Meet the Brodys: a wholesome family whose perfect happiness is marred only by the memory of a past tragedy, that and the danger of annihilation by a mysterious creature that feeds on nuclear energy… but I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s meet the Brodys! Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is muscular male perfection, an explosive ordnance disposal officer who apparently fears nothing, yet his big blue eyes reflect hidden sorrow (see past tragedy). His wife, Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) is pretty, sweet and tearful, all in equal proportion. I still can’t believe that this is the same Elizabeth Olsen who was so hauntingly disturbed in Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011). Their son Sam (Carson Bolde) has big brown eyes, and that’s really all you need to know (although I’m still wondering how that worked out with two blue-eyes parents, but whatever). Grandad Joe (Bryan Cranston) is a scientist, so obsessed with a devastating explosion that took place 15 years ago at the nuclear plant where he worked that he can’t even find time to hang out with his grandson. But wait, what was the name of this film? Oh yeah, Godzilla. So where, one might ask, is Godzilla?
Godzilla does eventually make an appearance, and he is impressive in both look and deed. The last twenty minutes of this film were a lot of fun and delivered pretty much what I had hoped and expected: a craggy huge colossus of a Godzilla towering over tall buildings (love those spikes!) and fighting with a worthy foe while people run around scared. But to get to the main course, one had to first take a big bite of previously chewed to a pulp back story with bland human interest filling. Not very tasty.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against imbuing a sci-fi fantasy film with layers of symbolism, emotion and deep meaning, and relating the themes to contemporary social, political and environmental concerns. It’s an amazing feat of film and storytelling when that happens. I also am completely in favor of creating suspense and keeping the audience on the edge of the seat, eagerly anticipating the monster to come. But that is not what happens in Godzilla. Instead, one sits through one gray, murky, dimly lit scene after another (yes, what’s up with that? in a film whose appeal must be based to a large extent on visuals, I really would prefer to see what I am looking at), shifting between the baffled blank stares of scientists and utterly useless clichéd family scenes past and present, before things finally, finally get moving. As for the cast, rarely have I seen such a cohort of good actors like Bryan Cranston, David Straithairn and Juliette Binoche so poorly used.
See at your own risk.
Godzilla (USA, 123 minutes, 2014, English with Hebrew subtitles)
Director: Gareth Edwards; Screenplay: Brian Rogers, Max Borenstein; Story: David Callaham; Based on: Godzilla by Toho; Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathhairn, Bryan Cranston; Music: Alexandre Desplat; Cinematography: Seamus McGarvey.