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film reel image

Friday, May 16, 2014

Godzilla 2014 * * Stars

GodzillaDirector: Gareth Edwards
Year: 2014
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen

I've never been a big fan of the Godzilla movies. After the last entries in the franchise (Godzilla 1985 and 1998's Godzilla) were critically panned, I thought to myself, do they really need to make another one? I mean, these films are not scary. They're a rotten novelty, they're cheesy as heck, and the fact that studios have been churning them out longer than the James Bond series shows me just how far down the pipe our movie going sensibilities have fallen. Anyway, in 2014 we now have a new version of Godzilla and it's arguably one of the low points of the year so far. It's not compelling, or groundbreaking, or powerful, or interesting, or mind blowing, or whatever. The special effects are very ho hum, very dated. I mean, its look suggests a TV movie or something that came out in the late 80's or early 90's. The creatures (there are I guess, three of them), which are believed to be the stars, look fake, tacky, and actually appear to suggest metallic robots. Was that the director's vision? Gosh I hope not!

The film overall, feels underwhelming. It's like a poor man's version of Independence Day or The Day After Tomorrow. Those films didn't have gigantic monsters, but they were more involving, more absorbing, and had jaw dropping, juicy special effects. Give me ID4 or "The Day After" any day over this sludge. Heck, I'll even take the Kraken from Clash of the Titans and the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park as opposed to the halfwit, silly monsters in Godzilla.

Directed by Brit born Gareth Edwards, featuring a sequence in which the Golden Gate Bridge gets a startling, destructive makeover (not in a good way), and ripping off the music from 2001: A Space Odyssey's "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite" scene (during an Naval aerial drop), this new Godzilla takes place in two different time periods (1999 and present day). The main plot point involves a cover up that is discovered by a nuclear plant supervisor named Joe Brody (played maniacally by Bryan Cranston). His wife who works with him, dies in a radiation accident. This accident might have been caused by the discovery of two skeletal pods that were in the process of hatching (Godzilla has a strange correlation between the releasing of the monsters and the concept of radiation which I didn't quite get, so sue me). Things fast forward 15 years later with Cranston's Brody now having conspiracy theories and being incarcerated for trespassing. His son flies in from San Francisco to get him out of jail. Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays the role of Ford Brody. He's got a solid amount of screen presence but doesn't get a whole lot to do acting-wise. He basically mugs to the camera and his blood seems ice cold as far as I'm concerned. Anyway, the two of them then become involved in the first catastrophic moments when the creatures awake from hibernation. They then begin to wreak havoc on Japan, the coast of California, and neighboring Las Vegas (why not). Oh and by the way, I was waiting for that kooky moment when someone in the crowd points at the sky and yells, "Godzilla!" That's probably the only trademark I find neat in these Plain Jane exercises.

Now a lot of what occurs in this 32nd film in the Godzilla franchise (yes there are that many), is laughable and trite. I thought it was funny how the armed forces (mainly the Navy) had their soldiers constantly trying to bring down the gigantic creatures by way of machine guns. There are eminent rounds fired but these Naval officers are too bewildered to know that there is no way M240 bullets could ever destroy a specimen that is probably the size of 30 or so buses. Then there's the notion where despite all the chaos caused by Godzilla and the other two MUTOs (massive unidentified terrestrial organisms), the civilians almost seem to wanna stand around and watch. Seriously? There's a simple solution to all of this: Be smart enough to just leave the ruined cities behind and get the heck out of dodge people! Geesh. Finally, there are the battle scenes between the male Godzilla and I guess, two female Godzillas. Honestly, I found myself yawning at how boring and unimaginative they were and at the same time, I was getting pretty annoyed by the constant, thrown in roars coming from the male Godzilla. We get it. You're big, you're nasty, you're slimy, you're menacing. You don't have to keep reminded us the audience, that you mean business.

As for the cast members of Godzilla, they are sort of appealing but their performances barely register. Bryan Cranston does most of the heavy lifting dialogue wise, but he's barely in the proceedings to begin with (you wouldn't know it by viewing the trailer). Mainly, all the actors and actresses do a lot of staring. There are numerous shots where the creature is coming and everybody looks half afraid and says, "let's get out of here!" Added to that, most of their characters are Hollywood types that are standardized to the point of absurdity. I mean, we've seen variations of these people time and time again. You know the concerned hero dad, the hospital worker mom, the U.S. president who we never see, the crazy old man who plays Nostradamus, the little kid who's in peril, etc..etc..

When it's all said and done, this new Godzilla is a reputable dud. As a film, it's about as bland as a can of unsalted peanuts. I mean, I knew I had seen something mediocre when I realized that the younger sister of the Olsen twins gave the flick's best performance. Now I do predict that Godzilla will probably have a huge opening weekend at the box office followed by a steep, steep drop in ticket sales. If you choose to take in a viewing, see this thing for the following reasons: You're bored to death, you happen to get free tickets to a screening, you've seen everything else currently playing at the local multiplex, or it's raining heavily outside. Otherwise, there is no justification in seeing a film that plays not so much like a reboot, but as a flat out rerun (if you've seen one Godzilla, you've seen them all). Within the final climatic 20 minutes, this is a vehicle that seems completely rushed to get done. In the end, the creatures aren't "god" awful but in retrospect, they certainly aren't "god" fearing.

Of note: (spoiler alert) at the end of 2014's Godzilla, there's a shot of the male creature on a big jumbotron in San Francisco's Candlestick Park. The news credits at the bottom reveal that this big, menacing oaf is a hero/savior to the people of the coastal United States. That made me laugh. If destroying a hugely populated city and killing innocent people makes you a hero, then I must have missed the boat somewhere. Oh well.

Written by Jesse Burleson


  1. great review! I think I'll steer clear of this one, I've read more than enough reviews warning the people of how awful Gojira is. Thanks!

  2. No problem. Yeah it was pretty weak. The movie lacked was lightweight. It lacked a pulse. The reviews from most of the world's critics have been decent. That surprised me the most.