Making the Grades
Three things are certain in life: Death, taxes and the return of Godzilla. But don’t think this bad beast is stuck in 1954. Just as his original movie from that year used nuclear bomb tests as the impetus for the plot, this new Godzilla also mines contemporary issues to find its storyline.
The film opens in 1999 when a mysterious earthquake shakes a Japanese nuclear power plant to the ground. Mysterious because the vibrations didn’t follow typical seismic patterns and were undetectable anywhere else except at that location. Ford Brody (CJ Adams), a young boy at the time, lived not far from the facility that also employed both of his parents. His mother (Juliette Binoche) died in the accident and his father Joe (Bryan Cranston) blames himself for not being able to save her.
Today Joe still harbors regret. As the only surviving member of the team that gathered data on the unusual ground movement, he is fixated about finding the truth behind the disaster. That, along with the desire to scavenge just one photograph of his wife from their abandoned home, draws the obsessed man back into the radioactive quarantine zone. Yet after he is arrested for trespassing and his son (now played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has to come to bail him out, Joe uses the reunion to drag the young man back to the compound to prove the fateful earthquake was more than just tectonics. Although he reluctantly follows, Ford is still convinced his father is mentally unstable.
This Godzilla delivers monsters in a bulk pack. Not only do we have the gigantic lizard to contend with, but the screenwriters of this epic have been thoughtful enough to provide him with live food to snack on—two huge, leathery insect-like creatures that feast upon radioactive matter in all its forms. Once the bugs have reached full charge they have the capacity to emit a massive EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) that plunges cities into darkness, brings planes falling from the sky and renders all modern technology useless. In a nod to our love for acronyms, these beasts are labeled MUTO—Massive Unknown Terrestrial Organisms.
Now the chase has begun. From Japan, to Hawaii, then Vegas and finally settling into San Francisco, the US military is helpless to intervene. Their last desperate plan is to launch a nuclear warhead off the Pacific coast with the hopes of attracting the monster trio and blasting them to bits. It’s a risky plan and a scheme not favored by Scientist Dr. Serizawa (Ken Wantanabe) and his assistant Vivienne (Sally Hawkins). While the scientist and the admiral (David Strathairn) debate an organic versus military solution, the trio of titans is wreaking havoc on the Bay City.
All this mayhem is about the only content concern in this film. The implied deaths of thousands and property damage that will send insurance executives running from theaters in panic may leave some preteens cowering in fear too. However the violence, with the exception of one monster losing its head, is never explicit and there are few blood effects. As well, parents will enjoy the lack of sexual content and relatively few profanities.
With present day concerns surrounding nuclear power, earthquakes, EMP attacks and allowing nature to bring equilibrium to the earth, there are more than a few surprisingly good discussion points embedded in this monster romp. There are also gaping plot holes and bad science—like the notion that detonating a mega nuke off the coast of California won’t have an apocalyptic outcome. But wait a minute! We came to see a monster movie. And if that’s your prime objective, parents and teens that are fans of this genre will likely leave feeling they got plenty of bang for their buck.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Godzilla (2014).
This movie contains many “stock” characters. These include the scientist who becomes emotionally attached to the monster, the military commander who feels force and technology can save the day, and the “everyday heroes”—in this case Ford (a solider) and a school bus driver transporting a load of children. Why do we immediately relate to these people? Why do screenwriters continue to use these stereotypes, especially in disaster/monster movies?
What are some of the current topics under discussion in Godzilla? How do contemporary issues in a completely fantastic, fictional movie make it seem more “real”?
Learn the history of the iconic monster Godzilla.