Dr. Donna Copeland’s
AARON TAYLOR JOHNSON ELIZABETH OLSEN BRYAN CRANSTON
KEN WATANABE SALLY HAWKINS JULIETTE BINOCHE DAVID STRATHAIRN
Since 1954 Godzilla has remained a popular cinematic monster character, debuting every decade to a new generation from the 70’s to now. Warner Bros. has thrown a lot of money at sophomore director Gareth Edwards (Monsters), who brings this bombastic and loud film to the IMAX screen. Like most Hollywood remakes, it’s a darker, more sinister version than what we have seen in the past. Sprinkled with lots of talent, including Oscar winner Juliette Binoche (The English Patient) and nominees Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) and Ken Watanabe (Inception), the actors do very little to infuse the monster film with the type of life it needs. The ingredients in Godzilla are far too obvious and reflective of recent films, but it does slightly rise above last year's big, dumb monster destruction film Pacific Rim.
During an excavation in The Philippines in 1999, two scientists found something alarming and unexplainable miles in the deep. In Japan months later, an explosion rocked the city’s nuclear facilities and killed some of its personnel; that incident would forever change Joe Brody (Cranston) and his son Ford (Johnson). 15 years later, Brody has dedicated his life to solving the mystery of the cover-up until the reading and pulses begin to happen again. Born and fed from radioactive nuclear waste, two beasts emerge to threaten human existence as they attempt to mate and cover the earth with their kind. A third and even larger creature named Godzilla rises from the depths of the darkest ocean to battle with the malevolent creatures.
The biggest problem with Godzilla is that it never stands on its own as something original, unique or born out of creativity. Something that has been remade so many times, borrowing from so many other sources, dilutes any power of effect it hopes to have. It’s ingredients are a mixing bowl of Jurassic Park, The Impossible, and Pacific Rim (which was just borrowing from Godzilla/Monster movies before it). Godzilla sounds like Spielberg’s T-Rex, and a scene on the Golden Gate bridge (another rip off of every action movie ever set in San Francisco) in a school bus nearly mirrors that famous first appearance in Jurassic Park. The tidal waves flooding through Honolulu never match the realism of the water in The Impossible and the nearly shot for shot battle in the pacific ocean mirrors those we saw just last year in Pacific Rim.
The script really rolls the dice in building a 90 minute backstory that is nearly all talk, teasing the viewer for the third act; “Just let them fight”. If you can stay awake for that first part of the film that misses every opportunity to create characters we care about, then by the end, after seeing building number 50 destroyed, the teasing suspense has faded and with it the concern for anyone's safety on screen. From Kick Ass to Anna Karenina, 23 year old Aaron Taylor Johnson is playing a very buff, macho, older-than-his-years character that never connects with the audience. While he flies all over the world to save various members of his family, his heroics are never earned.
Final Thought – Slightly more intelligent than last years’ Pacific Rim, but equally as ineffective.
By: Dustin Chase
Godzilla starts out with what sounds like a potentially interesting story. We meet Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), a man thoroughly caught up in his work as a nuclear physicist in a laboratory in Japan. His wife (Juliette Binoche) works with him in the lab, and they have a young son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). On this particular day, as soon as they reach the institute, there is an emergency that will change all their lives—something mysterious that no one seems to have an explanation for.
Without elaboration about what has transpired in the next 15 years, the story jumps ahead. This is where the filmmakers should have elaborated more on Joe’s suspicions about a Japanese nuclear facility. But when the story resumes, Ford is grown with a family of his own, and does not seem to have much contact with his father. One day, his father calls him at home in San Francisco asking for his help, so he takes off to Japan, expecting to be gone only a few days. He’s a bit irritated, because he thinks his father is obsessed with some crackpot ideas, and as soon as he sees him, tries to talk him into coming home with him. Ford and Joe will be detained, of course, because the mysterious “thing” at the nuclear plant is now stirring after 15 years, and starting to create havoc.
Something like this is what Joe has suspected all along, and only Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) has given any credence to his hypotheses. Now, he makes sure that when he is to join the U.S. military in San Francisco to decide what to do, he insists that the Brodys accompany him. He lends a bit of Eastern philosophical reasoning to the crisis related to Godzilla and earth maintaining balance in the system, but no one listens to him.
The rest of the film is essentially a CGI spectacle, with new monsters creating tsunamis, wrecking cities’ skyscrapers and infrastructure, and derailing trains. The U.S. military seems to have only one plan, and that is to blast it with nuclear weapons, although this is risky, because radiation is what the monster feeds on to stay alive. Nevertheless, the brass will not be deterred, and pursues it across the Pacific, trying to divert it away from U.S. shores. Godzilla does finally get into the act in blazes of glory, vindicating Dr. Serizawa, and fans of the monster are completely gratified.
As implied in the beginning of this review, the script is sorely lacking in intrigue or human interest. Taylor-Johnson—who is supposed to be the lead—walks around much of the time with a studied or quizzical look on his face. The other major—and gifted—actors (Cranston, Watanabe, Olsen, Hawkins, Binoche, Straitham) are hardly seen. The director (Gareth Edwards) and the writers (Max Borenstein and Dave Callaham) really needed to give us more of the emotional and societal relevance of the film beyond the impressive computer generated imagery.
This Godzilla (there have been a number of previous versions) could be seen as having metaphorical elements related to human experimentation with nuclear energy and the impact of those on the earth, as well as nuclear reactors that are vulnerable to tsunamis such as the one that recently hit Japan. The mushroom shape of the atomic tests in the Marshall Islands and the tsunami shown sweeping across Toyko certainly suggest such connotations, but it is more an implied connection than explicit.
Godzilla is for those who have been diehard fans of the monster since childhood and really enjoy heavy CGI action scenes; for the rest of us, it is mostly just very loud.