Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe and David Strathairn

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date:  May 16, 2014 Released by: Warner Brothers

British director Gareth Edwards gets his chance at another remake of an iconic franchise and shouldn't disappoint those wanting to see some behemoth pandemonium preferably on giant-formatted or IMAX screens. There is no Matthew Broderick, Jeno Reno, Hank Azaria or Madison Square Garden in sight notably for those brought up on those cheesy, nostalgic creature features.

With some vivid 3D special effects a new Godzilla is born in ways that calls to mind more original films that could be riveting and terrifying like The Birds, Jaws, and more prominently, Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park. Especially in terms of plot points and certain characterizations.

Edwards's interesting, but hardly breakthrough Monsters apparently was enough for studio executives to let him work with a budget just north of $150 million. Unlike his aforementioned low-budgeter not much politically or socially really has a trenchant pull - perhaps destruction still alarming from long after-effects of 9/11.

Those flocking to a summer popcorn extravaganza not with the sweep of a Pearl Harbor or last year's thoughtful World War Z but very busy logistically and location-wise that will please perhaps fans of small-screen fave Lost and more likely, Tony Bennett, based on a climactic clash of the titans.

More than a nod to its sixty-year-old formidable progenitor has the outset divulging stock footage of Pacific nuclear testing. Then, the 1999 opening at a Fukushima power plant is tautly rendered in ways that compare well to the atomic anxiety felt in the post-Hiroshima period. Around the same time something startling in the Philippines is found by scientists for a contractor.

A flash-forward fifteen years has chief engineer Joe (Bryan Cranston, an Emmy-winner for AMC original series Breaking Bad) obsessing with theories which include seismic anomalies from his tragic past. His estranged soldier son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson of The Savages and Nowhere Boy) wants him to get back to living and join his doctor wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and young son in the City By The Bay. Yet, something is lurking in the deep.

The storytelling around a government cover-up won't convince devotees of something like last year's ambitious, but maybe too cloaked Pacific Rim as Edwards teases the audience for a while before the full disclosure. What appears to be meaner, burly and tactile proves the filmmaking is more than up to the task when it comes to creature design. Grotesquely marvelous and humongous adversaries known as MUTOs (think of Aliens and Predators at least for alar insectoids) with a male (flying) and female (large and earth-bound) feed off of radiation and need to mate but not before causing much destruction in vacation destinations like Hawaii and Las Vegas.

Some action sequences in the early reels are really gripping even as Max Borenstein's narrative follows a derivative sans humor simple-minded cut-to-the-chase that obviously caters to those crucial in the need to "restore nature's balance". Ken Watanabe, as one of the aghast scientists talking about mankind's hubris probably has the most important line, "Let them fight"; but along with colleague and talented fellow thespian Sally Hawkins don't have much to do.

Even the usually reliable David Strathairn as a busy Navy commander whose crew can't keep up with the scaly skyscraper-sized reptile doesn't register as nearly as he did when tracking Jason Bourne. Worst of all is Taylor-Johnson as the bland hero trying to reunite with his loved ones like he helped and witnessed a young Japanese boy do so after catastrophe.

Ultimately, this staggering spectacle should delight young and old looking for sparkle of a distant past and excitingly new as for some the Mothra is cunningly reimagined. Maybe at the expense of an assured storyline more square and slack-jawed to downplay the human drama to let the real dynamos lay waste to civilization in die hard thrilling fashion.

  Frank Chris Jim Dave Nina Sam Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
Godzilla-2014  A   B   B   B            B-      B+ 

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