FROM THE DEN AT WOLF THEATRES — In limiting the screen time of his titular monster, “Godzilla” director Gareth Edwards shows an understanding that movies, no matter how big their creatures, no matter how flashy and eye-popping their effects, always boil down to story.
Story, in turn, always revolves on character; and although Godzilla is certainly an inherently interesting creation – evidenced by his big-screen persistence since 1954 – he’s no leading man.
As a result, we don’t see the big scaly lug until an hour into the two-hour film. In his place, we have Bryan Cranston, playing Joe Brody, a nuclear engineer living with his family in Japan and working as supervisor of Janjira nuclear power plant. The year is 1999 and strange things are happening beneath the ground upon which Janjira lies.
Government officials are satisfied that normal seismic activity is to blame for the strange readings and earthquakes being experienced at and around the plant (Japan IS situated along Earth’s ‘Ring of Fire,’ earthquake hot zone, after all), but not Brody.
When Brody’s wife, Sandra (Juliette Binoche) – who also works at the plant – is killed in an explosion caused by the same abnormal seismic activity, ultimately forcing the plant’s closure, Joe Brody becomes obsessed with uncovering the real reason behind the disaster. That obsession takes a serious toll on Joe’s relationship with his son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).
Joe’s answers come 15 years after the initial disaster in the form of a gigantic, prehistoric winged monster that feeds off radiation. Turns out, the winged creature is part of a set of such creatures, with the female being wingless and quite pregnant. Enter Godzilla, the only inhabitant on Earth who can save the human race.
“Godzilla” isn’t a terrible movie and Edwards, along with screenwriter Max Borenstein, goes to significant lengths to prevent this film from being hijacked by digitized hijinks and assorted creatures. While “Godzilla” DOES indeed boast a modestly involving, character-centric story, in the end, Edwards’ and Borenstein’s efforts are largely for naught, with the characters ceding the stage and becoming helpless spectators as Godzilla battles the evil, radiation-feeding horrors that are bent on propagating the globe with baby radiation-feeding horrors.