Godzilla ✮1/2

Gawd-Zero

by Glenn Lovell

Nobody much cared for the 1998 “Godzilla” reboot starring Matthew Broderick and, plastered over the Manhattan backdrops, wall-to-wall product-placement ads. It was widely agreed that it did the King of Monsters a gross disservice. So how does the latest incarnation of Toho’s legendary thunder-lizard fare? The good news: it restores the big guy’s tank-melting radioactive breath.

In the climactic smackdown between Godzilla and a pair of M.U.T.O.s ‒ eight-legged hybrids of snapping turtles and the “Alien” creature ‒ Godzilla emits a theater-shaking r-r-roar and gives the female M.U.T.O. mouth-to-mouth, barbecuing the ol’ girl from the inside out.

It’s a cathartic, crowd-pleasing moment, an obvious sop to fans of the 1954 original, wherein the reawakened dinosaur emerged from the sea to lay waste to a matchbox Tokyo.

Unfortunately, the new “Godzilla” provides far too few such moments. Indeed, filmed almost entirely at night or through an acrid-yellow haze to disguise bad CG, it’s even worse than that lamentable 1998 release. Director Gareth Edwards, who showed promise with the imaginative, ultra-low-budget “Monsters,” has stitched together one cataclysmic event after another. MIA are anything resembling logical plot progression and character development. This is one of those ludicrous affairs in which tens of thousands of fleeing civilians are trampled and flattened while the nominal headliners ‒ Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s bomb-disposal expert and Elizabeth Olsen’s nurse-wife, in this instance ‒ somehow manage to escape and reunite.Godzil

Under the best of circumstances, stand-ins for humankind ‒ think Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum in “Independence Day” ‒ come off as stick-figure caricatures. Here, as San Francisco and Oakland sub for ground zero and tactical command HQ, the, ahem, principals surpass your standard-issue cutouts to become laugh-out-loud idiotic. One of the few to crawl from the downtown rubble? Olsen, of course. The only survivor of an atomic train disaster? Taylor-Johnson, aka “the Hope of All Humanity.” The first bus to break through the gridlock on the Golden Gate Bridge? The one carrying the stars’ son.

Things get off to a semi-intriguing start as Edwards and tyro scenarist Max Borenstein fuse mythology from Toho’s “Rodan” and Friedkin’s “The Exorcist.” Bryan Cranston at his hammiest and Juliette Binoche at her most earnest play husband and wife engineers working at a Japanese power plant beset by seismic anomalies. Before you can say “Fukushima Dai-ichi!” there’s a nuclear-reactor meltdown. Fifteen years later ‒ coincidence of coincidences ‒ the couple’s son (Taylor-Johnson) races to avert the global disaster foretold by his conspiracy nut father. Monitoring things from the sidelines are Ken Watanabe’s glum Japanese scientist and David Strathairn’s all-neck admiral. No surprises here. Watanabe, as the film’s voice of reason, wants nature to take its course, i.e. have Godzilla wipe the floor with the M.U.T.O.s (massive unidentified terrestrial organisms). The ramrod straight Strathairn wants to nuke the warring mutants ‒ who, oops, feed on radiation.

Director Edwards obviously studied “Jurassic Park” before staging his CG/blue screen assaults. (And composer Alexandre Desplat obviously listened to Bernard Herrmann.) In places, this “Godzilla” plays like a parody of the Spielberg classic. How else to respond to moments in which the 300-foot goliaths creep up on obviously preoccupied humans? Fittingly, Edwards only decent shock owes a debt to low-tech Hitchcock ‒ disoriented seagulls slamming into a school-bus window.

Take a lesson, Hollywood. Light-years ahead of this $160-million boondoggle ‒ the jittery, handheld “Cloverfield.”

GODZILLA ✮1/2 With Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn. Directed by Gareth Edwards; scripted by Max Borenstein. 123 min. PG-13 (nonstop CG mayhem)

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19 Responses to “Godzilla ✮1/2”

  1. Chris-Zoë Pierson Says:

    I get the Rodan reference, but the Exorcist? Did not see that one coming.

