Bryan Cranston is known for many things, Malcolm in the Middle, How I Met Your Mother and, of course, Breaking Bad. Now it’s one of his lesser-known roles that is making a big jump on the Netflix charts. Gareth Edward’s 2014 reboot of Godzilla sits at number 7 on Netflix’s global top 10. Perhaps it’s the new trailer for Godzilla vs. Kong fueling this rise, but whatever the reason, Bryan Cranston and his monster are enjoying its spoils.
The 2014 monster movie brought back the oft-misunderstood King of the Monsters in grand fashion. The story gave a brief re-telling of Godzilla’s fate in the mid-’50s when he’s lured to the Bikini Atoll where the attempt to destroy him with a nuclear bomb commences. Flash forward to the late 1990s where Bryan Cranston’s character, Joe Brody, is introduced, along with his wife Sandra (played by Juliette Binoche) and young son. Brody is the lead engineer at the Janjira nuclear plant in Japan, Sandra is the nuclear regulations consultant at the plant. When a seismic event takes place, Brody sends Sandra and a crew into the reactor to check for damage. When another, bigger, tremor hits, Brody is forced to close the door on his wife before she can make it out safely.
Jumping ahead 15 more years and Brody’s son Ford is now a U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal officer who has a wife and child of his own. The family lives in San Francisco but Ford is called to Japan because Brody (Bryan Cranston) has been caught trespassing in Janjira’s quarantine zone. He is hell-bent on finding out the cause of the tremor that killed his wife.
Ford’s arrival only makes Bryan Cranston’s character more determined and he convinces his son to help him. When they sneak back to the quarantine zone, they discover that it is uncontaminated but before they can tell anyone, they are captured and taken to a facility within the plant’s ruins. Once there, they finally understand what is happening. The plant has been harboring a creature they call MUTO, a massive chrysalis that has been feeding off the plant reactors for years. From this chrysalis emerges a winged creature, which destroys the facility, fatally injuring Brody in the process.
During Ford’s grief, it is explained to him that the nuclear tests in the mid-50s were an attempt to kill Godzilla. When it didn’t work, Project Monarch was established as an entity to study Godzilla and similar monsters. But MUTOs escape has awakened Godzilla and he has returned, first by causing a tsunami in Hawaii.
The military thinks that Godzilla and MUTO are teaming up to destroy the world but MUTO is actually looking for its mate. This causes Godzilla to battle both monsters, even though the military is trying to kill all three. But as well all know, nothing can kill Godzilla. Not even reboots. If only the same were true for Bryan Cranston.
Along with Bryan Cranston and Binoche, Godzilla starred Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, and David Strathairn. Edwards held down the directing duties from a script written by Max Borenstein. When Edwards got the green light from Warner he felt the movie, while not a remake, needed to keep the similar themes from the 1954 classic. Godzilla is a metaphor for Hiroshima in the original movie,” Edwards said via Gizmodo. “We tried to keep that, and there are a lot of themes from ’54 movie that we’ve kept. To me, if all we did was just have monsters smashing things up, then the film would be pointless.”
Bryan Cranston didn’t come to star in movie simply because he was a big fan of Godzilla as a child. “Godzilla was always my favorite monster when I was young. He was unapologetic,” he told the audience at the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con.
He also explained what drew him to become part of the film. “The most important thing about this version of Godzilla is the characterization. The characters in this are real, well drawn. [Edwards] takes the time to really establish who these people are, that you root for them, that you invest in these characters, and that you care for them. That’s the best part of it.” Bryan Cranston added, “I wouldn’t be here if it was just, ‘Look out, this monster is crushing everything!’ Instead of trying to humanize the beast what this film does – and, I think, rightfully so – is humanize the people. You root for them and sympathize with their plight”.
When Godzilla premiered, Legendary Pictures, the movie’s production company, estimated that the movie would need to gross $380 million for the film to break even. Things looked good for Godzilla on its opening weekend when the movie pulled in over $93 million. But as it often happens, movies take a nosedive the subsequent weekends, and such was the case for Godzilla, as it saw a 66% drop at the box office. By the time its domestic run concluded, Godzilla only brought in $201 million. Poor numbers for a movie that opened with a $93 million weekend. Thankfully for Legendary, the movie still had its international run. Once Godzilla invaded the rest of the world, it brought in a total of $529 million.
The movie received good critical reviews, even though after all was said and done, Bryan Cranston had a different outlook on his character that he shared with the Nerdist podcast (via CinemaBlend), “That character dying at that time was a mistake. It was. It was a mistake. I knew it when I read it. When I read it, I said, ‘Oh, page 50, this character – who is the emotional core, the center that was guiding the story up to that point – he dies? What a waste.’ And they kind of dealt with it poorly.”
Don’t let Bryan Cranston’s take on his character sour you on the movie. Godzilla is a solid blockbuster, loud, entertaining, with some heart and emotion.