Godzilla ***

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As for as giant, city crushing monster’s go, Godzilla is the gold standard. Everyone pretty much knows who Godzilla is. Hopefully this movie will erase the memory of the disasterous 1998 remake. I have to admit though that I was mildly dissapointed in Gareth Edward’s film. The trailers promised a more character driven disaster thriller with the great Bryan Cranston at the center of it. So how did the characters and the story end up being the weak part of the film? The effects and set pieces are absolutely breathtaking and epic. On the other hand the human parts of the movie were underwritten.

The film opens with Joe and Sandra, played by Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche, as a husband and wife as scientists working in a nuclear power plant in Japan. When an unexplained phenomenon causes catastrophic meltdown, Sandras character becomes a casualty, leaving Joe to raise their son on his own.

Years later the son Ford, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, is just returning home from the Navy when he recieves word that his father has been arrested again in Japan for illegally entering the disaster site. Turns out he spends his days trying to uncover the conpsiracy that led to his wife’s death. All of this takes place in the first twenty minutes of the movie and it is quite engrossing.

When the monsters show up is when suddenly the characters seem to have no place in the story. We follow Ford as he travels back to the States to protect his wife and daughter from the impending doom. Taylor-Johnson, a very talented actor, becomes the central character that we follow. His performance becomes a muted series of vacant stares, even in the face of towering monsters. The dialogue he is given does almost nothing to help. His wife, played by Elizabeth Olsen is also restricted to a role meant to simply react to terrifing news and recieve tearful phone calls from her hubby.

Fortunately Godzilla and the other giant creatures steal the show. Fans of Godzilla will appreciate the fact that he shows up not to destroy mankind, but to tear apart the monsters that are threatening them. Of course he causes mass destruction himself. He is a skyscraper sized being who is bound to step on a person or two. The CGI effects that went in to creating Godzilla are simply stunning. He can’t speak but he is still full of personality. In fact he gives the best performance of the movie next to Cranston.

My only gripe about the action is that Edwards makes the strange choice to cut away from some of it. At first I thought it was a neat nod to the original films when one potentially epic battle is shown as a news story on one of the main characters televisions. But eventually it happens a few more times so that we can check in on the boring characters and their progress. Someone needs to tell Edwards that he has a bigger budget then his masterful 2010 film “Monsters”. He doesnt have to cut away from action when you have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend.

In the end I really enjoyed this picture. The 3D was sort of unnecessary but not too distracting. It is required viewing on the big screen because the large scale action actually look epic as opposed to seemingly constrained such as in last summer’s “Pacific Rim”.

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