projection screen in the back of the room. Serizawa tells him that when the first submarine managed to reach the lowest depths of the ocean did so in 1954, it awakened something, and that the nuclear bomb tests in the 50's were actually attempts to kill this thing. The film then freezes on an image of a gigantic creature rising out of the water and Ford is shown images of dinosaurs and the creature's skeleton, as he's told that it's an ancient alpha-predator that lived during an age when the Earth was much more radioactive and that it and similar creatures adapted to live deep within the Earth in order to absorb radiation from the core. Graham adds that they work for Monarch, which was established after the discovery in order to search for and study this beast and others like it. After revealing its name, Gojira, aka Godzilla, Serizawa tells Ford of the discovery made in the Philippines and that the giant creature in this instance was killed by the parasitic spores found in the cave. The creature which hatched from the one spore traveled to Janjira, destroyed the plant, and then cocooned and fed until it hatched the previous night. When Ford asks why they didn't just the creature, Graham says that they were afraid if they did, they'd release all of the radiation it had absorbed. Revealing to him that his father predicted what happened, Ford is asked if he can remember anything else Joe said and he mentions what he said about echolocation. Serizawa has Graham recheck the data to see if there's anything about a response call, and when asked what will happen if they can't find the MUTO, Serizawa believes that Godzilla will emerge to restore balance to the natural order by killing the creature himself.

Ford is then choppered to Hawaii, where he's to catch a flight back to San Francisco. On the way, he leaves Elle a cellphone message telling her where he's headed and that Joe is gone. On the Saratoga, Serizawa and Graham look through their data and find that, right before the MUTO let out his EMP, something did respond to him, while elsewhere, Ford is in Honolulu and has boarded the tram at the airport. He fiddles with the little toy soldier he found in Janjira, which catches the attention of Akio, a small Japanese boy outside the tram who's stepped inside to get a closer look. The doors close, separating him from his parents, and Ford tries to open the doors but is unable to pry them. He then tries to tell Akio's frantic parents that he'll bring their son back to them. He manages to calm the frantic boy down and lets him have the soldier. Back on the Saratoga, Hampton tells Stenz of a Russian nuclear sub that's gone missing in the North Pacific. Having a feeling it's the MUTO, Stenz is then told of a special forces team is responding to a distress signal on the island of Oahu. On said island, the team moves through the rainforest, not sure why they're looking for a sub on land, but they're getting a signal from the transponder, leading them on ahead. They come across a piece of the sub on the ground, covered in a milky slime, and when they look up in the nearby trees, they see that the rest of it resting up there. A circling helicopter then spots the MUTO nearby, feeding on the sub's radioactive materials. This revelation makes Stenz decide that their highest priority is safety rather than secrecy, when they hear reports of something else approaching from the Pacific. Hearing this, Serizawa makes his way up to the flight deck, telling Graham that he believes the approaching object is Godzilla. A group of fighter jets are scrambled and more helicopters pass over Honolulu, which don't go unnoticed by the patrons of an outdoor restaurant by the beach, and as they watch, SWAT teams disembark from them on top of some nearby condos. Meanwhile, on the tram, Ford and Akio see the fighter jets pass by and head off into the distance. The jets reach the MUTO and pass over him, which he doesn't appreciate, as he howls at them and then drops the part of the sub he was munching on, forcing the men on the ground to scatter. He lifts up his front legs and slams on the ground, sending out an EMP that extends for miles and shuts down the mechanics of one jet that gets too close. The jet hits the ground near the special forces team, sending several of them flying and engulfing others in the flames. The EMP also knocks out the power in nearby Honolulu, including the airport tram. Ford, however, assures Akio that the lights will come back on in ten seconds.

