Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘Godzilla’ Review: Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston & Elizabeth Olsen

What better way to really begin the summer movie season than a re-visiting of the classic 1954 film Godzilla? A film about a gigantic creature rising up from the Pacific Ocean near Tokyo, stirring up mayhem for Earth’s inhabitants. Just when you thought that wasn’t enough to whisk yourself away to the theatre, this remake stars Bryan Cranston and is directed by British filmmaker Gareth Edwards.

The film opens in 1999, where we meet expatriate American scientist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) and young son Ford (CJ Adams). When something moves underneath the Japanese nuclear power plant, where Joe and Sandra work, Joe knows it isn’t an earthquake. But unfortunately for Joe, it takes him 15 years to figure out what exactly what it is.

As we jump forward to present day in Tokyo, Joe and his military son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) work together as they attempt to find the truth behind the power plant collapsing and why their entire hometown was evacuated.

Secret international agency Monarch, which is led by Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and his English scientist sidekick Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins), have been searching for the ginormous creature they call “Godzilla” for decades. Joe knows that Monarch is hiding the truth from the world and he demands answers after they catch him and his son in the evacuated area by their home. But just before Joe gets his answers, a winged pterodactyl creature that Dr. Serizawa calls Muto, breaks free from it’s radioactive womb at the Monarch headquarters destroying everything in its path. As other Mutos pop out like flies around the world, Dr. Serizawa believes that Godzilla will rise from beneath the ocean in order to restore Earth’s natural balance. And Dr. Serizawa is right.

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If Bryan Cranston had a role in every movie here on out, the movie would only benefit from it. It’s amazing with what little screen time he can have in movies (Argo, Contagion, Drive, Larry Crowne) and the film is so much better because of his incredible talent. Cranston completely carries the first part of Godzilla and it’s he who develops the initial human storyline of the film. Cranston’s character is far more interesting than the storyline between Ford and his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen), who he is desperately trying to get home to in San Francisco.

The visual effects are incredible and the reveal of Godzilla is especially fantastic, so much so that it got a well deserved applaud from the audience. Too bad its muddled by the completely unnecessary 3D conversion. Please do yourself a favor and purchase the 2D tickets, so you can see Godzilla in all his glory. In the scenes where Godzilla battles the Mutos, it’s amazing to see how far the classic Japanese tale has come from its original 1954 version.

If you’ve seen the criminally underrated 2010 film Monsters, director Gareth Edwards’ first feature film, you’ll know that Edwards understands monsters, loves monsters and gives them the respect they deserve in a creature powered film like this one. Though the balance between the humans and the creatures was done perfectly in Monsters, Edwards attempts to do the same in Godzilla, but struggles after something major happens in the story (which will not be revealed in this review). But even so, Edwards was the perfect choice to direct this film, if only he had a better-constructed screenplay to work with.

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The main problem with Godzilla is that the film wastes the talents of its actors, especially that of Elizabeth Olsen. Even Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who I adore in the Kick-Ass films, is virtually emote-less throughout the movie. Yes, Godzilla is ultimately about the title monster, but its imperative that our human characters are given enough screen time to properly develop the story. Halfway through the film, the human storyline completely dissolves into the monster one and the two are never appropriately balanced throughout.

Godzilla will please fans of the original films and gain new ones and its loads better than the 1998 remake by Roland Emmerich, but its first act is far better than its finish, and we really needed more Bryan Cranston.

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