    Like

  2. trollkiller55 Says:

    if you make one cent from writing reviews, you’re over paid

    Like

  3. Werewuf Says:

    Cloverfield? Seriously? That light weight ill conceived movie that made us all chant for the return of the true Godzilla? Please!!! This new Godzilla lays waste to the competition and finally proves that there can be a GREAT giant monster movie. Time to find another job…

    Like

  4. rememberthescam Says:

    Ah yes, Cloverfield: the shaky-cam, migraine-inducing, ridiculously overrated result of what would happen if vampire bat mated with the last reel of the ‘Blair Witch Project’. Pretentious and as grating as fingernails on a chalkboard, it makes perfect sense that a film critic would fawn over it. Your website is very aptly named.

    Like

  5. Mark Says:

    Totally agree with this review. Horrible acting and all effects were at night so you can’t see too much.

    Like

  6. Ken Says:

    A big downer. They didn’t even get his noise right. The acting here made me miss Tom Cruise.

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  7. PMZanetti Says:

    What a joke. Not the movie, your pathetic review.

    Like

  8. Esteban Martinez Says:

    Wow, someone here has no idea of what a Godzilla movie is.

    But hey, you liked Cloverfield, which is crap, so I understand why you wouldn’t get what a Godzilla movie is supposed to be.

    Your loss.

    Like

    • Glenn Lovell Says:

      Yes, Gozilla movies long known for their Shakespearean tropes: He came, he saw, he stomped.

      Like

      • Ulrik Says:

        Actually the Godzilla movies were in large part an allegory for Japan’s relationship with nuclear technology, particularly the events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hence all that stuff about the monster being both destroyer and savior, and whether it is he, or we, who are th ‘king of monsters’.

        Godzilla is about stomping in the same way Julius Caesar is about knife crime.

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      • Glenn Lovell Says:

        Yes, I use clips from the original Japanese “Godzilla” in my sci-fi class as nuclear-age allegory. It opened less than a decade after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

        The new in-name-only variant is less about politics than murky CG and launching a new franchise.

        Like

  9. Rackshaq Says:

    Yeah. One good scene in the entire movie. The skydiving with red flares scene. Everything else about this movie was horrible. Really, really, bad movie. Yes Cloverfield was actually a good movie as far as I’m concerned. There was actually some suspense. The dialogue was organic, and the plot was actually a plot. Not just random sequences of poor character development and overly serious cheesiness. In this movie, there was no suspense. It didn’t matter where it was going, only that it would eventually get there. A clash of Titans.

    Like

  10. wickedcesar Says:

    Obviously this guys not a fan. Godzilla absolutely. Fantastic. ..you should stick to reviewing cartoons

    Like

  11. MadDog Says:

    Accurate account of this “Boondoggle” Glenn.
    We went to see the movie today, Yup, we are old enough to wait for the weekend roll-out and see it on Monday..so we can enjoy the flick without distraction.
    Our review: Boring, lame, disappointing…we were not given the “KICK ASS” GODZILLA we all craved.
    Like your comment about the MUTO’s — Snapping turtles and the “Alien” creature. We all came up with the same impression of the MUTO’s. They are nothing but a larger version of THE BUGS from STARSHIP TROOPERS. Been there, seen that..
    THE MUTO’s did nothing to scare us, make us think, nothing…all they do is consume nuclear energy???…What???…Boring!!!
    GODZILLA’s Breath was lame also…there was a stir in the crowd and then..”Oh, that was it?” Looked like GODZILLA had a Dragon’s Fire Breath. Just weak Man…perhaps this GODZILLA needs some Viagra to build up his RAY…
    That’s right GODZILLA has an ATOMIC RAY not ATOMIC BREATH…C’mon Man, this is GODZILLA…not SMAUG!!!
    Should have waited for this to come out as a re-run on TNT, TBS, AMC, etc.

    Like

  12. Erik Says:

    Are you kidding me this one of the best Godzilla movie out there. Definitely not a Godzilla fan.

    Like

  13. Christopher Kimson Says:

    Really guys? How do you even enjoy any movie if you can’t enjoy this one? Seriously, this Godzilla movie was really the best there was out of all the others. I mean, take a look at the 1998 one. Boring, lame, and such. I mean, the military destroys more of New York City then Godzilla does! And they gave him chicken legs and a boxed up head! That one sucks. But this one is really worth your money. Thats what it is all about. Its all about if the movie was worth what you paid. If you watched a decent movie for 15-20 dollars, it would not be worth it. Just go and borrow it on a dvd. But this one is the best out of all the Godzilla movies.

    Like

  14. LEXTON Says:

    although I agree with you that it’s a bad movie – I can’t agree about cloverfield which was utter, UTTER drivel.. Only a pretentious film critic could love that movie seriously…

    Like

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