Sunday, June 01, 2014

Movie Review: Godzilla (2014)

Monster mash.

Watching gigantic radioactive critters level entire city blocks (in 3D!) has never been so much fun.  The iconic beastie who first appeared in Ishiro Honda's 1954 movie has become an international pop culture icon with his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and with this 2014 film he is back and better than ever.  It blows away the awful 1998 movie with a force as powerful as Godzilla's own atomic breath (would you like a mint, big fella?).

First of all, let's get real.  Nobody goes to a Godzilla flick with the expectation that you're going to get nuanced character development, sophisticated art direction, witty dialogue, or elegant plotting.  Nope, you go to a Godzilla flick to see enormous monsters destroy things in eye-popping ways and fight each other with all the flashy visuals that the filmmakers can drum up.  This flick delivers on that count, and it even tries to give you some character development (I said "tries," you notice, not always "succeeds") with the casting of some remarkable people who elevate this popcorn genre escapade just by being in it.

So let's talk about the casting.  The protagonist of the piece is ostensibly the hilariously named Ford Brody (played by eye-candyish Brit Aaron Taylor-Johnson, late of Kick-Ass), but this is a flick with minor characters who pretty much steal the show.  Ken Watanabe, long a favorite of mine, is along for the mayhem as Japanese scientist Ichiro Serizawa.  David Strathairn is the Navy man given the thankless task of dealing with the kaiju chaos.  None other than Juliette Binoche (so good in Chocolat) and Bryan "Walter White" Cranston play Ford Brody's mom and dad, for goodness sake!  Cranston by dint of his sheer awesomeness manages to invest his (underwritten) character with engaging, even moving, substance.  *spoiler*  For about ten glorious minutes you think that Cranston is the main character, and then you feel bereft and not just a little bit cheated.  

The plot ... Come on, do I really have to explain?  I have to say, though, that for about the entire first act there wasn't enough Godzilla in his own movie.  Once the action gets going, though, it gets GOING.  Honolulu, Las Vegas, and San Francisco are going to have a heck of a time cleaning up.  

A note on special effects: They are spectacular.  We've come a long way from the days when the movie monster was clearly some poor guy in a rubber suit!  

Mad Minerva gives Godzilla a grade of B+.  It would have been an A if only it had given us more Cranston and Watanabe and ... OK, more Godzilla earlier on.  

RottenTomatoes gives Godzilla the bona fide Fresh rating of 73%.

Godzilla runs 123 minutes and is rated PG-13 for plenty of mayhem and destruction.

Here's the trailer:

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