On the beach, as the patrons there look at the fire caused by the jet crashing over a nearby mountain, a little girl, Zoey, wanders over to the shore and notices that the water is receding. She calls her dad, who picks her up and then sees what's happening. An alarm goes off and everyone, realizing that it means a tsunami, runs for shelter. One of the choppers reports something spotted offshore, while on the Saratoga's flight deck, Serizawa uses his binoculars to get a better look at something in the water being illuminated by a chopper's spotlight. It turns out to be three tell-tale rows of gigantic spines that are heading right for the ship. Everyone braces for impact, when the giant dives down beneath the ship, swims straight under it, bits of him being illuminated by the spotlight, and then rises up on the other side, displacing a couple of other boats as everyone rushes over there to see. On shore, a poor dog who's been left tied up to a palm tree barks as the huge waves begin to come in. He manages to pull himself free and runs down the street, the wave right behind him, and joins the crowd of screaming people as they run down the street, climbing over cars and everything else as they try to find shelter. Zoey and her parents manage to make it inside the doors of a building, right before the wave rushes past outside and engulfs a bunch of people who weren't so lucky. The streets are now completely flooded, power lines and palm trees getting knocked down and vehicles floating in the water like bath toys. Those who managed to get up on the roofs of the buildings watch the carnage unfold before them, when one of the SWAT teams atop a condo shoot some red flares up into the air. The flares illuminate only a small portion of Godzilla's enormous body as he passes by, everybody looking up in awe at him. But then, everybody has to take cover as the SWAT teams fire upon with their machine guns. Godzilla, however, pays them no mind and strolls past, making his way around a nearby building, as they can do nothing but just watch.

In the jungle, the special forces team collect themselves and realize from his howls in the distance that the MUTO has escaped, as power returns to Honolulu. The tram reactivates as well, but the lights of the airstrip illuminate the MUTO, who's walking beside the tram-line; in short, the car is heading right for him. Everyone takes cover as the choppers pass by, firing on him, and then notices the tram approaching him. He roars at it and Ford and everyone else runs to the back of the car, as he slices through the track and much of the car's front. The inside becomes slanted and everyone tries to keep from sliding out, though a few are unable to save themselves and fall to their doom. Ford manages to grab on and hold himself, while also catching Akio when he slides towards him. Men on the airstrip run for it, with one man taking shelter underneath a plane, not noticing the water that rushes in around his feet. Another chopper comes in, firing on the MUTO, but they then have to swerve to avoid slamming into Godzilla when he appears in front of them. This sends them towards the MUTO, unable to get out of the way, and they hit the side of one of his front legs and crash down amidst the landed planes, causing their fuselages to burst into massive explosions and panic those inside the nearby terminal. An enormous foot comes down by the terminal's window and the MUTO turns and roars at the oncoming monster. The camera pans up Godzilla's front until it stops on his head and he roars back at the MUTO in response. Back in San Francisco, Sam wakes up on the couch and sees a news report that shows footage of Godzilla battling the MUTO, before he eludes him and flies away, Godzilla heading back into the water after him. He's so transfixed by this that he doesn't hear his mother tell him repeatedly that it's bedtime. When she gets in view of the TV, she points it out to her, saying, "Mommy, look! Dinosaurs!" That's when Elle sees what's on the news and is speechless at it.

In the ruins of the completely destroyed Honolulu, as droves of people try to find shelter and medical assistance, Ford tries to help Akio find his parents, but they end up finding him. Once that's settled, Ford talks to a sergeant, introducing himself a lieutenant before asking for help getting to the mainland. He's told that's where where the monsters are heading and, therefore, so are all the naval transports. Ford then realizes this means his family is in danger. In the next shot, we see that Navy battleships, including the Saratoga, are following Godzilla, flanking him on each side as he swims to the mainland. Onboard the Saratoga, they see that the monsters are converging on San Francisco, with Serizawa adding that Godzilla is hunting the MUTO. He realizes that, through its echolocation, the MUTO was calling something other than Godzilla and he then tells them to focus their search on Nevada. When asked why Nevada, Serizawa and Graham mention the other spore found in the cavern in the Philippines, which, after examination, was taken, "Where you put all your nuclear waste." A team is dispatched to investigate the nuclear waste depository in the Yucca Mountains. Once inside, they check every vault that contains radioactive materials. Most of them are clear, until one soldier opens the latch on one vault door and a stream of sunlight shines through. Opening it, they find that the entire side of the mountain has been ripped open and, when they climb outside, one soldier looks through his binoculars and sees that Las Vegas is just up ahead... and the recently hatched MUTO is heading right for it. Inside a casino there, patrons are shown to be completely unaware of the approaching danger, even though footage of it appears on the news of a TV that's right above the slot machines. The power then goes out, making everybody groan, and those groans turn to terrified screams when the MUTO rips a huge hole open in the ceiling. Afterward, as the place is being evacuated, some firefighters break into a suite to see if there's anyone in there but when they do, they find the wall of the room has been ripped open, giving them a view of the destroyed Las Vegas (all while Elvis Presley singing You're the Devil in Disguise is heard playing inside). The scene finishes with a big, wide shot of the destroyed city, as the MUTO continues trudging through the desert in the background.

