My 13-year-old son is not into scary movies so when he asked about seeing the new Godzilla with his friends I thought about it for a minute and then said, "Why not?"
Godzilla (in IMAX 3-D) is the latest iteration of the classic Japanese monster movie. Directed by relative newcomer Gareth Edwards, it stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson (best known for the movie Kick-Ass) and features special effects that breathe new life into the classic giant monster genre.
If your child can handle a city-smashing spectacle that shows frightened crowds running from any number of disasters (collapsing nuclear power plants, floods, smashed bridges, falling rubble, the feet of giant monsters) then this movie could be appropriate for kids as young as 10.
Here’s my caveat: There are busloads of children in peril — and by busloads I mean they load children on buses and put them in peril. However, while soldiers and unlucky civilians may get in the way of the monsters, the peril never results in even an implied child death.
With its updated special effects this new Godzilla delivers the goods while still maintaining the uneasy balance between the human drama and the monster battles, which has always been a challenge for Godzilla movies.
A number of movies have recently featured extended scenes of cities being destroyed in IMAX 3D detail and I'm getting a case of city-smashing fatigue. On this point, however, I feel that Godzilla should get a pass because a guy in a rubber suit smashing models of Tokyo is what the whole franchise is based on.
Director Gareth Edwards made his reputation with a monster movie that didn'actually show any monsters. In the tradition of movies like Jaws and Alien he uses suspense and tantalizing glimpses of Godzilla to build up to the big reveal.
The real urban destruction begins about halfway into the film. By the time Godzilla and his monstrous adversaries get into their San Francisco smackdown the movie is almost over. You may hear criticism that there is not enough Godzilla in Godzilla but the filmmakers do a good job building up to the final monster mash so that the cool fun of the climactic battle is full of atomic fire.
Top 5 Godzilla movies
Before you see the new Godzilla movie, brush up on the classics. For those of you with sharp eyes the new movie is packed with Easter eggs that make reference to the original films. However, there are more than 30 films in the Godzilla franchise, running from the original in 1954 through Godzilla: Final Wars in 2004. Where do you begin? We've compiled a list of five films that introduce a number of the classic monsters and are so full of cheese that the kids should have a good time. (The films on this list are generally appropriate for ages 8 and up.)
The original. It feels quite old and doesn't have the kooky fun of a lot of the others but with Godzilla conceived as a metaphor for nuclear destruction it's more thoughtful than most Tokusatsu.
Everyone has a favorite Godzilla movie and/or monster and Mothra is one of the all-time greats, even though — as a giant moth — she isn't exactly terrifying. As a classic Godzilla movie it's hard to beat this film, and Mothra's entourage of miniature singing twins is, well, surreal. This is my favorite.
After Mothra, the franchise took a turn and Godzilla became the good guy battling his most formidable foe — the one monster considered his arch nemesis — the three headed dragon monster Ghidorah. (If you like Ghidorah you may also want to consider the popular 1991 film Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah.)
A truly bizarre mix of science fiction and giant monster movie complete with funky aliens. After the studio decided that Godzilla was the hero the movies became increasingly goofy and strange. This one was a big jump into that territory.
This movie was originally intended to be the final film in the franchise so the filmmakers pulled out all the stops and brought in all the monsters. It culminates in a massive battle royale featuring Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, Anguirus, Gorosaurus, Kumonga, Manda, Varan and Ghidorah. If you've dipped your toes into the world of Godzilla and find yourself wanting more this mega-battle is a treat.