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Entertainment & Lifestyle

‘Godzilla’ features ‘well-done’ special effects, tense moments

5/22/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

Bryan Cranston, at left, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson star in “Godzilla.”
Photo: Kimberley French; courtesy of Legendary Pictures Productions LLC and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Back in my youth, Marty “Superhost” Sullivan would present monster movies on his Channel 43 Saturday afternoon show. I don’t recall Sullivan ever dissing the many stinkers that would fill his two-hour time slot, but I do remember him offering praise when a half-decent film would come along.

“And this one is actually pretty good,” he might say.

The new “Godzilla” movie, directed by Gareth Edwards, is actually pretty good, with well-done special effects and some tense moments. It’s not a great film, mind you. The 13-year-old me would have gotten bored waiting for the monsters to show up and switched on his Atari 2600. And the grown-up me — well, that person was also thinking, “Bring on the monsters, already.”

But when “Godzilla” gets going, the movie meets the bar set for movies about giant prehistoric creatures that crush things. It’s not a high bar, but as Superhost could attest, it’s not always met.

The movie begins in 1999, a time of frightening tremors and ominous soundtrack music. In a mine in the Philippines, an ancient monster is unearthed. It is long dead, but it is a sign of things to come (eventually). In Japan, the tremors are of great concern to nuclear engineer Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), who suspects they’re not normal earthquakes and fears what they could do to his power plant. His fears, we’ll learn, are well founded.

Fast forward to present day, and Joe’s son, Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), is on leave from the military. He’d love to spend time with his wife, Ellie (Elizabeth Olsen), and their cute little son, but dad Joe is in trouble and needs to be bailed out. We watch Ford say goodbye to his dear wife and head to Japan, while, in our heads, the “when are we gonna see something get crushed?” countdown clock keeps ticking away.

Eventually, we do enter the monster portion of the film. We’re introduced to a giant spider creature that feeds off radiation, has a nasty disposition and an ear-splitting roar. Now you’re talking, er, screeching. It wreaks suitable havoc on the populace, who run away in terror but do very little of what one would classify as “freaking out.” This would have been my course of action, but to each their own.

Cranston’s character is the only one who’s slightly complex, and everyone else can be categorized as either “fights monster” or “flees from monster.” Normally, having no character growth in a movie would be a bad thing, but not in this case. For a “Godzilla” movie, you just need Godzilla, a giant dino-lizard that acts like a grumpy guy who wants to go back to sleep after being awoken from a nap. The creature doesn’t get a lot of screen time but makes the most of what it has.

This is a no-nonsense monster movie, with not a bit of comic relief. (No one tries to take a selfie with a monster, for instance.) And while it lays the blame on mankind for getting us into this mess, it spends little time moralizing. It’s about monsters crushing things, and if the members of the Superhost Appreciation Society can get past the crushing boredom of the first part, it will probably be to their liking.

The movie, currently in theaters, is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence.

(out of four)



Craig Marks is a cartoonist and editorial, sports and entertainment writer for the West Side Leader.

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