Godzilla, the movie as well as the creature, is appropriately huge and awe-inspiring. I feel that the emotional resonance works, maybe about as well as one could expect emotional resonance to work in a disaster movie. Disaster movies are often exercises in cleverness plus "wouldn't it be cool if..." thinking; the 1998 Devlin-Emmerich Godzilla, as clever as parts of it are (remember I liked some of it), feels more like a sitcom version of a disaster movie. "Oh, the self-absorbed anchorman doesn't see Godzilla walk right past his window!" This Godzilla film, post-9/11, post-the Indian Ocean tsunami, post-Haiti and post-Fukushima, wants what happens to hurt, to put the audience through an emotional wringer as nature F's our S up. And while on reflection some of the plot seems a little, a little, simplistic, and the acting ain't going to get Oscar-nominated (as good as Bryan Cranston can be notwithstanding), the sheer awful, and awe-full, scale of the action is what makes this Godzilla work.
(I'm not yet sure if certain moments my audience laughed at were meant to be funny. These moments were mainly when we see TV coverage of Godzilla and/or the other monsters. I think, at least in the Las Vegas sequence, that it's about there being so much noise and chatter in our modern world that even a 300-foot-long nuclear-powered katydid might not get immediately noticed if it showed up on TV. But I think I wasn't really in the mood to laugh, and either those moments or the audience's reaction to them bothered me briefly. And the film gets back to the awe pretty quickly.)
The 2014 American Godzilla doesn't come from the same cultural place, of course, as the original 1954 Godzilla from Japan; at most this film nods towards the original's context with a reference to Hiroshima. This film is more a metaphor for nature having far more control over our world than we might want to think it has. It's almost Lovecraftian that way: we can't fully know where Godzilla and the other monsters came from, but they are all likely far, far beyond our ability to control, or even corral. We have a LOT to learn before we can ever, say, stop earthquakes or stop hurricanes; the movie ultimately boils down to (literally, to quote the film) "Let them fight." That may be the only way to stop a force that big. We'd just have to feel small because of that.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier might be the first Marvel Studios film I'd recommend my dad see; he might appreciate it, due to the political thriller tropes it adds to the comic book action formula. And that'd be a worthwhile test to see if a film like Winter Soldier holds up for someone who probably hasn't seen any of the other Marvel films. I think it'd hold up, but then I've seen a lot (not all) of them. It's also clever as all get-out: our heroes are different flavors of smart, and smart-assed, people, who do some nice outside-the-box thinking to handle the situation. (I'm still smiling about the gum.)
The movie also makes me miss Washington, D.C. Good-looking area I've yet to see enough of; much of D.C. is so elegant (though the humidity is something one at best tolerates*). D.C.'s geography has changed a bit for story purposes -- apparently Arlington National Cemetery is somewhere else -- but not by that much. ("Oh," I thought, "the S.H.I.E.L.D. building is on Roosevelt Island!") D.C. often gets Cuisinart-ed in movies and TV shows until the geography makes no sense, so I like that this film makes it still feel reasonably like the D.C. I've visited. (Added: I've checked, so now I know much of the street stuff was filmed in Cleveland, OH and Oakland, CA, but that's the price of movie magic.)
I know I'm way behind on talking about these films, since I waited until they were in second-run theaters to see them, so much of this has already been said. But I get what a lot of you liked, and what a lot of you didn't quite like, about both of them. Now I wonder what film I'll next make sure to see, say, opening weekend or even opening night. I'll see.
* Ah, Virginia humidity. I've learned to live with it, and I can handle it when I visit, but back when I was an 8-year-old with a weak constitution who moved summer 1982 from the Southern California desert to Virginia Beach, a place not far from what with good reason is called the Great Dismal Swamp, I would feel sick just from breathing the air. That made my first few weeks in Virginia miserable, and it took me maybe until I was in Northern Virginia circa 1985 to fully acclimate.