August 30, 2014
The monsters are a scream
The Washington Post (*)
Godzilla: cheesy, but with handsome CGI
Godzilla not only has monsters — three, to be precise — but they’re way more interesting than any of the human characters. First mistake: killing off Juliette Binoche before the butter has even congealed on my popcorn. Second mistake: casting Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins and David Strathairn, and then giving them nothing to do. And what’s with Bryan Cranston? As everyone by now knows from the trailer, he plays doomed nuclear engineer Joe Brody, a conspiracy nut obsessed with the Japanese government’s cover-up of a 1999 nuclear-plant disaster, ever since his wife (Binoche) was killed by a ball of radioactive steam. In his performance here, the Emmy Award-winner chews through more scenery than the titular lizard.
After a few demented early scenes with him, Godzilla winds up in the far less capable hands of . . . Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Yes, yes, he was fine as the teenage nerd in the Kick-Ass movies. But as Joe’s son Ford, an army ordnance expert who gets swept up in his father’s battle to save humanity, the British actor — all grown up and hunky — registers as just another piece of Hollywood beefcake.
Fortunately, the monsters are actually kind of a kick. And isn’t that why you go see a movie like this anyway? Dubbed MUTOs, for Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms, they’re giant, bug-like things that make a guttural clicking sound and feed on nuclear weapons. One of them — the male — flies. His mate is carrying an egg sac filled with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of considerably less massive, but even more terrifying, babies. The film centres on Mr. and Mrs. MUTO’s attempt to settle down and raise a family. At the same time, we humans are trying to figure out a way to kill them that doesn’t also kill us.
And the movie is called Godzilla? Trust me, there’s a reason he gets top billing, but it would spoil the fun to explain why. In any case, the MUTOs alone are worth the price of admission. The film boasts handsome CGI animation, not just in the creature department, but in the plentiful scenes of mayhem, which involve train derailments, collapsing cranes and cooling towers.
To be sure, Godzilla is cheesy, clichéd and shallow. Though it exploits our fears of environmental calamity, it gives short shrift to any deeper message.