Did you know there are fourteen foreign films about Godzilla and four American ones? After sitting through two and a half hours of this year’s version from director Gareth Edwards (whose Monsters was quite engrossing), I say if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all. [Okay, maybe discounting the Matthew Broderick one set to Puff Daddy and Led Zeppelin.] Here, we get none of the heart or acting of last year’s Pacific Rim, and are instead left with massive CGI-driven battles between giant preying mantises and Godzilla. Or something like that.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kickass) is the name for the younger viewers, starring as the son of a nuclear physicist (Bryan Cranston), who joins the military after his mother’s tragic death and ends up ‘battling’ the giant monsters. We’re told some backstory, like “we weren’t really testing nuclear weapons in the 1940s, we were trying to kill these monsters,” but it’s all pretty much in passing. We get some back story with 1999 and the family tragedy, and then it’s fast forward to the present.
Brody (Taylor-Johnson) is just home to San Francisco to see his wife (Emily Olsen) and son, before the call comes in that his father is snooping around the old site. Up until this point, the film actually has some engrossing moments, and I thought I might be turning the corner on disaster/large-rampaging animal movies. [For the record, I went very skeptically to see Pacific Rim; Idris Elba, the giant Voltron-like robots, and some actual emotional plot development made it the surprise hit of last summer.] But as soon as we see Godzilla and his other beasts… I’m done. The element of surprise is up, and we’re in for some all-out mayhem that makes me think Rampage (the game), not some entertaining movie worth $8.
While we’d like to think this is going to be a heroic turn of events, but in truth, Brody is just making his way home. His wife gets the ‘damsel in distress’ treatment, and his son is a trapping stereotype, not a developed character. We don’t get anyone else to even blip on the emotional radar (past some kid on the Hawaiian tram system) and frankly, the film becomes laughable… especially when Godzilla vomits chemical waste into the other beast’s mouth. My friend Ben was literally laughing out loud. (Not lol-ing, but really, really belly-laughing out loud.)
If you still feel the need to go see it, I can’t blame you. (Yes, I can.) But the truth is, I paid $5 for a copy of The Change-Up and got an $8 voucher for Godzilla. Then the HVAC kicked into overdrive and management showed up with free movie vouchers for another movie. So I guess I turned my $5 into $16, which is pretty good at the end of the day. Maybe Godzilla wasn’t that bad….