Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Good Beast

Sixteen long years after Roland Emmerich’s messtastic blockbuster, good ol’ Godzilla has been vindicated – as a character and franchise – thanks to a good reboot story, and to Gareth Edwards, a relative newcomer to the directing game who paced himself and didn’t let the obvious impetus to overdo anything take hold of what will be, in essence, his distruction-movie calling card for years to come.

I enjoyed last summer’s Man of Steel, but, yeah, like, looking back on it, Zack Snyder could take a note or two moving forward with his Batman-featuring sequel and with his 2018 Justice League movie.

Just sayin’. Just a thought.

But back to the King of Monsters, though. EdwardsGodzilla is pretty good stuff that should make Toho quite proud.

It stars an international cast led by Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, as an ex-nuclear physicist and his estranged bomb disposal-expect-lieutenant son, and spins a man-vs.-nature yarn that posits Godzilla as a god-like savior of mankind.

Oh yes it does. And it works.

Indeed, in Godzilla, Godzilla is very much a blue-radioactive-fire-breathing kaiju...a taller-than-buildings thing of myth that, it is skillfully explained for the purpose of an expanded Gojiraverse, predates man and has been sighted on the sporadic by man throughout history.

But myth, nevertheless, as far as the general populace is concerned, because of a governmental cover-up, natch, that has explained away a 1999 major incident in Asia, complete with the appearance of a Massive Unidentified Terrestial Organism (MUTO) in the Philippines and some escalating earthquakes and a meltdown at a nuclear power plant in Japan.

Cranston’s Joe Brody ushers us through the meaning of this, for he spends the following 15 years studying the real reason behind this tragedy that left him disgraced and without a wife (a fellow scientist played by, of all people, Juliette Binoche). He knows something is coming, but by the time someone believes him, in this case the know-more-than-they-let-on folks that Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins portray, it is much too late.

There are actually two MUTOs out there. A male and a female. And they wanna get, well...freaky with each other, which will end us.

The threat is here, and little by little it becomes obvious that humanity’s fate is in the...claws of Godzilla, whom Edwards portray as mighty and solemn and as an unlikely ally to Taylor-Johnson’s Ford Brody. The actor, btw, is completely out-acted by the monster, IMHO. I like him – he was terrific in Savages – but here he looks like a boy playing hero. Like he took Ford’s childhood emotional damage to an ill-advised almost-stunted place that is more odd than the 350-foot creature on screen.

To say nothing of his own family life with Elizabeth Olsen, who as his nurse-wife makes poor parenting decisions for their son that....

Oh, just watch the movie, but don’t sweat the small people stuff.

Better yet, focus on the suspenseful mood with which Edwards has imbued Godzilla. There is a certain level of subtlety to it, if you can believe it, that is most welcome. It is scenes like the one seen in the teaser – the one with the halo jump we see Ford take with his comrades to claim San Francisco back – that rival any tremendous battle our ginormous new BFF and his foes do.

The powers that be not only went big with this one. They also let their beast get its groove back.

My Rating ***

Photo: Warner Bros.

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