Given that it seems like a blank screen and a couple of loud roars would make any Godzilla movie superior to 1998’s Roland Emmerich debacle, one would think the cards would be stacked in director Gareth Edwards’s favor to bring the iconic monster back to the big screen with success. One would think wrong. This Godzilla is just barely better than the 1998 counterpart and makes many of the same mistakes. Key components missing: a point, a sense of awe, serviceable acting, and fun.
The opening credits stand as a highlight, playing as a Godzilla origin story of sorts. The story kicks off in 1999 in Japan, where Joe Brody (Cranston) and his wife, Sandra (Binoche), are working at a nuclear power plant. A tragic accident occurs, and Joe believes a cover-up is in the works. He spends the next fifteen years investigating the incident and it soon becomes clear that his theory is true. Two MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism(s)), who feed on radiation, were responsible for the fall of the nuclear plant and have since been kept a secret by the Japanese government. Now they’re back for more, but Godzilla plumbs the depths of the ocean and may be man-kind’s only hope for survival.
The screenplay, by Max Borenstein and Dave Callaham, dedicates its entire first hour to the disaster at the nuclear plant. It’s pretty dry, predictable stuff hammed up by an over-the-top Cranston but brought back down by a completely lifeless performance from Aaron Taylor-Johnson, playing his now-adult son. Godzilla doesn’t make his big entrance until the second half, and from there it’s the kind of token, mass-produced mayhem that stopped being new and exciting years ago. The film plays all of this with deadly seriousness and nary a laugh is to be found. Whatever novelty there was in watching three creatures fight in the dark is long gone by the end of the second act.
About that. Of the many things Jurassic Park does right, the biggest of all is showing us its creatures in the light of day. Godzilla, like the 1998 version, seems to only appear when it’s conveniently dark, raining, or both. As a result he basically looks like a pile of wet mulch with extremities and a mouth. Only the parachuting sequence, featured extensively in trailers, generates any sense of wonderment.
Godzilla is a truly dumbfounding disappointment. All the elements seemed to be in place for this franchise to be rebooted with triumph, but it’s pretty much the exact opposite. The acting is laughably bad, the effects haphazard at best (camouflaged by perpetual rain and darkness), and there’s simply no point or purpose to this entry. Even the final frames are uninspired and would appear to (naturally) leave the door open for the ruination of more cities. Godzilla may bear the name of a monster movie legend, but it’s as generic, uninteresting, and just plain dull as any summer movie of recent memory.
Studio: Warner Bros.
Length: 123 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence.
Theatrical Release: May 16, 2014
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Written by: Max Borenstein. Story by Dave Callaham.
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche