2014, PG-13, 123 min. Directed by Gareth Edwards. Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn, Richard T. Jones, Victor Rasuk, Carson Bolde.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 16, 2014

Godzilla, cinema’s most beloved and feared monster, returns once more to save humanity from its own arrogance, as well as a couple of new radioactive MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms). This Hollywood monster epic manages to honor the creature’s Japanese Atomic Age origin story and obliterate the memory of Roland Emmerich’s disappointing 1998 revival. The monster mash proves to be a lot of fun once it gets going and we watch as cities are tromped to bits, but the film’s human drama only bogs things down with expository dialogue between the scientists (Watanabe and Hawkins) who track the MUTOs from continent to continent, and a focal family (Taylor-Johnson, Olsen, and Bolde) who struggle to reunite amid the mayhem.

Signing on Gareth Edwards to direct this huge Hollywood tent-pole turned out to be a smart decision, even though the relatively inexperienced Edwards had only directed one other feature: the micro-budgeted Monsters, for which he created all the effects himself. Here Edwards marshals all the 3-D creature effects admirably, but the human interactions are flat and uninvolving. The thundering music score by Alexandre Desplat is an atypical one for this composer and often competes with rather than enhances the action.

A prologue set in 1999 Japan, in which a nuclear plant manager (Cranston) tries to prevent a meltdown in the reactors, is a clear parallel to the recent Fukushima tragedy. Then jumping 15 years into the future, that plant manager’s son (Taylor-Johnson) has grown into a bomb-detonation expert for the U.S. military, who is based in San Francisco where he lives with his wife (Olsen) and young son (Bolde). He’s quickly called back to Japan to bail out his father, who has been caught trespassing in the quarantined zone of the plant explosion. Presumed to be crazed with grief over the meltdown and loss of his wife (a too-briefly-seen Binoche), no one takes his talk of another impending crisis seriously. Meanwhile the scientists traipse from locale to locale as they deductively try to make sense of the revived MUTO activity, and are joined by the U.S. military’s point man (Strathairn).

This Godzilla befits our cinematic era of 3-D, digital special effects (though it’s a bit surprising that the 3-D is never used to reach out into the audience and thwack viewers with the monsters’ limbs or pincers or spew of fire). It’s a creature feature for the Subatomic Age.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Godzilla
Godzilla Versus Guzu Gallery Again
Godzilla Versus Guzu Gallery Again
The king of the monsters returns for a second show

Richard Whittaker, March 26, 2014

Godzilla Roars Over SXSW
Godzilla Roars Over SXSW
First footage from the new version smashes through screening

Richard Whittaker, March 14, 2014

More Gareth Edwards
SXSW Panel: Gareth Edwards Keynote
SXSW Panel: Gareth Edwards Keynote
Star Wars, Monsters, and the drive to tell a story

Marc Savlov, March 13, 2017

Personal True Tales, Plus New and Returning Texas Legends at SXSW
Personal True Tales, Plus New and Returning Texas Legends at SXSW
Film festival director Janet Pierson gives us the 2014 rundown

Richard Whittaker, Jan. 30, 2014

More Gareth Edwards Films
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The Force is strong with this one

Marc Savlov, Dec. 16, 2016

In this startlingly original indie film, a road trip combines with an alien invasion to remind us of our ageless fear of otherness.

Kimberley Jones, Oct. 29, 2010

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Infinity Pool
Body doubles take on a new, sick meaning in this next gen Cronenberg horror

Jan. 27, 2023

Empire of Light
The bulb glows dim in Sam Mendes' tribute to picture palaces

Dec. 9, 2022


Godzilla, Gareth Edwards, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn, Richard T. Jones, Victor Rasuk, Carson Bolde

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle