Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
Markus Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence
Now playing at Century 20 Oakridge Mall in San Jose, California:
After the Emmerich/Brodrick fiasco of 98, I was all but done with Godzilla movies. So, when I first saw the teaser trailer for 2014’s “Godzilla”, I cringed at the thought of having to sit through another American remake starring this beloved movie monster. But what can I say? I’m a hug fan of “Breaking Bad” and Bryan Cranston is a God. So I went. But suffice to say, I wasn’t so much as impressed as I was (by the end of my movie going experience) bored.
OK, so before I move forward with my criticism, I just wanted to make it clear that I had no problem with the overdramatic feel director Gareth Edwards uses as his foundation, even throughout the segments of cool visuals and the few strong action sequences in the final Act. To say that a Godzilla film is campy or overdramatic is not really an insult. It’s like saying, grass is green or water is wet. In fact, the Japanese inspired camp of it all, is a huge reason as to why people love this franchise to begin with. Now, on to my review:
Synopsis: In 1999, after what looks to be a natural disaster takes the wife of Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) an American engineer stationed in Japan, we fast forward to present time as Joe (now a conspiracy theorist) along with his skeptical son Ford, attempt to uncover the truth behind the odd seismic activity off the coast of Japan. Seismic activity which may lead to the truth behind Joe’s wife’s death and by default lead them to the discovery of the greatest sea monster inspired cover up in history. From the title, you may have already guessed what this cover up pertains to.
The story, in and of itself, is actually quite inventive. That is to say, writer Max Borenstein does a really good job of bringing Godzilla into the modern age and backing his “return” with some logical reasoning. That said, if not for some timely exposition every half an hour from Ken Watanabe, who plays Dr. Ichio Serizawa, I would have been pretty confused as to what some of the motives of the main characters (Godzilla included) were.
The first half of this movie is quiet, but very well choreographed, as the story slowly takes its shape, setting the stage for the arrival of the King of All Monsters. But as the second hour begins to rear its head, things almost all at once hit a wall, as the film continues to set a stage that is now getting cold. And what once looked to be a well structured exercise in suspenseful pacing, soon turned into an exercise of my patience; with every static moment losing that much more of my interest. And here’s the kicker: Edwards definitely had a vision as to how and when Godzilla should make his first appearance on screen. And the fact that Godzilla isn’t fully visible until the latter half of this film, proves that he wished to gradually elevate the anticipation of audiences. But when we finally do see him (Godzilla) my reaction was shrug inducing at best. This is what I’d been waiting for?! I mean, the last half an hour is action packed and gives fans what they came to see; Godzilla roaring and haphazardly destroying cities. And there are bits of wonderful touches of cinematography laced throughout, which pay direct homage to the old Japanese tokusatsu films that made Godzilla such a pop culture icon to begin with. All I’m saying is, I felt as though I was being hyped up for something visually Guillermo Del Toro inspired, and all I really got was something just above the level of Reptar.
Shockingly, the acting and the CGI were not up to par either. Well that isn’t all together true. Elizabeth Olsen is quite good here. Problem is, she wasn’t given much to do! Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins and the aforementioned Olsen…oh, and with (“with” being the operative word) Bryan Cranston, “Godzilla” should have been a film where the CGI and performances were dueling for the spotlight. Sadly, both aspects fall short; with the (at times) lackluster CGI taking the lead. I’ll say it again, Godzilla was visually quite underwhelming.
Taylor-Johnson is asked to carry this movie, but is pretty forgettable in the leading man role. And if you think Olsen gets nothing to do, then Academy Award nominee Sally Hawkins gets even less. As for Ken Watanabe (one of the most respected actors in the world) he spends the entire film with the same shocked expression on his face; which honestly is what the role called for, so I can’t really fault him. And what can I say about Cranston’s performance, since (spoiler alert) he’s barely in the damn movie!
Final Thought: If you are a fan of the original Japanese productions, the subject matter alone and/or a plot which harnesses the spirit of those cinematic classics will be enough for you to get through (or even enjoy) a two hour movie which feels like three hours. For the rest of us, “Godzilla” eventually and unfortunately turns into a slog, that even with its merits, is just too long. What some may see as a slow burn, others (like me) saw as a film that was in need of some heavy editing.
Follow me on Twitter @moviesmarkus