Film Review: “Godzilla”

godzillaFun, not cheesy and reinvigorates the iconic monster.

Did GODZILLA need stars? As soon as Bryan Cranston appeared on screen, someone shouted out “Heisenberg!” We all love Walter White.

And what about star Aaron Taylor-Johnson?

When Taylor-Johnson stars as Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015) you will definitely know who he is. However, all women past 25 know him as the dashing, blond-haired Vronsky in ANNA KARENINA. Yes, Taylor-Johnson was Dave Lizewski in KICK-ASS (2010) and KICK-ASS 2 (2013), but for GODZILLA and AVENGERS he has been transformed into a massive, bulked-up superhero. I hardly recognized him.

GODZILLA is hardly a risky career choice for Cranston and Taylor-Johnson. It was fun and not cheesy. They played it for real. So real I thought Jack Bauer would turn up running bare-chested through Tokyo streets hearing Chloe O’Brian’s voice through an earpiece.

aaron

Aaron Taylor-Johnson

As the credits roll we get visual snapshots of where this GODZILLA 2014 will be headed. All those “nuclear tests” done by the U.S. in the Pacific? The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? The Manhattan Project! So J. Robert Oppenheimer was not the ‘destroyer of worlds” but hell-bent on destroying a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism).

Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) arrive at a massive quarry where there are two sacs attached to a huge skeleton. One of the sacs breaks free and heads to the sea destroying everything in its path. The other sac goes to the U.S. for study near Las Vegas.

I’ve taken the public tour of the Nevada National Security Site (formerly the Nevada Test Site) where the sac must be headed. The site is located about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas and public bus tours (with lunch provided in the fee) are conducted only four times a year. 

The Las Vegas audience cheered the destruction of The Strip.

Joe Brody (Cranston) is a reclusive paranoid, living in Tokyo near a nuclear facility where he worked over a decade ago with his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) and their young son Ford (CJ Adams).

Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston

Fifteen years ago Joe and Sandra were scientists working on creating radioactive energy when Joe figured out that something bad was going to happen. He told his wife to go check it out. She and her team were then trapped. Joe kept the steel door closed and they all died. Joe has been in Tokyo going over charts and anticipating the next collapse of the new nuclear plant. His charts say another catastrophe is about to happen again.

GODZILLA’S screenwriter, Max Borenstein, must have referenced Hashima Island, commonly called Gunkanjima (or “Battleship Island”). Hashima floats off the coast of Nagasaki in Japan, surrounded by a concrete sea wall which gives it an armored warship appearance. The abandoned island’s weathered silhouette is punctuated by crumbling concrete buildings and structures, ravaged by typhoons.

When Joe is arrested on the restricted area, Ford, leaves the U.S. to bail him out. Ford is now an explosive ordnance disposal jockey for the U.S. Navy, married to Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and with a young son (Carson Bolde).

Within days, a male MUTO emerges looking to mate with a female MUTO who has also morphed into a very fertile breeder. She’s got a weekend hotel package at TI on the Strip. The male MUTO is on a quest. How will the world stop these two from mating?

I really liked these two monsters. They are lean, fast and have purpose. Godzilla, unfortunately, is morbidly obese. He doesn’t move very fast.

Dr. Serizawa sums it up in a philosophical rant about nature’s balance. He just wants the U.S. military to wait for the mythical Godzilla to restore balance. He wants a land fight.

The two MUTOS are really formidable and quite entertaining and realistic – as monsters. They have no lines or character arcs. Godzilla, on the other hand, has a mission and some type of understanding of cosmic rules.

Cranston (who will always be the iconic Mr. White and therefore can do no wrong in any role), did not have the perk of reverence when it came to the hair and makeup department working on GODZILLA. Who put that terrible flop-wig on him? Who put all that heavy cake makeup on Cranston trying to create a 15 years younger Joe?

The screenwriter did give Cranston the perk of writing his wife as being a worshipful mate. She knelt at his feet.

Taylor-Johnson’s personal life has gotten the most press prior to GODZILLA. When he was 20 years-old and the star of Sam Taylor-Wood’s directorial debut NOWHERE BOY, they began a relationship. Taylor-Wood was 43 years old. Now married, they has two children. They both chose the last name Taylor-Johnson. And with Sam Taylor-Johnson the chosen director for FIFTY SHADES OF GREY (opening on Valentine’s Day 2015! It’s a love story, damn it!), we will soon know everything about her ordeals with colon and then breast cancer and the scandal surrounding her prior marriage. I am sure Sam Taylor-Johnson will do a terrific job with FIFTY SHADES. I love all her work.

There is no way to compare this Godzilla with its predecessors. Why? They did their best technically with what they had. Director Gareth Edwards and his team put the money on the screen and Godzilla fans will love it.

Film Critic for FilmsInReview.com, LasVegasInformer.com, and FilmFestivalToday.com

Member of Broadcast Film Critics Association: www.bfca.org/
Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/.godzilla

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at masauu@aol.com.

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