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PortWatch

May 16, 2014

'Godzilla': Too many people, not enough creatures

The “Godzilla” reboot perfectly illustrates the problem that has long haunted mediocre monster movies. When the big, scaly guys are on screen, it’s a fun thrill ride. But when the humans are at the center of the action, things get scary — and not in a good way.

That’s unfortunate, as this revamp of the Japanese classic has so much going for it. Director Gareth Edwards is known on the cinematic underground for the creepily effective 2010 low-budget chiller “Monsters.” The cast is nothing if not eclectic: Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Elizabeth Olsen and a beefed-up Aaron Taylor-Johnson, the formerly lanky sorta-superhero in the “Kick-Ass” movies.

Certainly, after Roland Emmerich’s famous 1998 botch of the tale (the one with Matthew Broderick), the 2008 “Godzilla” wannabe “Cloverfield” and last year’s middling monster mash “Pacific Rim,” the world is ready for the real deal. Not to mention there are all the best special effects that $160 million can buy. It’s just too bad a better script wasn’t in the budget, too.

“Godzilla” begins in 1999 Japan, where Joe Brody (Cranston), a scientist at a nuclear facility, is alarmed by a sudden upsurge in seismic activity. It turns out he has good reason to be worried: Giant prehistoric-like creatures that live at the bottom of our world have been awakened.

Part of a city is destroyed, and lots of people are killed, including Brody’s wife, though his young son survives. But Japanese officials are able to quarantine the area and put out a cover story, meaning the world is none the wiser that there are monsters in our midst.

Flash-forward to present day, and Joe is a wild-eyed obsessive trying to prove the Japanese are lying while his now-adult son (Taylor-Johnson), happily married in San Francisco to a nurse (Olsen) and with a son of his own, wants him to just let it go.

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