Movie Review: “Godzilla”


Let’s see if we remember how this goes.
“With a purposeful grimace and a terrible scowl, he pulls the spitting high-tension wires down.”
And soon enough, “Oh no, there’s go Tokyo.” Well, not this time. It’s “Oh no, there goes (San) Francisco.”
“Godzilla” belches back to life in a new Warner Brothers film that harks back to the kid-friendlier versions of these Japanese “Kaiju” (big monster) movies. It suggests that in  an increasingly radioactive world menaced by radiation-eating beasties, the return of the almost cuddly “King of the Monsters” may be the least of our troubles.
The opening credits cleverly revisit the 1940s and ’50s atomic testing that awakened Godzilla once. Gareth Edwards’ film then jumps to the late ’90s, where mysterious goings on in mining operations in the Philippines and near nuclear plants in Japan hint that something bad is about to go down.
Bryan Cranston is an American engineer working with his wife (Juliette Binoche) when a tragic accident means their little boy Ford will grow up without a mom.
Years later, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson of “Kick-Ass”) is a Navy bomb disposal expert, and Dad’s still hanging around the ruins of that Japanese reactor, a wild-eyed loon determined to get to the bottom of a cover-up. Something is awakening. Call it a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). And call in the military.
Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) has been following developments all these years. He knows what’s up. He’s seen the Toho movies. He’s heard the Blue Oyster Cult song.
Visual effects master turned director Gareth Edwards impressed Hollywood with his low-budget version of this sort of story,”Monsters.” Given a huge budget and hours to tell the tale, he delivers a lumbering movie that’s as bloated as this new roly-poly version of the Big Guy, whom we only see in all his glory in the later acts.
Cranston blubbers with emotion — “Something KILLED my wife, and I have a RIGHT to know!” He chews more scenery than the lizard. Taylor-Johnson doesn’t break a sweat or make any impression as beasts try to keep him from making it home to his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and child in San Francisco. Watanabe runs through a panoply of “stricken” looks as he sees the menace, understands it and fails to convince the Admiral (David Strathairn) in charge that the natural world needs “order” and perhaps the giant lizard “will restore it.”
Sally Hawkins was wastefully cast to simply stand behind Watanabe as Dr. Serizawa makes another “What fresh hell is this?” face.
The effects are decent — warships tossed about like bathtub toys, trains trashed and torched, nuclear missiles munched. The movie’s never less than competent. But the fatigue of over-familiarity curses this franchise like few others. We’ve seen Japanese men in monster suits. We’ve seen digital kaiju, and gigantic robot-armored soldiers fighting them (“Pacific Rim”).
So in a tale this timeworn and a film this devoid of humor, with only a few moments of humanity, with tension frittered away by the tedious repetition of the fights, anybody who has ever seen “Godzilla” in any incarnation can be forgiven for asking the obvious.
“What else have you got?”

(Read Roger Moore’s interview with Ken Watanabe here).

MPAA Rating:PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn
Credits: Directed by Gareth Edwards, written Max Borenstein and Dave Callaham, based the Toho Studios “Godzilla” movies. A Warner Brothers release.
Running time: 2:03

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Movie Review: “Godzilla”

  1. What a poorly written review. Seriously, humorless? The original 1954 film had no humor either. This isn’t some wacky late Showa era movie.

    • Um, yes it is. Without the laughs. And why is it some folks who use the phrase “poorly written” for something they’re just inclined to not agree with? Have you seen the movie? Would you know good writing if it didn’t have pretty cartoons surrounding it?

  2. Mauricio Fuentes says:

    Roger, your review is well writtem, i’m a movie critic from Chile. Your problem is that you don’t love Godzilla, you don’t feel goosebumps when you hear the main title, and i can bet you neither watch the other 29 movies (1998 is not Godzilla, is technically “Kamankira” for the japs) a lot of times since you were a kid, before writing this. See? You can destroy Robocop 2014, The Hobbit, a Tom Cruise movie or any other thing if you want. If you want to make a bad review of a Godzilla movie you’re wasting your time (try to say to a teenager that One Direction has no musical quality)…
    Godzilla monster: check
    Godzilla roar: check
    Other monsters: check
    Brainless and pointless fights: check
    Bad reviews: not checked…

  3. Damien says:

    Excellent review, Roger. You quite expertly summed up the numerous sentiments of disappointment with the film.

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