Godzilla (2014)

I already got my quota of ambiguously monstrous hulking CGI masses terrorizing humanity in “Noah”, thank you very much. Godzilla is a legacy movie monster more than fit to be trotted out today to comment on climate change or national defense, but if the new “Godzilla” will not even bother to be about something more than an oversized spectacle then why am I watching it?

Director Gareth Edwards’ film is as slow and lumbering as its giant hero. The dialogue is thick, the characters are thin and the action and story are plain boring. By removing any allegory, ideas or humor, nothing gets in the way of this being purely cathartic summer mayhem, but it leaves nothing that might be memorable.

The film opens with nuclear scientist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) losing his wife (Juliette Binoche, however briefly) in a plant meltdown. He’s certain this isn’t just a regular earthquake or human accident, so 15 years later he’s devoted his life to discovering what the event was and what the Japanese government is covering up.

His son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is the only EOD lieutenant left on the West Coast, so he’s roped in to work out his father’s wacky conspiracy theories and assist the military in arming and de-arming nuclear warheads to defeat whatever monsters are out there.

In one way, Edwards is subverting the blockbuster trope of sheer destruction and chaos, making “Godzilla” closer to a disaster flick or a modern military movie. Yet it’s never clever when it wants to be a dry, science-y procedural of EMPs, seismic activity and radioactive energy. It’s never suspenseful when most of the jolts come from monsters materializing when the lights are turned off. And it’s never awesome or original when I got my fair share of tough-guy soldiers, massive titans clobbering each other and buildings imploding in 9/11 fashion just last year alone.

Godzilla and his roar are iconic, but his villains are not. Him fighting Mothra’s stepchildren is no more interesting a set piece than a robot battle in “Transformers” or “Pacific Rim,” and Edwards casts the whole movie in dull shadows and clouds as Alexandre Desplat’s “Inception”-baiting score rages over the top.

“Godzilla” delivers the monster for the modern age, but there’s nothing new or invigorating about it. Even after all these years since Roland Emmerich’s 1998 entry, Godzilla still feels dormant.

2 stars


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