Saturday, June 7, 2014

In Theatres: Godzilla (2014)

This is some way to honor a legend, isn't it?

"Godzilla" turns 60 this year, and its newest incarnation is as distinct and as different from the original, as well as the 1998 reincarnation, as can be. But how can a legendary monster be treated as a supporting player in its own movie?

It's because much of the action is centered on the human characters in the film, much like Roland Emmerich's version 16 years ago. There is a homage to the original "Godzilla", or "Gojira", as it's known in Japan, from 1954, in explaining the backstory, updating it to modern times.

Archival footage aside, the film begins 15 years ago with a husband and wife team of scientists, Joe & Sandra Brody, who are leading a team in Japan. A nuclear reactor erupts, causing a breach. Despite his best efforts, Joe watches helplessly as Sandra and her team are trapped, unable to escape.

Fast forward to the present day, and the Brodys' son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), is now in the military, married to a nurse (Elizabeth Olsen), with a son of his own. Ford receives word that his father (Bryan Cranston, fresh from Breaking Bad), has been arrested for trespassing into a now-quarantined area in Japan, convinced that the Japanese government covered up the 1999 accident that claimed his wife. As it turns out, once Ford arrives in Japan, that Joe was right. There was something hidden beneath the surface, something that the eggheads called a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Object). What it is isn't quite a pterodactyl, or a bat, but more like a hybrid of the two species, and it ain't alone. Its mate surfaces in Las Vegas, and so that legendary city gets wrecked.

And where's Godzilla? It eventually appears, finding its way to San Francisco. Instead of wrecking the Golden Gate Bridge, Godzilla actually holds on to it in order leverage itself into a standing position (which, of course, makes this model infinitely superior to Emmerich's giant creepy crawler), before engaging the MUTO's, who are now together, in battle. It's almost halfway into the movie before Godzilla appears, but if there was any suspense, well, I didn't feel it.

The military wanted to kill all three creatures, failing to realize that Godzilla is on our side. The only other link to the classic franchise is the appearance of Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), who plays a more vital role than he did in the first American treatment of the franchise, the redubbing of the original. An actor associated with the franchise was given a part in the movie, but it was edited off, likely to surface amidst deleted scenes in the DVD release later this year.

With Breaking Bad now history, Bryan Cranston returns to the look of the harried parent from Malcolm in the Middle, and I'd nominate him for a reboot of the Indiana Jones franchise if Harrison Ford wants to hang up his fedora. He channeled Ford quite a bit during the first part of the film.

I will say that this was better than Emmerich's film by a wide margin, and I knew that going in. Godzilla wasn't really 30 stories high, as the theme to the 1978 cartoon says, maybe losing a few inches in height (slightly stooped over), but modern technology ain't perfect.

Trailers:

"Into the Storm" (August 8): It's about tornados. Need any more info?
"The Rover": Robert Pattinson ("Twilight") & Guy Pearce (Madonna's ex) in an Australian produced film.
Plus, trailers we've seen before for "How to Train Your Dragon 2" and "22 Jump Street". The more I see the latter, the less I'm interested in even renting the previous film.

And, here's the trailer for "Godzilla":



Rating: B+.

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