In 2010, Legendary Pictures acquired the rights from Toho to bring Godzilla back into mainstream pop culture via a big budget American made film, the first one since Roland Emmerich's insulting attempt in 1998 with Gareth Edwards, who had headed the independent creature-feature/road trip movie Monsters, attached to direct and actors such as Aaron Taylor Johnson of Kickass, Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad and Ken Watanabe of Inception filling in as the lead human characters. It was released in May 16th, 2014 and for a while was number 1 at the box office before X-Men: Days of Future Past took that title. Unlike 1998 which is almost genuinely hated by critics and G-Fans, this movie came out more mixed. Some people liked it, others didn't. Now, while I can understand SOME reasons from people who didn't like it, I don't understand OTHER reasons. Well, I'm here to set the record straight (or at least try) and offer my defenses for one of the most overlooked and misread films of 2014.
1. "It was a whitewashed remake of the 1954 film": Let me put it as simply as I possibly can; Godzilla '14 is not a remake of the 1954 film it is a reboot. Remake means updating a movie for a new generation (Ex. The Thing, King Kong and Bram Stoker's Dracula). Reboot means taking an already established franchise, wiping the slate clean and starting over from scratch. Godzilla '14 falls under that category. If it WERE a remake then don't you think the characters would share the names of the ones in 1954, Dr. Serizawa would have his eye patch and we'd see the Oxygen Destroyer? Besides, they had a character who WAS Japanese who pretty much shared the same name as the character in Gojira, Dr. Serizawa. Godzilla '14 is the start of a new universe and a new continuity. And, correct me if I'm wrong but, isn't Godzilla a global threat anyway and not just to Japan?
2. "They got Godzilla wrong": How? He has an upright build, he has serrated back spikes, he has a blue oral Atomic Blast, he's charcoal gray, he's invincible, he fights other monsters, he feeds on radiation, he isn't an asexual coward and he has ties to the H-Bomb testings. How did they get him wrong? His origin? No, that can't be it because his origin is taken word-for-word from the 1954 origin (his first back story). Oh, wait, my mistake, you were talking about Zilla. I'm sorry, I got confused. NEXT!
3. "Bryan Cranston was the only good character": Okay, yes, Joe was easily the best character in the film and he was only in it for fifteen minutes before he got killed off. HOWEVER! That doesn't mean he was the only good character. The characters in the film had layers to them and it was the job of the audience to look deep into those layers and follow along with the story. The characters all had motivations. Ford tried to get to his family not just because Joe told him to do it but because he had just lost both parents to Hokmuto (the male MUTO) and was powerless to stop them and now he had a chance to stop history from repeating itself with his own wife and son. Also, Ford is a SOLDIER. Soldiers are trained to rein in their emotions under pressure and not only that but, Ford is an Explosives Ordinance Disposal unit whose job is disabling bombs when there aren't any minesweepers around and one mistake in the defusing process could result in him becoming red mist. Elle has been criticized as a weak female lead when really she's stronger than you would think. She's a military wife who has rotate being a nurse at a hospital and being a single parent for Sam whenever Ford is deployed. Anyone who has a spouse/family member in the military should know how this feels. Also, imagine yourself as a civilian who has little to no military experience and all of a sudden your home town comes under attack by three giant monsters who shouldn't even exist and yet here they are spitting the Square Cube Law right in the face and don't care a damn about you.
4. "Godzilla got his ass kicked": First of all, Godzilla won in the end so that criticism has lost all meaning. Second of all, whenever Godzilla was fighting Hokmuto and Femuto one-on-one, he utterly owned them and it was when they started ganging up on him, the tide of the battle shifted in their favor. Third and finally, THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME THIS HAS HAPPENED! There have been times when Godzilla has had difficulty in fighting more than one monster (Terror of MechaGodzilla, Mothra vs. Godzilla, Final Wars etc) and he's even lost in a few of those movies.
5. "Godzilla was barely in the movie": Again, this is not the first time Godzilla movies have done this. Godzilla vs. Mothra II had more focus on Mothra and Battra, Godzilla vs. Megalon only had him show up in full form in the third act, he was barely a focus in Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II had more focus on Godzilla Junior and Azusa Gojo's relationship. Hell, in the first movie, Godzilla only had 10 minutes of screen time and most of it was dedicated to him ripping Tokyo apart and this film has him in it for the same amount if not more. Also, Godzilla's screen time was only used when things got REALLY intense. It wasn't like 1998 which used Zilla to divert the attention away from the Rom-Com baloney. The conflict between Godzilla and the MUTOs was front and center and the filmmakers made sure it stayed like that. Also, some of the best Godzilla movies are the ones that focus on the human characters because we can see ourselves in their position and empathize with them as opposed to something that we can't really tell what it's thinking. If you just have monsters duking it out on screen for 2 hours, it. Gets. BORING! Another thing, this movie is just establishing Godzilla. It's establishing how this universe works. Chances are, we're probably going to see more of Godzilla later down the line. This is just the FIRST of a trilogy.
