The Bock’s Office: Go, go, ‘Godzilla!’
May 22, 2014
If you go
“Godzilla,” rated PG-13
Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars
Running time: 123 minutes
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Olsen
Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas and Craig’s West Theatre.
As Blue Öyster Cult so eloquently put it, "History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man," a statement often applicable in the cinema. Even so, the newest version of "Godzilla" is an exercise in rewriting the past that could mean BÖC needs to retool some of the lyrics of one of its top songs.
In 1999, a devastating accident at a Japanese nuclear power plant claims multiple lives and quickly becomes a subject of attention due to the unexplainable tectonic phenomenon that triggered it. Fifteen years later, most have forgotten this, although try as he might, American naval officer Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) can't get over the memory of the occurrence that killed his mother (Juliette Binoche) and has driven his father, Joe (Bryan Cranston), to near-madness trying to learn the cause.
Forced to travel back to his childhood home in Japan and try to convince his dad to let go of the past, Ford is confounded when Joe's conspiracy theories start to make sense, and his insistence that another incident is nigh is hard to ignore. That prediction turns out to be absolutely right when something big is unleashed on the world.
And, the only way to stop something big is with something even bigger.
Although he's no stranger to action movies, Taylor-Johnson always has come off as the anti-action hero, usually too sensitive to be believable. Here he shows he can step into the part of beefy, generic military man and still keep our attention as a husband and father whose only concern is to get back to his family (Elizabeth Olsen, Carson Bolde) in San Francisco.
Quite an accomplishment considering what's overshadowing him, and no, not Walter White as his dad.
As the representatives of a scientific research institution, Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins may be relegated to nothing more then exposition about what kind of forces are overtaking the planet followed by horrific gasps of realization, but at least they do it convincingly, even though an arrogant American admiral (David Strathairn) fails to understand the true threat of something called a Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism.
Whether you call him by his original name of Gojira or the translation that's become more popular since his 1954 debut, ol' tall, dark and scaly is bigger and better than ever. Besides standing at a towering 350 feet as opposed to once a mere 150 — Radiation: It does a monster's body good — this newest incarnation of Hollywood's most famous one-reptile wrecking crew makes Roland Emmerich's 1998 feature look even more pathetic, proving the giant lizard can be great again in the right hands.
With the low budget indie film "Monsters," his main claim to fame as a director, Gareth Edwards gets nearly everything right on his first trip to the big leagues, taking the time necessary to build masterful suspense while still giving us plenty of unrelenting force, with the second half simply astonishing.
Last year's "Pacific Rim" gave a new life to the world of kaiju, widespread interest in which seemed all but extinct, at least in the Western Hemisphere, yet you wouldn't know it to watch this, as Edwards and his crew create a tribute to the campiness of the last 60 years and dozens of appearances by the big guy complete with nods to past movies and, of course, that trademark roar, yet still maintaining the subtext of Toho Company's earliest efforts.
The one complaint about this take on "Godzilla" is the human drama. Not to say that it's poorly done, but would you rather watch a father and son settle some old arguments or see a dinosaur-like beast let loose centuries of tension?
I thought so.