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Movie Review: 'Godzilla', Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Ken Watanabe

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Godzilla 2014

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Godzilla, commonly referred to as king of the monsters, is a huge, dinosaur-looking creature that would probably scare the living daylights out of anyone who lays eyes on him. The creature from Japanese lore has arisen in pop culture as one of its most recognizable monster and appeared in a total of 28 films. So, it's a little confusing as to why such a renowned, larger-than-life creature is barely present in a movie which bears his name in the title. Godzilla is a disappointing blockbuster flick that's full of military and science jargon that flies right over the heads of everyone's 3D glass-wearing faces and tries to make sense of something which doesn't need to be made sense of.

In 1999, scientists Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) are called to a site in the Philippines where the ground has collapsed to reveal fossils of some kind. In Japan of that same year, nuclear scientists Joe (Bryan Cranston) and Sandra Brody (Juliette Binoche) are caught in the middle of some heavy seismic activity that's abnormal in frequency. It's strong enough to destroy the nuclear plant where they work and takes the life of Sandra, which forces Joe to become obsessed with finding out what caused the event that led to her death.

15 years later, Joe's son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is called back to Japan after his father is arrested snooping through the quarantined destruction zone from long ago. One thing leads to another, and before anyone knows it, they're all caught in the middle of two ancient and malevolent creatures who feed off of radiation and have no problem destroying everything in their wake. And instead of being the fearsome creature we all thought we knew, Godzilla goes after the large bat-like creatures in hopes to restore nature's natural order (or so we're told by guessing characters, because, you know, Godzilla doesn't speak!).

There are some films you can't help but have expectations for. Godzilla is one of them. After giving us the pretty amazing trailers (the best of the year so far), the film falls so short of being as fantastic as the trailers are that you might want to just watch those for the rest of the summer. Yes, it's hard to make a movie about Godzilla. He's a ginormous, monstrous creature that can't speak, so its ultimate motivations are quite lost on us. We don't understand the whys and hows of the pop culture icon, so it's pretty easy to get lost in an ocean of confusion when it comes to trying to center a movie around him.

But here's the kicker: the movie isn't centered around him at all, and the humans it does focus on are as boring as staring at a rock all afternoon. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, which draws you to these characters. The ones you may have had any emotional or sympathetic attachment to are killed off 15 minutes into the film, leaving us with a lot of exposition (seriously, there's a ton of it), characters staring blankly and turning their heads in shocking realization, and scientific explanations to the reasons the creatures are topside so skewed that the scientific community will scoff.

Yes, this is nitpicking. Yes, this movie is probably just meant to be an entertaining popcorn flick with no real substance, but the thing about it is that it's not entertaining. There are several boring moments, the two-hour run time making it hard to sit through. Most of the fights between Godzilla and the two other monsters are more like teasers and the filmmakers cut to the next scenes without further explaining how the monsters move from one place to another. About a quarter of the way through, the military gets involved and it kind of goes down hill from there. Watching people yell commands at each other and come up with plans that are so flawed a ten-year-old could point out the holes in their logic dragged out and boring.

The worst part is that the film reduces its talented cast to bystanders who don't really partake in any kind of action to stop what's going on. Ken Watanabe, who is usually fantastic, spends the entire film answering questions and looking lost. Aaron Taylor-Johnson moves from location to location, trying to get back to his wife (Elizabeth Olson) and son, but isn't of much use otherwise, and Bryan Cranston pretty much delivers most of his lines in the trailer and doesn't get enough screen time.

Is there anything to like about Godzilla? Well, the shot of Godzilla making his first appearance while coming out of the water is wonderfully done. The monster fights are also good if they'd actually focused a bit more on that. Maybe they used up all their money and resources on making the monsters look fantastic that they just forgot about giving them enough screen time. The film's opening has a lot of potential, but the film quickly falls apart and gets boring about halfway in. The talented cast is wasted, the focus on the monsters practically nonexistent, and the characters wooden. If you want to see some large monsters fight and a plot that makes a bit more sense, go watch Pacific Rim. At least it's much more entertaining.

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