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Movie review: ‘Godzilla’ is a smashing good time

Godzilla

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Watching Gareth Edwards’ “Godzilla” reboot, which releases to theaters on May 16, transported me back to a time spent in front of the television and all of the different monster movies aired on the Disney Channel as part of a marathon. Yes, the Disney Channel – the same channel that now shows things I never knew existed until doing a quick Google search just so I could write this.

Images from 'Godzilla' (2014)-slide0
Warner Bros. Pictures
I'm not paying that toll booth.
I'm not paying that toll booth.
Warner Bros. Pictures

Ghidra, Rodan, Mothra, and Godzilla were all part of this lineup, and their different movies would air after school. It was a total blast to see all of these monsters fight each other. And Edwards knows how that 10-year-old, and others like him, felt when watching those movies and perfectly captures it here.

This new “Godzilla” opens in 1999, which is the year after Roland Emmerich’s abysmal remake came roaring into cinemas and the titular character was a creature with the face of a boxcar. But, don’t worry; Edwards actually pays great respect to the original Godzilla franchise.

Edwards takes his “Godzilla” and gives it the “Jaws” treatment. We don’t see the big guy until after more than an hour into the movie, which is nice, because that gives us time to wait and prepare for what is to come. Edwards knows that a patient audience will wait, and he doesn’t turn the film into a loud, bombastic action flick – which will be the result of a lot of other summer films coming this year (see: “Transformers: Age of Extinction”).

In the meantime, we’re given this story in which former engineer Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) believes a tragedy at the plant where he worked was not caused by some natural disaster. Flash forward to 15 years later, and we see Joe’s son, Ford (an unrecognizable Aaron Taylor-Johnson), all grown up and returning from a 14-month stint in the military. But as he returns home to his loving wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and son, that’s when a M.U.T.O. (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Object) rises from the ground and begins attacking America.

No, it’s not Godzilla; this M.U.T.O. is some flying cockroach-looking creature, and it’s on the lookout for a mate. But as it tears through Hawaii, Nevada, and California, Godzilla comes roaring through, and the film becomes an epic monster mash.

The cast, which also includes David Strathairn; Ken Watanabe; and Sally Hawkins, is exceptional, and their characters are actually fitting for this kind of movie – which is something that doesn’t happen too often. But, of course, the human part of the movie isn’t quite as intriguing as when Godzilla comes onto the screen. That’s when Edwards lets all of his creative juices out, and he doesn’t hold back from delivering some breath-taking, crowd-cheering moments.

Yes, I even found myself wanting to root on Godzilla as he took down these evil creatures.

Edwards knows how to properly use the camera for the right moments, and which scenes should be shown at certain angles and which ones are OK with being viewed from the distance. His “Godzilla” is a visually stunning feature that is worthy of the price of admission. The 3D doesn’t add much, but it works well when Godzilla makes his appearance.

This is only the second film from Edwards (the first being the independent “Monsters”), but he seems to have a good handle on how to properly balance a good popcorn film. Give him another; let’s see what else he can do with a big budget.