On the Saratoga, the crew is shown footage of the new MUTO. Graham notes how much larger it is than the other, and when they see that it doesn't have wings, they realize that it's likely a different gender: a female. Therefore, the call the other MUTO let out through echolocation was a mating call and that the two of them are seeking radiation in order to reproduce. That's when they come up with the plan to lure the monsters far out to sea with a nuclear warhead and kill them with the blast. Graham, however, says that the plan is insane and Serizawa suggests to Stenz that Godzilla may be the answer, that he may defeat the MUTOs. Stenz, however, is not about to let another monster run wild to get rid of two others and gives the order to prep the warheads and get them on the move to San Francisco. Elsewhere, on a military transport plane that Ford managed to hitch a ride on, everyone is told that they've got a new destination and Ford is informed of the second MUTO. They land in Lone Pine, California, and once he's on the ground and disembarks from a truck, Ford spots a train carrying a nuclear warhead. Hearing that the train is heading for San Francisco, Ford attempts to talk his way onto the train, telling the master sergeant that he's with explosive ordinance disposal. The sergeant is reluctant to allow him to come along but then, Ford tells him that his family is in San Francisco. Ford then calls Elle while she's at work at San Francisco General Hospital and reassures his frightened wife that he'll be there by the next morning and that he'll take her and Sam to safety. They say their goodbyes and Ford boards the train, while news reports show how far the female MUTO's EMP reaches, as civilians are advised to stay indoors and off the roads. As panic grips the country, the roads clogged with vehicles, both moving and crashed, Stenz tells the president that the warheads are on the move. Now that they really have go-ahead for the mission, they begin to try to find the MUTOs' exact location, while Serizawa asks Stenz not to go through with this plan. However, the admiral tells him that, with millions of lives at risk, he only wants to know if the plan to kill the monsters will work. Serizawa tells them that nuclear weapons were tried before but Captain Hampton tells him that these warheads are much more powerful, commenting, "Makes the bomb we tried to kill it with in '54 look like a firecracker."

That night, as the train travels through the ravaged countryside, Ford and Sergeant Morales refit the warhead their traveling with, replacing the electric detonator with an analog, clockwork one. Suddenly, an explosion occurs beyond a ridge that they're traveling towards and the train comes to a stop. Seeing more explosions and gunfire from the spot, everyone disembarks, as they try to contact the squad up ahead to see if the bridge on the other side of the tunnel they've come to is clear. As Ford cautiously walks towards the tunnel, the other hear the sound of men shouting over the radio. Three other soldiers join him and walk through the tunnel and reach the bridge on the other side. Deciding to see if it is intact, they split up into pairs, with Ford and Sgt. Morales checking the top while the other two climb down below to make sure the supports aren't damaged. After a moment where Morales trips and drops his flashlight down to the ground below, the two down there barely avoid the burning wreckage of a tank that skids across the ground towards them. They then see that the wreckage from a river near them, which is full of such debris. One of the soldiers blow their whistle, while up above, Ford and Morales reach the other side of the bridge with no problems. Morales radios the others that it's intact and tells them they're clear to move out, neither of them seeing something coming over the ridge behind them. The train starts moving again, while below the bridge, one of the soldiers tries to make out a garbled communication coming through. Suddenly, one of the "support beams" moves, revealing that it's actually the leg of the female MUTO. Up on the bridge, Ford and Morales lie down flat, as the MUTO walks beside the bridge and then underneath it, making loud, trilling sounds as she moves. Morales' radio crackles lightly, with some slight sounds emitting from it, and he tries to deactivate it, but Ford motions for him to lie still. The MUTO emerges on the other side of the bridge and looms over them. She moves her open mouth towards them, when she hears the sound of the approaching train. Howling in response, she starts crawling over the bridge, her sets of legs on either side of it and her belly full of glowing eggs hovering over the two soldiers below. Once she clears them, they stand up and watch as she disappears into the mist. They hear the sound of men shouting and gunfire, and then, the train, its front car now engulfed in flames, comes hurtling towards them. They run for it across the bridge, only for the MUTO to blindside them and crash through it, killing Morales instantly. Ford jumps down into the river below and, after avoiding the burning wreckage that crashes down with him, looks up from the water as the MUTO approaches the rest of the train on the bridge, feeding on the warheads. Meanwhile, the Saratoga loses track of Godzilla, who dives completely beneath the water, displacing enough it to cause the battleship to tilt over slightly. Stenz is told that he's changing course and is going to outrun them.

