Godzilla is a giant monster or daikaiju originating from a series of tokusatsu films of the same name from Japan. He first appeared in Ishirō Honda's 1954 film Godzilla. Since then, Godzilla has gone on to become a worldwide pop culture icon starring in 28 films produced by Toho Co., Ltd.. The character has appeared in numerous other medium incarnations including video games, novels, comic books, and television series. A 1998 American reimagining was produced by Tri-Star Pictures (the title monster of which was renamed to Zilla by Toho for later appearances), while a second American version by Legendary Pictures was released on May 16, 2014. The character is commonly alluded to by the title King of the Monsters, an epithet first used in the Americanized version of Ishiro Honda's original 1954 film.
With the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Lucky Dragon 5 incident still fresh in the Japanese consciousness, Godzilla was conceived as a metaphor for nuclear weapons. As the film series expanded, some stories took on less serious undertones portraying Godzilla as a hero while other plots still portrayed Godzilla as a destructive monster; sometimes the lesser of two threats who plays the defender by default but is still a danger to humanity.
A reboot of the Godzilla film franchise, the film retells the origins of Godzilla in contemporary times as a "terrifying force of nature". It stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, and Bryan Cranston. The screenplay is credited to Max Borenstein but includes contributions from David Callaham, David S. Goyer, Drew Pearce, and Frank Darabont.
In 1954, a United States Castle Bravo test hydrogen bomb is used to destroy a large creature surfacing from the ocean. In 1999, Project Monarch scientists Ishiro Serizawa and Vivienne Graham investigate a colossal skeleton in a collapsed Philippines mine. Two egg-shaped pods are discovered, one broken open and leaving a trail to the sea. In Japan, the Janjira nuclear plant experiences unusual seismic activity. Joe Brody, the American-born plant supervisor, sends his wife, Sandra, and a team of technicians into the reactor to check the sensors. When the team is inside, the core is ruptured, releasing radioactive steam. Sandra and her team are unable to escape and the plant collapses into ruin.
Fifteen years later, Joe's son Ford is a United States Navy explosive ordnance disposal officer, living in San Francisco with his wife and son. Joe is arrested for trespassing at the Janjira exclusion zone, forcing Ford to return to Japan. Joe, convinced of a cover-up of the true cause of the disaster, convinces Ford to accompany him to their old home to retrieve vital seismic data he recorded before the plant's collapse. They find that Janjira is not contaminated, as the official report claimed. After recovering the seismic data, they are arrested and taken to a facility within the plant's ruins that contains a massive chrysalis. As they watch, a colossal winged creature emerges and escapes. Joe is wounded in the mayhem and later dies. Serizawa, Graham and Ford join a U.S. Navy task force tracking the creature, identified as a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). The task force is led by Admiral William Stenz.
On board the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, the scientists reveal the existence of Godzilla, an ancient alpha predator. Godzilla fed off radiation in an age when Earth's radiation levels were higher, but moved underground as levels declined. In 1954, it was awoken by a deep sea expedition and the early nuclear "tests" were in fact attempts to kill Godzilla. Monarch was formed to study the creature, while keeping its existence a secret. Ford reveals that Joe had monitored echolocation signals that indicated the MUTO was communicating with something else.
A U.S. Army Special Forces team finds the MUTO feeding off the wreckage of a Russian nuclear submarine in a forest near Honolulu. At Honolulu airport, Ford waits for a flight back to San Francisco, when the military attacks the MUTO and a battle ensues. Godzilla arrives, causing a tsunami that devastates Waikiki. After briefly fighting Godzilla, the MUTO flies away. Meanwhile, the second pod, housed at the Nevada Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, hatches into a large, female MUTO and destroys Las Vegas. The scientists conclude that the two MUTOs are communicating and will meet to breed.
The task force follows Godzilla, projecting that the monsters will meet in San Francisco Bay and Stenz approves a plan to use a nuclear explosion to kill all three monsters, despite the scientists' objections. After the female MUTO destroys the train carrying the warheads, the remaining warhead is airlifted to San Francisco and is armed. Before the plan can be put into action the male MUTO steals the armed warhead and presents it to the female, who constructs a nest around it in the downtown area.
The military fails to stop Godzilla when he arrives at the Golden Gate bridge and pulls back to allow the monsters to fight. During the ensuing battle between the monsters, Ford and a team of soldiers enter the city by HALO jump on a mission to disarm the warhead. Finding it damaged, they take it to a boat for disposal at sea. Ford destroys the nest and the female pursues the disposal team, while Godzilla kills the male MUTO by using its tail to smash the MUTO into a skyscraper. The female MUTO wipes out the disposal team at the boat, but she is killed by Godzilla's atomic breath before she can kill Ford. Godzilla collapses, while Ford pilots the boat out to sea and is rescued just before the warhead detonates.
In the aftermath of the battle, Ford is reunited with his wife and son. Godzilla, thought to be dead, suddenly awakens and lets out a final roar before returning to the sea as the media headlines label him the "King of the Monsters".