The original 1954 ‘Godzilla’ directed by Ishiro Honda is a monster movie classic. What made it so enthralling to Japanese audiences was the fact that they survived two atomic bomb attacks during World War II. Godzilla stomping through Tokyo was symbolic of Japan’s resilience to nuclear terror. It didn’t matter that they knew it was an actor in a rubber suit. On a tight budget, Honda perfectly captured the mass hysteria of a society trying to heal from its devastating past. In the new ‘Godzilla’ reboot directed by Gareth Edwards, he borrows from the Steven Spielberg playbook of suspense. Unfortunately, Edwards’ decision not to show Godzilla until an hour into the movie is a major blunder.
The movie starts off well enough. Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is a scientist who works at a Japanese nuclear power plant. He notices unusual seismic activity occurring near the plant. He warns his bosses that the plant needs to be shut down immediately. Joe’s wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) is also a scientist caught in harm’s way during the plant’s radioactive meltdown. It’s a suspenseful scene. Cut to another scene from a caved-in mine in the Philippines showing two other scientists, Ichiro (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne (Sally Hawkins) discovering fossilized radioactive remains. Fast forward 15 years later to Joe’s grownup son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who is now a Navy Lieutenant going home on leave to be with his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and their son.
Joe is still mourning the death of his wife and trying to figure out the power plant disaster. His son thinks his father needs to move on with his life. Cranston’s performance as a crackpot scientist is solid. Ford gets a call from his Dad in Japan needing his help to bail him out of jail. Bad timing since he was just about to make love to Elle. When Ford arrives in Japan, he finds himself getting embroiled in his father’s crazy theories about what actually happened to the nuclear power plant. The estranged father and son join forces to discover a government cover-up. It turns out that a massive unidentified terrestrial organism with the acronym MUTO are being studied in a top-secret government project known as Monarch. Is it Godzilla? Not yet and that’s unfortunate. It turns out MUTO are prehistoric-looking insects that feed on nuclear reactors. This is where the story begins to fall apart.
Instead of Godzilla being the monster studied by scientists, it’s these MUTO creatures. We are subjected to seeing one of these creatures break out of the fortified installation and wreak havoc. The military soon realizes they are up against more than one MUTO. It turns out there is a male and female MUTO that want to reproduce. They go on a hunt for radioactive food hitting touristy cities like Honolulu, San Francisco and Las Vegas. There was potential for some comical moments as tourists keep playing the slot machines in Vegas while MUTO tears the roof off of a casino. Edwards decides to keep the tone somber. Godzilla finally makes an appearance in San Francisco. Ichiro explains to the military, “Let them fight!” Thank you, Ichiro. Finally Godzilla and MUTO battle each other but it’s too little, too late.
It’s a first-rate international cast. The main problem is that the screenplay by Max Borenstein gives none of the characters any depth. They spew generic one-liners. Olsen is a gifted young actress that is relegated to the terrified good wife role while her husband fights off the monsters. Taylor-Johnson plays the young hero with a deer in the headlights performance. He is way over his head with no screen presence. Nevertheless, the actors are just window dressing to the real star of the film – Godzilla. Sadly, that is the major flaw of this reboot. Godzilla gets very little screen time. It scores a C grade. Here’s the official trailer http://youtu.be/vIu85WQTPRc.