Come morning, Ford, injured, covered in mud, but alive, awakens amongst the wreckage by the river's edge to the sound of a helicopter approaching. Seeing that it's an evac team that's come to salvage the one intact warhead, he stumbles towards where it's hovering, catching the attention of one of the soldiers, who yells for a medic. Elsewhere, at San Francisco General Hospital, Elle learns that the armed forces are transporting children and critical patients across the bridge. Laura tells Elle that she can take Sam with her if she wants, since shelters in the city are going to fill up soon, but Elle tells her that she's confident Ford will be there soon. Outside, children are being loaded up into school buses, as the military helicopters transporting the warhead fly over them. Aboard one of the helicopters, Ford asks where the warhead is being taken and a soldier tells him of the plan to lure the monsters offshore with it. The warhead is then lowered on a small Navy vessel, while at the hospital, the buses are about to depart. Elle then decides that it might be best to have Laura take Sam and she puts him on the bus with her, telling him that she and Ford will come get him soon. They then say their goodbyes as the bus' door closes, and as it pulls away, Elle's face shows that she's wondering if she'll ever see Sam again. Meanwhile, in Oakland, California, a tactical operations command center has been set up and the helicopter carrying Ford lands. He's disembarked and given a medical exam, while Admiral Stenz arrives at the makeshift command center and is given the location of the monsters: the male MUTO was spotted near the Fairland Islands, the female possibly near Livermore, and Godzilla has descended below a depth of 10,000 feet and should arrive within an hour. Hearing this and looking at the images from the news reports on the TV screens, Stenz is horrified to see that there are still school buses on the Golden Gate Bridge.

On the bridge, the road is jammed with cars and buses, as the police try to get them through safely. One officer walks up to a bus to try to tell the driver something but he can't hear because of how rowdy and loud the kids are; all save for Sam, who sits their quietly. The kids are then distracted as tanks move in and take up positions on the sides of the bridge, aiming their turrets out at the ocean, at a bay that's full of small Navy vessels. The vessels are blaring their horns, when suddenly, a strange, reverberating noise from across the ocean, causing the kids inside the bus to instantly stop chattering. Everyone looks out towards the bay, wondering what the sound was, and are startled when a massive flock of seagulls come flying by, clearly frightened of something. On one of the vessels, they spot something approaching them from port and when they look, they see Godzilla's spines cutting through the water, as he heads towards. They brace themselves for impact, when he suddenly stops and sits there in the water, as the men are told to hold their fire. Godzilla's enormous tail rises out of the water and he tries to swim underneath the ships and rise up, but they get caught along his spines and back. They start firing on him in a panic, but the angle they're at causes some of the shells to veer off towards the bridge, panicking the kids in the one bus. The driver goes for it, driving past the cars blocking him and through the police barricades, when some shells hit the bridge's suspension cables on the right side, knocking them loose and causing them to slam down on the road. The driver stops short of the large cable, as troops run to the edge of the bridge, one of them telling the vessels to hold their fire. But, another round of shells is fired, only for Godzilla to inadvertently shield the civilians from them when he rises up beside the bridge. The armed forces on the bridge open fire on him and he lets out a roar as he grabs the suspension cable on the left side of the bridge, tearing it apart as he grips it. Again, the school bus driver decides to go for it, driving through the troops, while they continue hitting Godzilla with everything they have. The kids on the bus panic at what's happening, and it turns out that the driver was smart in getting them out of there, as Godzilla smashes through the center of the bridge at the spot where they were just moments before. The bus makes it safely to the other side of the bridge, and as Godzilla continues taking the abuse, those on the vessel housing the nuclear warhead arm it. The warhead is now set to explode in 90 minutes.

