Monster Mash – A review of Godzilla (2014)
Production Company: Warner Brothers
Run Time: 123 minutes
Director: Gareth Edwards
Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn
Summary: This one got it right. The monster may be CGI, but it really looks like a guy in a giant rubber suit. And that is the true charm of any Godzilla movie!
Back when I was a kid growing up in the city, every Saturday afternoon, I used to watch the monster movie matinee. Often times, those afternoons would be filled with the screeches and roars of giant monsters in the classic Godzilla movies of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s.
Sure they were cheesy, with horrible special effects and a guy in a giant rubber suit trampling on miniature buildings, cars, tanks and an omnipresent trestle bridge with crowded train approaching its inevitable doom.
Say what you will about the quality of those Toho films, but the charm was in the storytelling which was just plain fun.
Now, Godzilla has been rebooted for a new generation of fans. And unlike the 1998 uber flop featuring Matthew Broderick and a dorky redesign of the mega monster fans came to know and love, this version is actually fun to watch.
Foregoing big name casting (we don’t want the movie stars eclipsing the recognizability of the movie’s namesake, after all) the film instead focuses on storyline and plot points which make it all the more entertaining.
Godzilla is the good guy yet again as he takes on a pair of volatile monsters who’ve been genetically boosted by radiation exposure. The pair, a male and a female, are getting ready to infest the earth with a whole bunch of little versions of themselves.
And if the brood hatches, look out. These guys have a nasty little built in threat to humanity. They can emit electro magnetic pulses and knock power out for miles, making our kind expendable to the ravaging onslaughts they can subsequently wreak.
But don’t discount Godzilla. If he gets his chubby mitts on these two, the show’s over. Our freakish dino descendant has his own secret weapons to rely on. And he knows how to use them too.
The film’s biggest human star is none other than Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad). His character is a physicist named Joe Brody who discovers disturbing radiation readings while on assignment in Japan.
After Joe’s wife dies in a nuclear accident, he becomes reclusive. His son moves stateside when he comes of age, abandoning Joe to his demons.
Joe’s son Ford becomes an ordinance disposal specialist, a plot twist that will become necessary later in the movie. After all, why waste a good character when the story can reap the benefit.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who plays Ford, is perhaps best known as the title character in KickAss. Gone, though, are the signature locks so he’s virtually unrecognizable as a military type here.
Elizabeth Olsen plays Ford’s doting wife Elle who finds herself in the middle of the action when the monsters travel across the ocean from Japan to San Francisco to wreak even more havoc. As a doctor in training, she puts her life on the line as she works to save the lives of people injured in the monster attacks.
And Ken Watanabe is well cast as a Japanese scientist who knows the best way to defeat the MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms – the big bad bugs) is to unleash the power of Godzilla who will level the playing field. His assistant, played by Sally Hawkins, is almost relegated to being mere eye candy though, which is almost a waste.
And of course there’s the ever necessary military presence. David Strathairn plays an admiral who just wants to destroy ALL the monsters – even Godzilla – in a horribly planned exercise in futility that may backfire, destroying even more humans.
Amidst it all is the backdrop of the city and the destruction levied by all three monsters. High rises topple, vehicles are crushed and trestle bridges and a crowded passenger train (not to mention a military cargo train) are threatened in classic fashion as they approach the giant threats to humanity.
And those are the scenes that most remind us of those Saturday afternoons. Godzilla is popcorn cinema at its best. Summer has arrived in theaters and it came in with a roar.
Long live the king of the monsters! I give Godzilla 4-1/2 out of 5 stars.