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'Godzilla': Short on story but long on action



I had high hopes going into "Godzilla". He’d never grabbed me before; like Spider-Man, the mythos just didn’t capture my interest. No fault to anyone who enjoyed it, just wasn’t my cuppa tea. It looked like the same thing over and over (and over), and there didn’t seem to be anything except a giant lizard reducing everything to tsunami rubble.

These big guys sure do like the Golden Gate bridge...
Warner Bros.

But then I saw "Pacific Rim". Didn’t expect much there, either, but the scale attracted me, and to my fairly great surprise, I loved it.

And about two-thirds of the way through, the words went through my mind, “Oh, now I think I see why people like Godzilla.” So when the Godzilla himself came along, I was prepared to be, in the words of Matthew McConaughey on becoming a father, “stoked and wowed.”

Here we find Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody, the big kahuna of a nuclear power plant in Japan, whose life comes down in rubble when the plant suffers an anomalous seismic reverberation and does the same. Still obsessed with the events of that day, his now-grown son Ford regards his fixations as the ravings of a madman (vs. the anguished unfinished business of a world-class nuclear physicist, but onward).

As Joe and military bomb-technician Ford make one final investigation into the quarantined plant site fifteen years later, they discover that much more is afoot: scientists have discovered some very unpleasant goings-on involving long-dormant gargantuan creatures that have been awakened by the smell of nuclear power in the morning.

Needless to say (but I will), the creatures awaken and rampage through whatever feeble structures stand in their way (such as San Francisco), chomping their way across the globe until confronted by “the world’s most famous monster.” You can pretty much guess how things go down from here.

Was "Godzilla" cool? You bet. Were the creatures he was fighting cool? Sure. Was the movie cool? Pretty much, yeah. Probably the best use of 3D IMAX I’ve seen to date and a rockin’ movie watching experience. A colleague fan of mine commented (I paraphrase) that Godzilla’s roar was not to be believed, and he’s right.

I enjoyed the visuals greatly, but alas, stoked and wowed I was not.

The problem? The thin story. The attempt at meaning with cookie-cutter characters. The squandered cast.

Actually, the cast wasn’t squandered, it just didn’t have anything to do. Comprised primarily of Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Aaaron Taylor-Johnson, Sally Hawkins, and Elizabeth Olsen, it owned a gold mine of talent. But "Godzilla" would have been just as well off with a troupe of Juilliard drama majors angling to get discovered, and it would've cost the production a lot less. Not because the cast didn't do well (which of course they did), but because there wasn't one single unique thing about any character that the actor could grab hold of and own.

Anywhere manufactured drama held the possibility of actual drama (such as Ford’s promise to panicked parents that he would protect their small boy through the chaos), the resolutions simply fell flat and equally manufactured (the boy reunites with his parents in a crowd, apropos of nothing, and they don’t even look around to spot Ford who saved his little butt and say thank you). And so it goes. >sigh<

Me, I’d think "Godzilla" would have been better as seen only through the eyes of Ford, scrapping the pretty wife and young child and focusing on our guy as he tries to mitigate the carnage as it proceeds around the globe (which is admittedly very cool). The rest was just a mishmash of trying to generate tension and backstory within a story that was already tense and didn’t have any natural backstory to begin with. But that’s just my two cents, and I’m finished thinking about it.

Go see "Godzilla" on the biggest screen you can possible manage, and if it’s 3D IMAX, even better. Stock up on popcorn and goodies, and enjoy the action. Don’t expect any more than that, but confidently expect that.

Story: The world's most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity's scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.

Genre: Action, Sci-fi

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olson, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Richard T. Jones, Juliette Binoche

Directed by: Gareth Edwards


Website: Official Site | Official Facebook

Running time: 123 minutes

Houston release date: May 16, 2014

Tickets: Check or your local listings

Screened May 12th 2014 at the Edwards Marq*E theater in Houston TX

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