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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Godzilla (3D) | Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, Ken Watanabe | Review

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2sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD Judy Thorburn

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2lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD

 

Godzilla

In the aftermath of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II, the original Japanese horror/science fiction movie, Godzilla, burst onto the screen in 1954 as a cautionary tale about the dawning of the nuclear age. Now, 60 years later, and 16 years after Roland Emmerich's 1998 big budget rebooted version was released,  Warner Bros takes a stab at resurrecting the iconic, King of All Monsters, in an updated remake directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters).  As far as I am concerned, they should have let sleeping dogs, or in this case, sleeping monsters, lie.

That isn't to say the story doesn't start off with a promising premise and a strong, interest worthy character. Fifteen years ago, Joe Brady (an intense, scene stealing Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad fame) a nuclear physicist living in Japan, was witness to a nuclear meltdown and disaster that killed his beloved wife and colleague Sandra (Juliette Binoche) at the plant where they worked.

Cut to present day San Francisco, where Joe's estranged, now grown up son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, turning in a lackluster, wooden performance) has put the tragedy to rest and moved on with his life. Happily married to a pretty ER nurse named Elle (Elizabeth Olson) and father to a young son, he works as a Navy soldier specializing in bomb disposals. Meanwhile, Dad Joe, on the other hand, is still  haunted over his loss, and is obsessed with finding out the hidden truth behind the disaster. Father and son are reunited after Ford is called to Japan to bail out his Dad who was arrested for going into the designated quarantine zone.  It doesn't take too long before Ford realizes his father wasn't fixated by delusions.

Unfortunately, Cranston's appearance, which is the best thing about this film, is short lived. Once the story switches gear to the handsome, but boring Taylor Johnson taking over as the lead human character, I began to lose interest. The film becomes just another earth in jeopardy monster flick seen from Ford's point of view as giant insect-like creatures, called MUTOs (short for "Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism), that look like a cross between the creature from Alien and a grass hopper, and feed on radioactive material, threaten to destroy the planet.  As for Godzilla, the gigantic, fire breathing, prehistoric lizard doesn't show up until more than half way into the storyline, emerging from the Pacific Ocean, to battle the deadly monsters.  You see, we are told by a research scientist, that the ferocious predator, Godzilla, has the power to “restore the balance”.

Good actors in underutilized supporting roles include Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ichiro Serizawa, a research scientist/authority on MUTOs and Sally Hawkins as his assistant. Also wasted is David Strathairn as Navy Admiral William Stenz, leader of what apparently is an ineffective, powerless operation to stop and kill the monsters as they make their way through several U.S. cities from Oakland and San Francisco, to Hawaii and Las Vegas causing massive destruction.

In addition to several references to Hiroshima, screenwriter Max Borenstein (working from a story by David Callaham) infuses a few typical plot devices into the narrative that are meant to pull at your heartstrings, such as Ford's separation from his wife and his saving of a young Asian child separated from his parents. None of these manipulative elements worked for me, nor did the inconsistent, fight sequences between Godzilla and the MUTOS. Godzilla is up, then he's down, then up again, with absolutely no sign of major physical damage nor any worse for wear after being brutally and repetitively attacked.

To its determent, the 3D technology isn't effectively taken advantage of.  Missed are several opportunties to visually blow away audiences. For example, it would have been awesome having Godzilla's massive tail and fiery breath look like it was coming out of the screen and about to hit you in your face.

I prefer the campy, original version 1954 movie. At least back then, we all knew Godzilla was a guy in a suit.  Yet, the story and its message struck a chord with worldwide audiences.

Godzilla has proven to be a gigantic force to be reckoned with.  But, this new Hollywood version, complete with computer generated visual effects, is a huge disappointment.

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