New version of 'Godzilla' lacks fire
“Godzilla” belches back to life in a new Warner Bros. film that harks back to the kid-friendlier versions of these Japanese “Kaiju” (big monster) movies. In an increasingly radioactive world menaced by radiation-eating beasties, the return of the almost-cuddly “King of the Monsters” may be the least of our troubles.
The opening credits cleverly revisit the 1940s and ‘50s atomic testing that awakened Godzilla once. Gareth Edwards' film then jumps to the late ‘90s, where mysterious goings-on in mining operations hint that something bad is about to go down.
Bryan Cranston is an American engineer working with his wife (Juliette Binoche) when a tragic accident means their little boy Ford will grow up without a mom.
Years later, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson of “Kick-Ass”) is a Navy bomb-disposal expert, and Dad's still hanging around the ruins of that Japanese reactor, a wild-eyed loon determined to get to the bottom of a cover-up. Something is awakening. Call it a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). And call in the military.
Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) has been following developments all these years. He knows what's up. He's seen the Toho movies. He's heard the Blue Oyster Cult song.
Visual-effects-master-turned-director Gareth Edwards impressed Hollywood with his low-budget version of this sort of story, “Monsters.” Given a huge budget and hours to tell the tale, he delivers a lumbering movie that's as bloated as this new roly-poly version of the Big Guy, whom we only see in all his glory in the later acts.
Cranston blubbers with emotion — “Something KILLED my wife, and I have a RIGHT to know!” Taylor-Johnson doesn't break a sweat as beasts try to keep him from making it home to his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and child in San Francisco. Watanabe runs through a panoply of “stricken” looks as he sees the menace, understands it and fails to convince the admiral (David Strathairn) in charge that the natural world needs “order” and perhaps the giant lizard “will restore it.”
The effects are decent — warships tossed about like bathtub toys, trains trashed and torched, nuclear missiles munched. The movie's never less than competent. But the fatigue of over-familiarity curses this franchise like few others. We've seen Japanese men in monster suits. We've seen digital kaiju, and gigantic robot-armored soldiers fighting them (“Pacific Rim”).
So, in a tale this timeworn and a film this devoid of humor, with only a few moments of humanity, with tension frittered away by the tedious repetition of the fights, anybody who has ever seen “Godzilla” in any incarnation can be forgiven for asking the obvious:
“What else have you got?”
Roger Moore is a staff writer for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Swank prefers characters who don’t care about their wrinkles
- Review: This ‘Museum’ piece is as funny as a tomb
- Review: Wallis, Jamie and Jay Z bring ‘Annie’ back to life
- Reese Witherspoon: How a scandal saved her career
- Tis the season: Holiday home video gift guide
- Oakmont’s Oaks Theater owner projects updates will expand presence, use
- DVD reviews: ‘This is Where I Leave You,’ ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ and ‘The Skeleton Twins’