But, at that very moment, all of the vessels are hit with a tell-tale EMP, losing their power, as does all of San Francisco. At the hospital, when the power goes out on the inside of an ambulance she was working out of, Elle walks a short distance and sees someone parachuting down nearby. Said parachuter's fight jet crashes into a building behind, sending people running to escape the debris that rains down on them. Another jet crashes into the bay, followed by several more as they come whirling down, one of which lands right beside the vessel containing the warhead, knocking the men off their feet. No sooner do they get their wits about them when the male MUTO comes screeching down at them from directly above. They fire on him but he splashed down right on top of them, completely submerging the vessel. Onlookers on the shore are then sent running when he explodes out of the water and crawls onto shore, clutching the vessel in his mouth. He slams it down in the middle of the freeway and pries it loose from the wreckage before flying off with it. He lands atop a nearby building and watches a row of buildings collapsing down the street in front of him. Calling out, he gets a response and flies down the street, where his mate emerges from the large cloud of smoke she's created from the demolished buildings. The two of them approach each other and let out loving calls, nuzzling each other's heads and almost seeming to kiss when they touch the ends of their beak-like mouths, before the female takes the warhead her mate offers to her. Placing it down to the ground, she starts smashing in small structures to create a nest around it, while her mate flies off. Back in Oakland, a physician working for FEMA tells Ford that Sam is safe but he doesn't know of Elle's whereabouts. Ford then hears someone calling for him and we cut to a briefing where Captain Hampton tells a team of the situation, that the male MUTO has delivered the armed warhead to the middle of San Francisco and that there's no way they can stop it remotely. The captain of the team tells them that they can only approach the warhead via a HALO insertion, at an altitude of 30,000 feet. Serizawa tells them their best bet is to search underground for the warhead, as the MUTOs are likely building a nest. Ford then joins the meeting and tells them that, since he retro-fitted the warhead himself, he only needs a minute to disarm it. He's welcomed into the team, and when someone asks what Plan B is, it turns out to be to get the bomb on a boat and away from the city before it explodes. With that, everyone heads out, but Hampton takes Ford aside and tells him that there's no extraction plan for this operation; he says that he'll do whatever is necessary. After he leaves, Stenz joins Serizawa outside and asks him if he thinks Godzilla has a chance in stopping the MUTOs. Serizawa answers, "The arrogance of man is thinking nature is in our control, and not the other way around. Let them fight."

In San Francisco, the male MUTO is wreaking havoc, flying by some buildings and landing on top of one, its roof crumbling beneath his weight. Elle and a bunch of other people in the streets run for it upon seeing this, only to stop in their tracks when Godzilla rises up above the buildings on the other end. With no where to go, the people run inside a shelter, as the MUTO flies at Godzilla and the monsters begin their battle. Later, as the sun is setting, the plane carrying the team who are will make the HALO jump travels through the sky. One of the men onboard reads a prayer aloud, while Ford takes a small photo of Elle and Sam out of his pocket and looks at it. The lights inside the plane turn from green to red, meaning that it's time and everyone puts on their oxygen masks as the back ramp of the plane opens up. Putting their visors on, they make the jump down to the thick cloud cover below them, holding flares that give off streams of smoke to mark their positions. They pass through the clouds, lightning flashing below them and thunder clapping around, and within seconds, the city comes into view. The two fighting monsters also appear, as Godzilla throws the MUTO and Ford falls by him as he opens his mouth for a roar. After some more falling, Ford deploys his chute and lands on the street. Removing it, he sees Godzilla's shadow pass across the front of a nearby building and he runs to the street intersection to get a better look, getting a glimpse of his backside and his tail as he passes by. He then hears his team regrouping behind him and joins them, where it's revealed that two of their men didn't make it and that snipers are moving in on the rooftops. Using a tracking device, they get a fix on the warhead and start heading towards it, though it looks as if they're running straight into hell.

