The Military Is Actually Powerless to Stop Godzilla
The Navy founders, monsters fight in new movie
Despite our recent claims to the contrary, the military is not ready for Godzilla. Or at least not the naval force audiences see in the current film.
The U.S. Navy plays a leading role in this summer’s Godzilla. But ultimately, the military is powerless against the monster.
The film centers around Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Lt. Ford Brody. Our hero is an explosive ordnance detonation technician in the American sailing branch.
Brody’s back from 14 months in the field and eager to see his wife and child. The plan is derailed when his father—played by former Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston—gets arrested for sneaking into a nuclear accident site.
The authorities call the son to pick up the father. The Brodys reunite. Hijinks ensue. A horrifying, dare I say moth-like, monster erupts from the nuclear accident site. Godzilla rises from the ocean.
And then humanity must battle the beasts and save the day.
Or maybe not.
The Navy is on full display in the movie—and it bungles every task it takes on. The sailing branch underestimates the monsters’ destructive capabilities, contrives awful plans to stop them and sends troops to die screaming in the maw of mutant horrors.
All the advanced technology in the world can’t help a fighting force with no operational imagination.
The troubled F-35 appears, only to get blown out of the sky by an electromagnetic pulse before it can do anything. It fits with the movie’s theme of man’s impotence and incompetence in the face of nature.
It’s also hilarious. The scene reinforces a strange and growing trope of the F-35 failing in movies.
And the Navy helped with this film. The sailing branch gave the crew access to filming locations and approved the script.
Maybe military consultants are subversively trying to let the world know how they really feel about these crappy new jets.
But an impotent military and a shitty new plane aren’t what the audience came to see. They came to see giant monsters rampage across cities. They came to see Godzilla kick ass.
He does. And it’s awesome.
Absent in Godzilla is the up-close, vomit-inducing shaky-cam style favored by movies like Cloverfield. Director Gareth Edwards shoots his monsters straight. He knows the audience wants to see them.
But he teases, building tension during the first half of the film by shooting the beasts only in passing. An ebony leg crests a pit. A child watches Godzilla on a TV news report.
When we do see the creatures in all their glory, the moment is special. Their immensity and power are beautiful because of how little you see.
These creatures are forces of nature. Godzilla, we’re told over and over, is supposed to bring balance. He’s the real hero of the movie. A giant lizard that’s just doing its job, fighting other monsters.
Brody is the same. The film makes that very clear.
Brody’s character arc mirrors Godzilla’s. They share looks, fall defeated at the same moments and rise up as one. No one thanks them for their hard work and sacrifice.
Godzilla just wants to slip back into the water for a nice, long, monster-free nap. Brody wants to get home to his family.
This movie is about giant monsters fighting while human scrambles to avoid getting crushed underneath. It’s about nature resolving itself while humans look on perplexed.
Brody is heroic, but only because he’s the protagonist. The audience needs a human to travel with. The vast majority of the people in the film—and especially the military—are powerless at best.
The films evokes recent real-world tragedies. Scenes take place in a sports arena full of refugees. Dust-covered civilians run for cover while buildings crumble around them.
A Japanese nuclear power plant melts down. The creatures eat nuclear ordnance for fuel.
These bits of cultural flotsam don’t matter. The audience forgets about them the moment Godzilla roars.
Sometimes we just want to see good guys fight bad guys … without too many complications. Even if they’re all monsters.
Of course the dialogue is cheesy, the action is blustering and the plot is full of holes. Godzilla works despite many flaws. It’s a perfect piece of escapist entertainment.