Friday, May 16, 2014

Movie Review -- Godzilla

Today we have the return of the radioactive giant lizard, Godzilla, in his new movie.

The story begins in Japan in 1999. Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) works at a nuclear power plant with his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche). One day a massive tremor shakes the facility and Joe is forced to seal off the area Sandra is in. She dies and authorities evacuate the entire city, quarantining it in the process. Their son Ford witnesses the disaster from his school nearby.

Flash forward to the present. Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is now an army lieutenant. He goes on leave to visit his wife and son. However, he gets a call that his father has been arrested for violating the quarantine zone which is still in effect. Joe, convinced the destruction of the power plant was not a natural disaster as had been reported, brings Ford along as he again ventures into the abandoned city. Joe feels vindicated when he discovers no radiation whatsoever, but instead finds a military operation going on. Where the power plant once stood there is now an enormous glowing egg. It soon hatches and out pops a winged monster they dub MUTO (which I guess is supposed to be Rodan) which goes on a rampage. It isn't long before they discover the creature has a mate, and the pair proceed to wreak havoc across the Pacific and eventually the west coast of America. Our only hope of stopping them may be the big-ass lizard that just showed up: Godzilla. The three monsters then fight it out. Ford and the military--along with Japanese scientist Dr. Serazawa (Ken Watanabe)--form their own plan to halt the destruction, but will there be anything left when all is said and done?

This is certainly better than the last American Godzilla movie in 1998, but that's not saying much. Whereas that one was hokey, this new incarnation takes itself very seriously. What helps it rise above its predecessor is strong acting by the cast. Bryan Cranston shows why he's an acting juggernaut with his stellar, emotional performance as the grieving widower. Ken Watanabe is no slouch, either, coming along for the ride with his usual flair.

However, great acting can only take a movie like this so far. To me, the true Godzilla will always be a man in a rubber suit fighting other men in rubber suits. They lose a lot when converted to CG. Although this Godzilla has the mannerisms and signature roar of the original, and although he's bigger and badder than ever, he doesn't have the charm. And as a Godzilla fan from way back, I miss that. Also, it doesn't help that the monsters he fights in this film are virtually indistinguishable from those seen in Pacific Rim and Cloverfield. In other words, they're just generic CG beasts.

Bottom line: It's a great popcorn movie that surpasses the previous one. Just don't expect great things from it.

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