Following the signal, they run down the street a fair distance before taking cover behind some abandoned vehicles. One soldier is given the signal to look and see what's ahead of them, and when he does, peering through the broken windows of a car, he sees the female MUTO squatting down and laying her eggs in a pit she's dug into the road beneath her. Suddenly, sections of the buildings behind them crumble and they turn to see Godzilla, silhouetted by the fog and smoke, looming over them. He looks down at them but then, turns his attention to the MUTO up ahead and lets out a very long and loud roar, challenging her. Looking up, and having finished laying her eggs, she stomps towards him, clearing the way for the troops to go on ahead. The two monsters charge at each other and begin battling, Godzilla managing to get the upperhand by grabbing the female by the neck and biting at her as he shoves her back. The troops reach the edge of the nest and realize that the warhead is down within its depths. Once down there, they make their way through the rubble and find a chamber where a large membrane containing hundreds of eggs is hanging down from the ceiling, extending all along the ceiling and the walls. As Ford illuminates it with his flashlight, he can see little baby MUTOs flailing around inside the eggs. He then sees that they've found the warhead and are trying to detach it from the rubble it's wrenched and glued into. They only have 27 minutes before it explodes. Up above, Godzilla forces the female through the streets. She tries to brace herself by grabbing onto some buildings on either side of them but he manages to push her straight through and get her down on the ground, her head and part of her arm smashing through the window of the shelter where Elle is. Snipers on nearby rooftops watch as she's shoved down again when trying to get back up and Godzilla pins her down with his foot. Trapped, she lets out a cry for help, and the male comes in behind Godzilla and grabs him with his back legs, dragging him off of her. Godzilla manages to grab one of his legs with his mouth and tries to fling him off, but the male holds on and slams back down on him. The female joins in and charges Godzilla, smashing him into the side of a weakened building, causing it to crumble. Godzilla turns and glares at the female, trying to get at her, but the male jumps on his nape. He swings around and tries to bite him but he jumps away, and the female hits him from the other side, knocking him to the ground, sending debris down into the nest below.

Speaking of which, they troops have managed to get the warhead down and Ford prepares to disarm it, only for them to find that the casing is so damaged that they can't get it open. With no time to find a way to get it open, they decide to resort to Plan B and get it down to the waterfront. They lift it up and begin the arduous trek of getting it out of the debris-filled chamber and up to the street. After lifting up a barrier to clear their way, Ford is about to join them, when he looks back at the MUTO eggs and realizes they're just as much of a threat as the warhead. He opts to stay behind and deal with them, while up above, Godzilla is getting pummeled by his opponents. Distracted by the male on his back, he's left open to attack by the female, who lunges into him and topples him against the side of a building, sending it crashing down behind him. The snipers on the rooftops watch as he's forced down to the ground and pummeled mercilessly, the male flying up into the air and then stomping down on him. As the troops exit the nest with the warhead, Ford smashes open the gas-valve on a discarded tanker truck with an axe and then scrambles to get out before the spewing gas ignites one of the several fires burning down in the nest. He climbs up out of it right as the nest explodes and the force of it sends him flying through the air. The explosions rips through the streets and, seeing it, the female runs to her nest. While the troops continue transporting the warhead, the male stops his assault on Godzilla and flies after his mate, who reaches the nest and sees that all of her eggs have been incinerated. She lets out an anguished cry, while nearby, Ford tries to crawl to safety. In doing so, he knocks against a piece of rubble, creating a sound that gets the female's attention. Seeing him, she realizes that he's the one responsible and moves towards him, trapping him. But, before she can attack, a blue glow to her right distracts both her and Ford, who turn to see Godzilla's spines beginning to blow, starting from the tip of his tail and running up along his back. A humming sound accompanying it intensifies until Godzilla lets loose his atomic blast, hitting her right in the face with it and forcing her back. The team carrying the warhead hear this and, when they look, are shocked and amazed at what they're seeing. The female tries to charge at Godzilla but he blasts her again, badly burning her and causing her to collapse to the ground. This gives Ford the chance to escape, and just as Godzilla is about to finish the female off, her mate, again, blindsides him, jumping on the back of his neck. He swings around and gets after the male, who jumps off him and onto a building, as the troops reach the waterfront and find a boat. They have to basically hotwire it but they manage to get it up and running. However, as soon as it's activated, a horn blares from it and this rouses the attention of the female, who begins stomping towards the waterfront, just as they're attempting to load the bomb onto the boat.

