In some ways, I liken my experience of seeing the new Godzilla to that of seeing 1989’s Batman. I went in to both films very much wanting to love them. They were both heavily-hyped blockbusters featuring characters I had adored since childhood. They were both designed to wash away the stink of a previous incarnation—in the case of Batman, it was the campy 1960s Adam West TV series; with Godzilla, it was the horrid 1998 film starring Matthew Broderick and directed by Roland Emmerich, as well as the goofy, silly, kiddie-oriented Godzilla movies of the late 60s and early 70s. And both films had absolutely killer trailers that made me believe that I was going to be getting exactly what I wanted.
Cranston plays nuclear physicist Joe Brody, who is desperately trying to uncover the truth behind a tragic incident at a Japanese nuclear power plant 15 years earlier, which took the life of his beloved wife Sandra, played by Juliette Binoche. Without a doubt, Cranston is the very best thing about the film. Unfortunately, there’s not nearly enough of him in it. And the same thing can be said about the title character.
|A glimpse at one of the MUTO creatures|
Ford is played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who starred in both Kick-Ass movies, played John Lennon in Nowhere Boy, and will be seen next year as Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Based on having seen him in Kick-Ass, I would say that Taylor-Johnson is a capable actor, but he’s given very little chance to perform in Godzilla. His character is so woefully underdeveloped and stoic and lacking in any real substance, that you can’t bring yourself to really care about him or anything that happens to him.
It’s not just the characters that lack substance—I’m not really sure what this movie is supposed to be about. The original 1954 Godzilla was an allegory about the horrors of nuclear weapons, produced by people who had seen those horrors in real life, up close and personal. Godzilla the creature was portrayed as the personification of nature striking back at humanity for daring to tamper with such powerful and dangerous forces. In this new film, Serizawa has a good line: “The arrogance of man is thinking nature is in our control, and not the other way around.” But it comes off as lip service to a never-fully-explored theme, an attempt to shoehorn in some degree of meaning to all the noise and spectacle.
He does not run or hide like a frightened cat, as he did in the 1998 abomination. He does not engage in silly wrestling moves.
Nor does he do a victory dance.
Edwards seems to have been most influenced by the way Godzilla was depicted in 1964’s Godzilla Vs. The Thing (one of my favorites) and in the more recent films produced by Japan’s Toho Co. Ltd., which presented the creature as neither evil nor benevolent, his true motivations remaining mostly unknown. This, in my opinion, is a very good thing—though I have to mention that in this regard, the film ends on a somewhat bizarre note that prompted snickers and giggles in the screening I attended.
The special effects are masterfully done. I like the design of the new Godzilla, though it doesn’t rank as one of my favorites. The MUTO creatures are also well executed and interesting, echoing the monster from Cloverfield and Godzilla’s old sparring partner Rodan. They make for worthy adversaries for “Big G.”