Godzilla Directed by: Gareth Edwards Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn Running Time: 2 hrs 2 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: May 16, 2014
PLOT: A big monster from the sea (Godzilla) comes ashore to settle his dues.
WHO'S IT FOR? Godzilla fans, I guess? Those who aren't expecting Godzilla vs. [Insert Name Here].
Our karma for not recycling, disaster movie Godzilla pillages through a junkyard of genre elements that it expects acceptance for, given its state as a monster movie in 2014. But there can only be so many, as utilized at such an amount, before this becomes more than just embracing the territory, but feeding off of its radiation. By about the hundredth time a stupidly written scientist played by Ken Watanabe takes off his glasses in slow motion incredulity, or the 39th glance by an extra towards the dark sky after the power goes out, Godzilla shows its Lauper-like true colors as to what the film's goal really is within an easily conventional genre. Godzilla isn't reminiscent of good movies, but bad ones that were assembled with even less thought - Dragon Wars, and any disaster film by, curiously enough, Roland Emmerich. That its opening credit sequence, a mythological recap of redacted information, recalls the same opening credits of Catwoman, leaves a disturbing bad taste.
Of the many actors who pop into this bulky project, from a straight-faced Sally Hawkins to David Strathairn playing a role well below his potential, Bryan Cranston might be its strongest acting asset (it certainly isn't the dolls played by Aaron Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen). Cranston only continues some of the hilarious scene-chomping that made for an ugly turn in Argo, in which he shrieked hammy exclamations worthy of a Michael Bay control room scene. In Godzilla, his patriarch scientist is better contained, despite brief inclinations of becoming a shallow usurper of Mel Gibson AND Harrison Ford's respective thrones from the 90s. When the movie does gives him a very emotional moment in the first act, he seals it up pretty tightly, showing a versatile vulnerability among the movie's on-screen chaos. However, his disturbed scientist has the best usage as monster hype man, where he gives the various ne'er-do-wells their volcanic promos: "Whatever's in there is going to take us back ... to the Stone Age!"
The efforts to frame the classic tale of Godzilla within the happenings of 2014 provide little to work with. As a disaster movie that remembers tsunamis and Hurricane Katrina, its presentation of a world dealing with a collective tragedy is empty, aside from direct references to those who help, and those who don't (there's a careless FEMA worker or two to be seen). Even weaker is its attempt to visualize Godzilla as a destructive hero, a boisterous dinosaur of steel or dark lizard that is actually ... our savior? The results, of which this film leaves us with as its final word, shrugging about the need to see that Mothra reference realized in part two, are toothless, if not trendy.
Impacting moments in Godzilla related to its profoundly insane, nightmares-till-you-die fantastical real life spectacle come in fleeting passages. Among an expected visual experience that allows one to be more at ease with its pitches of horror, a few stand out, and shall be detailed vaguely: the continuous explosions of orange and red filling a black sky as seen from within an airport terminal; watching a vehicle suddenly smash into one's underwater POV; the introduction of the film's first monster, larger than regular eyes could ever fully comprehend, with an intimidating magnitude that could scar one for life of going outside again. As for a bit involving a doomed monorail ride, traveling an expected course into danger? The results are fully expected, the film stopping at a mediocre level.
While they may not have totally revitalized the legacy of Godzilla with spectacle that is unforeseen, the filmmakers have at least pioneered a new pop topic a la Metropolis' decimation in Man of Steel, which will bounce between late night monologues and IMDb message boards for days to come - that relating to the appearance of the film's title monster. Gearing up its audience for its title fighter, Godzilla misunderstands what prospers about joshing that which is inevitable. Instead of sparking curiosity, these teases are tactless before-and-after moments with literal handling; doors actually close on the audience's POV right before some giant dumb animals scuffle around a skyscraper playground. In an age of monster films post-Pacific Rim, such a resistance to even the simplest pleasure feels a bit unnecessary, especially as its labored Godzilla back-story only makes for the minor footprint of an eco disaster movie.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10