DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

GODZILLA (director: Gareth Edwards; screenwriter: Max Borenstein/story by Dave Callaham/ based on the character “Godzilla,” owned and created by Toho Company Ltd; cinematographer: Seamus McGarvey; editor: Bob Ducsay; music: Alexandre Desplat; cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Ford Brody), Ken Watanabe (Dr. Ishiro Serizawa), Elizabeth Olsen (Elle Brody), Juliette Binoche (Sandra Brody), Sally Hawkins (Graham), David Strathairn (Adm. William Stenz), Bryan Cranston (Joe Brody), Richard T. Jones (Captain Russell Hampton); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Thomas Tull/Jon Jashni/Mary Parent/Brian Rogers; Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures; 2014)

"Most of the film was killing time for the monster fight at the climax."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The new big-budget Godzilla reboot, in 3D IMAX, though visually pleasing, smart and well-cast with big name stars is only slightly better than the 1998 American bomb by Roland Emmerich. British director Gareth Edwards ("Monsters") keeps it humorless, unnecessarily dry and tedious. Edwards saves Godzilla for the grand finale destruction of San Francisco scene, when the film finally comes alive but much too late to save it. When the giant monster is not onscreen the film is inert--and he's not on screen that often. This hokum monster tale started with a 1954 Japanese film and so far I believe there were at least 28 spin offs, all of them underwhelming. It's based on the character “Godzilla,” owned and created by Toho Company Ltd., the cliched story is by Dave Callaham, and the flat screenplay is by Max Borenstein.

After covering the monster's nuclear origins by showing vintage archival nuclear tests in 1946, the story begins in the Philippines.  In 1998, nuclear scientists Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and his partner, Dr. Graham (Sally Hawkins), at a Filipino mining site disaster, discover a pod containing a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) and observe that another MUTO  has escaped. In Japan, in 1999, at a nuclear power facility, where the American nuclear engineer Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his nuclear scientist wife, Sandra (Juliette Binoche), work in coastal Janjira, there's a reactor meltdown and wifey is killed when trapped in the building. The cause is falsely attributed to an earthquake, in a government cover-up. We skip to some 15 years later and Brody's son Ford is an atomic explosives expert working for the Navy, under Admiral Stenz (David Strathairn), and back home on leave in San Francisco with his wonderful emergency room nurse wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and their young son, Sam (Carson Bolde). But he gets called back to Tokyo to help his dad out, after he's arrested for trespassing on his former closed down nuclear power plant site. With that development all sort of plot manipulations occur, as dad dies investigating his former job site looking for clues as to what was behind the disaster. Meanwhile at a Honolulu Airport, would you believe, Godzilla goes on a rampage. That's followed by a Muto stopover in Las Vegas to take in some nuclear sites and munch on nuclear wastes, its health food. After Ford buries his hard-luck obsessed truth-finder dad in Tokyo, he returns to an evacuated San Francisco to be with his wife and daughter during a monster attack on the city. But in the emergency, Ford volunteers his scientific services to the navy to save the world. But it turns out that the 335-feet-tall Godzilla goes after the rebellious MUTOs, and thereby nuclear weapons are spared from being used by the uptight military types.

The monster fight, at the Golden Gate Bridge, makes for good viewing for those who love FX films, while the human drama subplot of the Brody family reuniting in the destroyed city is cornball soap opera and could make you cringe it's so lame.

Most of the film was killing time for the monster fight at the climax and, in the bargain, the filmmaker asks you to believe that Godzilla was a good guy saving a city from destruction. Back in the day, some 60 years ago, Godzilla meant something as the embodiment of atomic-age catastrophes. Nowadays he's just fodder for a blockbuster franchise, whose relevance has worn thin with time and unimaginative film-making.

REVIEWED ON 5/17/2014       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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