Release Date: May 16, 2014
Running Time: 123 minutes
If the Godzilla of 1954 served as a Japanese atomic-age cautionary tale, its latest American remake warns us not to mess with Mother Nature. In director Gareth Edwards’ lacking Godzilla, the King of Monsters predates the nuclear bombs. He only rises to the surface to battle two giant insectoid creatures, known as the MUTO, that wreck havoc across the world. From the get-go, Edwards and screenwriter Max Borenstein depict Godzilla as an antihero. While this is the same role Godzilla would take on several films into the original Toho-produced franchise that ran two decades, Edwards and Borenstein immediately eliminate Godzilla as a threat to humanity. Maybe this is Edwards and Borenstein’s way to avoid telling the same story that director Roland Emmerich did in 1998 with his much-maligned Godzilla, which found the monster tearing New York to pieces. Unfortunately, all this does is to reduce Godzilla as an imposing presence from the moment we set sights on him. Sure, we are in awe of him, but we’re never scared of him. He’s accepted as the savior of the world the second he walks onto dry land to administer a beat down on one of the MUTO. Oddly, though, Edwards is reluctant to show Godzilla taking on the MUTO—or much of the mass destruction that the MUTO cause—until the climatic showdown between the monsters in San Francisco. He teases us with a few seconds of the MUTO on the rampage before cutting away to show the aftermath, either via TV news footage or from the perspective of Godzilla’s lead character, a U.S. Navy lieutenant played by Kickass’ Aaron Taylor-Johnson. At least the final confrontation between Godzilla and the MUTO is executed on an epic scale, although it feels like a slight letdown when compared to the punch-ups between the Jaegers and the Kaijus of Pacific Rim. Godzilla may be the headliner, but this is the MUTO’s story. Godzilla shows up when needed, and that’s about it. As for Taylor-Johnson, he’s also just as incidental to Godzilla. He’s a witness to much of the devastation caused by the MUTO, but he’s not required to take any action of significant consequence until the end. Taylor-Johnson’s fellow cast members— Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, and David Strathairn—are required merely to stand around with shocked looks on their faces. As Taylor-Johnson’s wife, Elizabeth Olsen is particularly wasted. She’s supposed to be the wife in peril in San Francisco but there’s never a time when she’s actually placed in peril. This is stunning. Edward previously directed the low-budget Monsters, which impressed with its focus on the relationship between a journalist and an American tourist who are trapped in an area populated by giant alien creatures. That Edwards is unable to create a human drama in the midst of this disaster is Godzilla’s greatest failing.
Aired: May 15, 2014
Web site: http://www.godzillamovie.com/