I must admit something straight away, I have been a Godzilla fan for as long as I can remember. Running home to catch the Matinee Money Movie on WDIO television out of Duluth, Minnesota. They would play classic movies throughout the week. Abbot and Costello, and the Toho movies were mainstays in my childhood film education.
Over the years I learned that Godzilla was a metaphor for the horrors of nuclear war. A creature spawned from the ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In that sense the first half of Godzilla 2014 works. The film opens with an imaginative set piece showing nuclear testing in the 1950’s with documents being censored as the opening credits. We also learn that the so-called tests were actually trying to destroy the monsters that had been awakened from slumber at the dawn of the nuclear age.
Thus the film’s disjointed plodding begins, Bryan Cranston playing a nuclear physicist who loses his wife to a meltdown in Japan and knows the accident was caused by more than a simple earthquake. Fast forward 15 years and we find Cranston reduced to a conspiracy theorist on a mission to reclaim his research lost in the quarantine zone.
On this level Godzilla works however what follows quickly degenerates into a rah rah United States military booster film and poorly conceived cage match between humankind’s protector Godzilla and two insect like monsters bent on breeding and wiping out the human race.
The antagonist MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) creatures have no back story and were seemingly lifted from Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers. Half insect and half flying squirrel the creatures destroy Las Vegas in an attempt to lay eggs in the irradiated Nevada desert. YAWN. Of course this brings Godzilla out of his deep sea slumber and chaos ensues.
Those of you wanting major screen time out of the title lizard will be sadly disappointed. You can save yourself some cash and time by watching the trailers on-line. Although I wasn’t timing his on-screen appearances I am sure that Big G only shows up for a maximum of 20 minutes of the two-hour plus movie length.
Having said that there are some things that the movie does get right, any hardcore fan of the original Toho movies knows well what Godzilla’s super powers include and in that respect the movie does treat Godzilla well. Although I found that the general appearance of Godzilla reminded me of a steroid abusing WWF wrestler of the 1980’s. He’s very bulky and lacks the charm of a man in a rubber suit.
Overall the movie is a good popcorn muncher, but anyone looking for any redeeming features should go check out one of the chick flicks no doubt playing one screen over. A lack of screen time for Godzilla, enemy monsters with no back story or believable goals and a weak second act that strays from Godzilla’s raison d’être ultimately sink this film to depths that even Big G cannot rescue it from.
Other opinions on Godzilla.
Godzilla returns to save humanity in serious summer spectical. Randal King – Winnipeg Free Press
Still Radioactive and spoiling for a fight. A.O. Scott – New York Times
Godzilla: A city shaker roars back to life. Peter Howell – Toronto Star