We already know the moral of the story — humanity, vain and foolish, awakens a power far beyond our control and it beats the hell out of us for a couple hours. Which isn't to say there aren't a few surprises in the new Godzilla flick that opens in 2D and 3D this Friday.
Summer movies are always bigger and Godzilla is literally a gargantuan cinematic blockbuster. Fans of the original Japanese rubber Gojira should be pleased with this one, unlike the 1998 Roland Emmerich version that was so disgraceful even Puff Daddy wanted his name taken off at one point. Godzilla is back, he's big, and he's definitely the biggest star of the summer.
On the human level, Godzilla stars Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) as a scientist who shares a traumatic past with his military dude son (Aaron Johnson-Taylor from Kick-Ass). Their bonding is accelerated, however, when they bumrush a top-secret quarantine zone and discover a giant beast about to hatch and unleash some asskickery on the puny humans. And then Godzilla shows up and saves the day (by destroying San Francisco!).
Elizabeth Olsen (Oldboy) also stars as the underused wife/girlfriend/healer figure and there's an hour of family dynamics/character building (with some off-screen Godzillary) before the real destruction kicks in and the flick switches into uber-awesome Godzilla-smash mode.
English director Gareth Edwards (Monsters) is a self-professed Godzilla geek and he channels the spirit of those old Japanese Toho flicks (watch for the Mothra nods) and mixes in clean aesthetics and filmmaking style reminscient of a young Steven Spielberg (the reigning king of family monster movies).Edwards goes big with his destruction while simultaneously keeping the emotional connections small and personal — we watch the world fall apart through the eyes of one family and the camera angles are almost strictly POV of someone actually watching the devastation. And then he hangs it all out there for the climax, which is exactly what two giant monsters fist-fighting through a city should look like.
Godzilla is not a tour de force of plot or characterization (except Godzilla, he's deep, man) but it doesn't need to be. The sheer spectacle, destruction and old-school film-lover ethos of it is more than enough. It's 10 minutes too long but it's a hell of a ride.
Also opening this week, and nowhere near as impressive-looking, Million Dollar Arm is a Disney sports underdog flick about an (almost) down-and-out sports agent who takes a big chance on an unlikely group of prospects — he tries to turn cricket players from India into Major League Baseball pitchers. Cue the post-colonialism smaltz and that inevitable bit of denouement where the innocent fish-out-of-water teach the old dog what teamwork and friendship is really all about. Apparently this one is based on true events, as if that makes it any less cloying. Lots of people will like it though, it's a baseball movie and Jon Hamm (Mad Men) stars.
To close out this week let's all please take a moment and pour some on the block for Swiss artist H.R. Giger, who died this week at the age of 74. One of Giger's many iconic and timeless pieces was the alien in Alien. That was cinematic perfection and a true influence on the art form ever since. Giger also made films, designed furniture, did a pretty badass album cover for Danzig III and created the Penis Landscape poster that kicked off the Dead Kennedy's legal troubles.
Alien and anything else to do with H.R. Giger is the download of the week. RIP.