The latest summer offering in a half century’s worth of reinventions of the famous Toho-created monster from the deep who rises to either destroy or save us, Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla benefits from state of the art visuals but suffers from terrible one-dimensional acting and a cast with very little to do but stand around looking dazed and concerned.
Despite some impressive behind-the-scenes insights into the making of such a gigantic CGI monster with attitude, Godzilla lacks in many areas,
The premise is simple enough: an apparent accident at a Japanese power plant led by an American scientist (Bryan Cranston) costs him the life of his wife and several other co-workers when an overload allegedly turns the entire area into a radioactive wasteland. Years later, the grieving widower discovers the accident left no trace of radiation and a large creature has been gestating via nourishment from the waste under the watchful eye of a secret organization. The creature emerges and flies off towards America.
The military attempts to mobilize before the winged creature makes it to the West Coast, but not before a Japanese researcher (Ken Watanabe) shares an amazing secret: the American atomic tests in the Bikini Atoll weren’t tests at all, but attempts in the 1950s to destroy a gigantic lizard like monster they call Godzilla, an “alpha-predator” from time immemorial, who emerges from the ocean deep in times of need to help nature keep a balance. Now with not one but possibly two giant monsters at large, the titanic sea monster must arise and destroy the radioactive creatures before they mate and destroy humanity as a result.
Though this reboot is an upgrade form previous films, it’s faithful to the core material from the olden days, rather than recent attempts (and failures) at the iconic character. Seriously, go rent any of the Godzilla films you can find, except maybe the 1998 Roland Emmerich debacle. That was a terrible mess. Sorry, Roland.
This isn’t your Mom and Dad’s monster film. No more stunt guys dressed in a rubber lizard suit destroying small scale models of foreign cities. The visual effects are top notch, the CGI-based collateral damage is as impressive (and irresponsible) as that of the Superman/Zod fight in Man of Steel, and the music and editing do well in helping set the somber, apocalyptic mood.
The monster fight scenes (however few) are pretty much the only reason to see this film. Aside from some cheap casting (suffice it to say some of the marquee names and their inclusion in promo materials are largely misleading), the dialogue and actor involvement is flimsy, the premise is laughable and the plausibility — aside from the given that this is indeed a giant monster battle movie — is completely absent.
At the mere mention of two giant monsters out to destroy America, no one — civilian or military — seems to bat an eye or question some scientists’ knowledge of a giant benevolent lizard whose existence has been known to them for half a century. Is this Godzilla on payroll? Has he been briefed on Pentagon operating procedures? Also, as much as Aaron Taylor-Johnson tries to emulate the concerned military family man, his role (and that of his co-stars) quickly becomes that of a pointless spectator mesmerized by the giant animal behemoths overhead.
Too much time spent setting up the next action sequence and not enough time investing in the human characters affected by the catastrophe in progress. This is but one of many problems afflicting this nifty looking but terribly misguided debacle.
Let’s be honest: no one expect Shakespeare, over here. While much effort was put into the visual effects, it’d have been nice to have a bit more structure to the story, or at least something worthwhile for the human characters to do rather than just stand around speculating, running away or worrying about people they can’t seem to locate.
The next Godzilla sequel should have the titular lizard living alone on an island, defending his food stash against the entire roster of film monsters. Now that is something I’d pay good money for. Imagine two hours of pure monster fighting, with no real need for dialogue or pesky human tertiary roles? Pure gold.
Score: 2 out of 5
Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for almost 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.