6. "Godzilla was too much of a good guy": He came off as a good guy to the humans because he killed the MUTOs when really he was just rectifying balance. In the movie, humanity is basically portrayed as an ant colony compared to the monsters. Godzilla didn't care about the people he killed in the process nor did he really care about the humans shooting at him. The only moment, the only moment when he noticed the humans was when he was face-to-face with Ford after a building collapsed on him. Throughout the movie, neither Godzilla nor Femuto and Hokmuto cared about the humans and Femuto only started caring when they blew up her nest and she turned her attention on them. Humanity in the film was too stupid and saw Godzilla killing the MUTOs as him saving them as opposed to a wake-up call of how futile and measly we really are. There's a reason the news caption says "King of the Monsters; Savior of our City?" because we really don't know if we can trust him. I mean, he may have killed the MUTOs but he destroyed two cities in the process. If anything, Godzilla killed more people than he saved, and he wasn't even aware of them.
7. "Why didn't they use classic Godzilla monsters?": Remember the Nolan Batman trilogy? The first one had Scarecrow, Victor Zsasz and Ra's Al Ghul, three lesser used villains from Batman and in later sequels, we saw more well known Batman rogues such as Joker, Two-Face, Bane, Catwoman and Talia Al Ghul. Same thing applies with Godzilla '14. They are establishing Godzilla first and giving him new enemies in the form of Hokmuto and Femuto and ARE LATER including more well known enemies in the sequel. Speaking of which, we are getting Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah later on down the line and those are the most well-known of Godzilla's enemies.
8. "There wasn't any action until the end": The movie was not an action movie! It's not Pacific Rim which WAS an action movie! Godzilla '14 is a human-driven sci-fi disaster drama with monsters as the backdrop. Also, no action until the end? What about the Janjira nuclear plant melting down? What about the sequence in Honolulu? What about Godzilla arriving in San Francisco? Did those not count? And while we're here, I might as well talk about the scenes that cut away from the Kaiju action; Destroy All Monsters only had three major scenes of Kaiju action with most of it being shown on TV sets and yet that's regarded as a classic! The movie followed the basic formula for a story: characters, setting, conflict, rising action with a little bumps, climax, falling action and resolution. It was story-driven, NOT action-driven. It's not a Michael Bay movie. That's why the final battle in San Francisco had more of an impact, because there was build-up and pay-off. Gareth Edwards and the rest of Legendary Pictures wanted to make sure they stayed true to the formula and legacy of Godzilla and rectify the mistakes of 1998.
9. "The movie was an ad for the US military": If by "ad" you mean showing off how completely useless we were against the monsters then yes. All Ford did was delay the inevitable by blowing up Femuto's nest. Who was the one who took out both MUTOs? Oh yeah, that's right, GODZILLA!
10. "It got rid of the nuclear element": Godzilla, Femuto and Hokmuto all come from an age where the radiation on Earth was ten times greater than it is today, all three monsters feed on radiation, there were attempts to kill Godzilla using the H-Bomb "testings", the first and second action sequences take place in a nuclear power plant, Hiroshima is brought up in one scene and the weapon used in an attempt to kill all three monsters is a nuclear bomb. How is the nuclear element missing again?
11. "The color was bad": Seriously? You were concerned about the color? Godzilla started out dark, gritty and somber. The first film in 1954 was black-and-white. That would be like complaining about the Dark Knight because of its use of black and saying the light-shows that were the Schumacer Batman films were better because they were more colorful. Godzilla 1985 had a massive use of dark colors and shades (even at daytime scenes). Besides, the last American attempt had all of its New York scenes (which took up 93% of the film) in gray, rainy scenes. At least the new film had variety and the colors helped with the atmosphere of each scene. The 2014 film only had three scenes where it was in the rain.
Gareth Edwards is a huge fan of Godzilla and he didn't just take up the director's chair so he could make a quick buck, he did it because he loves the franchise and made sure it had story, characters and heart, which are completely absent from Godzilla '98.