Seeing that she's coming for them, they try to load the bomb onto the boat as fast as they can, but it doesn't take her long to get virtually on top of them. Godzilla, meanwhile, still has his hands full with the male, who again flies at him, grabs onto him, holds him from the back of his neck, and bites into him. Godzilla, however, manages to bite his head and fling him, smashing him into the side of a building before letting him go. He watches as the MUTO comes around for another pass but, having had enough of this, he waits until the male is about to latch onto him and slams him into the face of another building with his tail, impaling him on some shrapnel and finally putting an end to him. Godzilla turns away and, clearly tired, tries to get his breath, only for the structurally-compromised building to come crashing down on him, knocking him to the ground. The people inside the nearby shelter, including Elle, can only scream and try to shield themselves from the debris. In the street, Ford, equally hurt and tired, runs and then has to stop for a breath, when he turns and sees Godzilla, holding himself above the street and breathing heavily. The two of them lock eyes for a few seconds before the dust cloud completely obscures Godzilla, and then, Ford hears the sounds of gunfire by the waterfront. Rushing over there, he sees the female MUTO, looming over the boat with the warhead, take out the last few troops shooting at her. She's about to grab the warhead, when a bazooka hits her on the side of the head, followed by some more when she turns to look. She stomps towards a nearby walkway to deal with the squad firing on her, and Ford rushes to the boat, shielding himself when she literally bites down on the squad and smashes more of the waterfront to kill some others firing on her. Ford reaches the boat and, seeing that the bomb will explode in another 13 minutes, tries his best to get the casing off but it holds fast. Out of options, he starts the boat and prepares to get it out to sea, setting it on autopilot and plotting a position on the GPS. He manages to push the boat away from the dock and collapses, waiting for the autopilot to do its job. Then, everything shuts down and he sees the female looming over him. She leans down, roaring at him, and he pulls out his handgun in a last ditch effort to protect himself. Just as she's about to kill him, she suddenly stops and finds herself unable to move. She turns her head to see that Godzilla has grabbed onto her shoulder with his powerful jaws and he pulls her around, forces her jaws open, and shoots his atomic blast straight down her throat, blasting her head right off her body in his hands. He lets out a long, triumphant roar, and then drops her head in the water, as the effects of the female's EMP wear off. Ford's boat reactivates and starts on its course again. He watches as Godzilla climbs back onto shore and then collapses on the deck, watching Godzilla do the same. With five minutes left, Ford just rolls over and exhales, appearing to accept his fate. Then, a spotlight from a helicopter shines down on him from above and before he knows it, he's lifted up into it and is flown back to the city, the nuke finally exploding in the distance.

The next day, rescue and recovery operations are well underway, amidst both the rubble and Godzilla's enormous body, as he lies stretched across the streets. At a nearby sports stadium, which has been converted into a makeshift shelter, Ford walks while carrying Sam, needing the use of a single crutch on his right side. He walks into the center of it, searching for Elle, and as more people are found in the rubble and familes are reunited, Serizawa and Graham approach the fallen monster, both of them near tears at the prospect of him apparently being dead. Suddenly, Godzilla exhales and awakens, making a low, growling noise, much to the scientists' relief. In the stadium, Ford seems to have given up on finding Elle, when Sam walks away from him to run to Elle, who has just walked in. Elle tearfully embraces her son, and then, when she sees Ford, the two of them embrace and kiss, finally reunited. They don't notice that the people in the stadium have begun cheering and whistling, as they're watching news footage on the big screens of Godzilla returning to the sea, accompanied by the headline: KING OF THE MONSTERS - SAVIOR OF OUR CITY? He tiredly lumbers through the city, to the shoreline, as Serizawa, Graham, and everyone else watches. He lets out one last mighty roar, as fighter jets pass over him, before heading down into the water, swimming out and then diving down, vanishing from view.

