Since 1954, “Godzilla” has remained a popular cinematic monster character, debuting every decade to a new generation from the 1970s until present day.
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 (Bryan Cranston) and his son Ford (Aaron Taylor Johnson).
Fifteen 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 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 Honolulu never match the realism of “The Impossible” and the nearly shot-for-shot battle mirrors those we saw just last year in “Pacific Rim.”
The script really rolls the dice in building a 90-minute back story 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, 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 Johnson is playing a very buff, macho, older-than-his-years character that never connects with the audience.
While he flies all across 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.
STARRING: Aaron Taylor Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche and David Strathairn