Less a remake of the parentage story and more a perpetuation of the ideas founded in the original films, “Godzilla” presents all the thrilling visuals of both a monster movie and a disaster flick. Though trailing numerous derivative projects to the big screen, director Gareth Edwards’ sophomore effort displays plenty of jaw-dropping scenes of battling behemoths and the catastrophic chaos left in their wake. But competent production design and state-of-the-art special effects can’t hide the oftentimes painfully thin explanations and monumental coincidences in the plot. Musings that Godzilla exists simply to restore balance to nature, along with flimsy excuses to squeeze sentimentality into protagonist actions, proves the writing isn’t nearly as adept as the concept artists and CGI modelers.
When his wife is killed in what is supposedly a nuclear reactor accident in Japan, engineer Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth. Much to the chagrin of his son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Joe stubbornly continues his quest to identify the source of the incident and, as the years pass, the two grow more distant. When Joe is arrested for trespassing in a restricted quarantine zone and Ford is forced to travel to Japan to retrieve him, the duo discovers the beast responsible for the disaster – and the covert agency, led by Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), intent on keeping it a secret. When the entity breaks free of its confines and begins wreaking havoc upon unsuspecting cities, the U.S. military must devise a desperate, eleventh-hour plan to destroy the leviathan threat.
Despite the sensationally clamorous, earth-shattering destruction, vast improvements in computer graphics, and surprisingly more fleshed-out human characters, this new “Godzilla” entry doesn’t seem that far removed from many of the predecessor episodes of the ‘70s and ‘80s. There’s definitely a level of heightened seriousness (when not interrupted by Watanabe’s unintentionally hilarious proclamation of the monster’s identity) and tragedy surrounding the events, but the boisterous battles and leveling of cityscapes fleetingly distracts from the script’s inability to contain original dialogue - and for the various roles to participate in sensible maneuvers for combating the extraterrestrial straits. It’s all nonstop spectacle, which turns supporting parts into runtime padding and the kaijus’ inceptions into uninspiring prolixity.
Although more of a continuation than standard refashioning (or a hopeful reboot, though Godzilla is already the hero), one of the most absorbing twists is that Godzilla isn’t a product of nuclear testing and radiation, but rather the target of the hydrogen bomb detonations. Unexplained frequency patterning, seismic activity, and cataclysmic nuclear plant meltdowns are all components of a massive cover-up to conceal the existence of a gargantuan being, supposedly more disastrous than the dangers of meddling with powerful, disrespected technology. But this sweeping conspiracy is almost too much for one movie, forcing it to skip past basic prolusory elucidation for a shallow gimmick to pit monster against monster.
“The military has a plan to deal with these things,” states Ford with confidence. But it is horribly misplaced sureness, as these things often are in disaster pictures. It’s a line that brings “Godzilla” closer to the recent efforts that influenced it (or merely beat it to the punch), such as “Pacific Rim” and “The Impossible,” and earlier samples of the genre, including the Jurassic Park sequels and Peter Jackson’s “King Kong.” The themes of characters stuck in the traumas of the past, and unexplainably pursuing suicide missions for duty rather than protecting loved ones, are similarly tired. But the visuals are stunning, the sound effects staggering and, perhaps most impressive of all, the physics (quite prominently, gravitation) are approached with unusual realism – which is almost always neglected for the sake of bolder stunts.
- The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)