Godzilla: Loud, Grim, and Doubly Dim
- Friday, May 16, 2014
DVD Release Date: September 16, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: May 16, 2014
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence
Run Time: 123 min.
Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Juliette Binoche
Beginning in Japan in 1954 and continuing through another 28 films, generations of movie fans grew up watching dubbed-into-English versions of Godzilla-based creature features on American broadcast television.
Periodic attempts to revive the franchise for U.S. audiences have met with mixed results. Most recently, Godzilla (1998), starring Matthew Broderick and directed by action-movie maestro Roland Emmerich (Independence Day), was a summertime success, but not the "monster hit" needed to launch several sequels.
Sixteen years later, in an era where Spider-Man (2002) gets a franchise "reboot" (The Amazing Spider-Man) a mere 10 years after a previous franchise launch, Warner Brothers has taken a crack at Godzilla, and as with the plague of superhero movies that dominate blockbuster season, this Godzilla is a grim outing, thematically and visually dark (made worse by the image-darkening 3D presentation) and characterized primarily by its joylessness. Whereas earlier Godzilla movies had moments to surprise viewers, to make them exclaim "that's cool!" or even "how cheesy!," this new Godzilla is super-serious. Don't dare chuckle while watching huge creatures wreak havoc, and certainly don’t try to have a fun time in any way.
When a fossilized creature is discovered in 1999 in the Philippines, scientists Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe, Inception) and Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine) arrive to investigate. It’s not long before something finds its way off the island and across the East China Sea to the Janjira Nuclear Power Plant, where Joe and Sandra Brody (Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche) both work. When tremors hit the plant, Joe suspects something other than an earthquake as the cause.
The film flashes forward 15 years to when Joe’s son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), now a naval bomb disarmament specialist, reconnects with his father, who has spent the last decade and a half convinced that the government covered up what happened at the power plant. When strange things start occurring again, Joe is proved right and Ford has to leave behind his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and child (Carson Bolde) to confront a menace—a M.U.T.O., or Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism, now headed for the United States.
After a better-than-average buildup, Godzilla spends its second hour on glimpses of various monsters battling one another and destroying skyscraper after skyscraper. The scale of destruction is appropriately large, but the action grows repetitive and tiresome, and following a key character’s early demise, there’s no human of interest left in Godzilla. Those who want to see the title character in full get their wish, but the payoff is fleeting. The film has nothing more to offer, and the drawn-out finale feels like any number of recent action films driven by the site of collapsing buildings and extended battles.
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