Alexandre Desplat, who scored movies like The King's Speech and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, did the music for the film and, while I wish they'd made use of contemporary versions of some of Akira Ifukube's classic themes, Desplat composed an excellent score that fits perfectly with the movie it accompanies. The main title theme, which you also hear near the end of the climax and over the first part of the ending credits, is a really powerful, brassy, driving piece that really speaks to the power of the monsters, particularly Godzilla himself, and is so hyperbolic in how it sounds that almost feels like something you would have heard in a 50's monster movie. It just builds and builds in momentum and power until it comes to a sudden stop and transitions into a soft, haunting piece that's accompanied by the sound of a woman vocalizing, a similar theme of which is also heard here and there in the score, giving the monsters an otherworldly quality to them as well. One of my absolute favorite parts of the score is the theme that's played during Godzilla's approach towards Honolulu, where he causes the tsunami. Again, that theme is just a constant drive of pure power, with quickly-playing strings accompanied by pounding brass sounds and occasional moments of calm before it starts back up again. The section you hear when the dog is running from the wave and joins the crowd of fleeing people is my favorite part of is theme, as it accentuates how Godzilla is just an unbiased and unstoppable force of nature. In fact, all of the music for the action scenes are really memorable and pulse-pounding, and the score is equally as adept at conveying the quieter, more atmospheric and emotional moments. The music works so well in those latter moments that it's a shame that the dramatic scenes with the human characters don't have more impact, but the sad piece that you hear when Godzilla is getting overwhelmed and pummeled by the MUTOs really makes you feel for him. And the score ends with a couple of really awesome pieces, first with a triumphant horn bit when Godzilla kills the female MUTO, transitioning into a softer, somber theme when he collapses on shore, and then with the music that closes the movie. It starts out low and sad, as you see the cleanup and recovery operation, as well as Godzilla lying on the ground, looking as if he's dead, when he comes to. You then hear some bit that, fittingly, are Asian in their tenor, and after some emotional music when Ford is reunited with Elle, you get this great, triumphant and heroic theme as Godzilla heads back to the ocean, swells when he roars one last time, and then finishes with one last flourish before quieting as he disappears beneath the water.

Besides some of the songs that you hear in the film, like the aforementioned You're the Devil in Disguise and Dusty Springfield's Breakfast in Bed, the most notable use of existing music in the music is that of Gyorgy Ligeti's haunting Requiem, which most people remember from its use in 2001: A Space Odyssey. In this case, it's used during the HALO jump sequence and it fits with that scene's haunting images, making it look as if they're actually descending into hell, especially when you see glimpses of Godzilla fighting the male MUTO is silhouette as Ford as passes by them.

Godzilla 2014 is a perfect example of a mixed bag of a movie and one where there's about as much good as there is bad. On the plus side, Gareth Edwards' direction is, for the most part, very solid, Bryan Cranston gives a great performance and Ken Watanabe gives the movie a feeling of gravitas with his presence, the special effects are fantastic all-around, Godzilla is very well-realized, as are the MUTOs, the film has its fair share of memorable scenes and sequences, as well as images reminiscent of many past disasters, and the music score is pitch perfect. But, that said, the movie does deserve the flack that it gets for the negative aspects it does have: the human characters are very bland and shallow, the drama the film tries to create between them isn't that compelling, Cranston is killed off far too early, and the monsters' limited screentime, while not unprecedented, is further compounded by the lack of many compelling characters or any camp factor to keep the viewer entertained, a respectable but ultimately ill-advised less is more approach, Godzilla himself feeling like an afterthought in the story of a film that's named after him, a final battle that's often hard to make out because of the murky cinematography, and a very frustrating habit of teasing monster fights and not delivering on them. While I was disappointed at the time, looking at this movie in retrospect, I can appreciate it well enough, especially for how its success revived Godzilla and broke him into the mainstream, and I feel that Edwards' heart was in the right place, but it could have been so much more satisfying. At the end of the day, I would recommend it for the very good qualities it does have, especially to Godzilla and monster fans, but would also caution you to not go into it thinking you're going to get an all-out kaiju battle royale, because that's not what you're going to get at all.